These days, we'll take inspiration wherever we can get it. Even if you don't consider yourself to be a Zen Buddhist, you can still apply the maxims and lessons from this meditative and contemplative philosophy to your everyday life.
Keep reading to jumpstart your day with some insightful quotes. Not all of the quotes are from Zen Buddhists—some of them simply share an affinity with that philosophy. These tried and tested sayings will make you rethink the way you approach life.
About Letting Go
"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything—anger, anxiety, or possessions—we cannot be free."
—Thich Nhat Hanh
About Accepting Change
This quote from the Dalai Lama reminds us to stay grounded through change. It's kind of like a Buddhist serenity prayer:
"Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values." —Dalai Lama
"Nirvana means to extinguish the burning fires of the Three Poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. This can be accomplished by letting go of dissatisfaction." —Shinjo Ito
We could all use this reminder today.
"The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty." —Seneca
"Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret, cravings, frustration, fatigue. Let go of the need for approval. Let go of old judgments and opinions. Die to all that, and fly free. Soar in the freedom of desirelessness." —Lama Surya Das
About Slowing Down
"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world Earth revolves—slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future." —Thich Nhat Hanh
It's important to take your time and live in the moment.
"Patience from a Buddhist perspective is not a 'wait and see' attitude, but rather one of 'just be there'… Patience can also be based on not expecting anything. Think of patience as an act of being open to whatever comes your way. When you begin to solidify expectations, you get frustrated because they are not met in the way you had hoped… With no set idea of how something is supposed to be, it is hard to get stuck on things not happening in the time frame you desired. Instead, you are just being there, open to the possibilities of your life."
"It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that meditation becomes a transformative process. Only when we relate with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, can we let go of harmful patterns. Without maitri (metta), renunciation of old habits becomes abusive. This is an important point." —Pema Chödrön
"Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things you've been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go."
—Thich Nhat Hanh
"Bhikkhus, the teaching is merely a vehicle to describe the truth. Don't mistake it for the truth itself. A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, you will never know the real moon. The teaching is like a raft that carries you to the other shore. The raft is needed, but the raft is not the other shore. An intelligent person would not carry the raft around on his head after making it across to the other shore."
—Thich Nhat Hanh
About The Self
"The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something." —Koun Yamada
Life is all about making memorable and meaningful connections. Don't rob yourself of that privilege.
"One of the key paradoxes in Buddhism is that we need goals to be inspired, to grow, and to develop, even to become enlightened, but at the same time we must not get overly fixated or attached to these aspirations. If the goal is noble, your commitment to the goal should not be contingent on your ability to attain it, and in pursuit of our goal, we must release our rigid assumptions about how we must achieve it. Peace and equanimity come from letting go of our attachment to the goal and the method. That is the essence of acceptance. Reflecting"
About The Art Of Living
"The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive."
"To accept some idea of truth without experiencing it is like a painting of a cake on paper which you cannot eat." —Suzuki Rosh
Who wants a picture of a cake when you can have the real thing?
"Today, you can decide to walk in freedom. You can choose to walk differently. You can walk as a free person, enjoying every step." —Thich Nhat Hanh
Freedom is a choice that you make.
"When an ordinary man attains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary man." —Zen proverb
Remember this when you start getting too confident about everything that you know.
"The Buddha's principal message that day was that holding on to anything blocks wisdom. Any conclusion that we draw must be let go. The only way to fully understand the bodhichitta teachings, the only way to practice them fully, is to abide in the unconditional openness of the prajna, patiently cutting through all our tendencies to hang on."
About The Beauty Of Change
"Whether we like it or not, change comes, and the greater the resistance, the greater the pain. Buddhism perceives the beauty of change, for life is like music in this: if any note or phrase is held for longer than its appointed time, the melody is lost. Thus Buddhism may be summed up in two phrases: 'Let go!' and 'Walk on!' Drop the craving for self, for permanence, for particular circumstances, and go straight ahead with the movement of life.” —Alan W. Watts
"Heaven and earth and I are of the same root, The ten-thousand things and I are of one substance." —Seng-chao
When we realize that we are all one, it becomes a lot easier to love one another.
About The Meaning Of Life
"The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves."