Finding Your Place of Zen

“What do I mean by finding your place of Zen? Well, I am glad that you asked. A place of Zen is your own little corner of the Earth where you can relax, think to yourself, listen to the birds or the trees or the whistling of the wind.”

In an increasingly fast-paced and tumultuous world, it can be quite difficult to find a place of calm, quiet, and serenity. You may find you are in a big city or a large town and can’t have a moment’s worth of peace.

You are also being constantly bombarded by visual stimuli through the forms of advertisement, phone pings, car honks, and loud talking. You can’t seem to think through all the noise that you are constantly surrounded by without a needed pause. It can be almost impossible to get away from it all unless you are actively looking for a place of Zen.

What do I mean by finding your place of Zen? Well, I am glad that you asked. A place of Zen is your own little corner of the Earth where you can relax, think to yourself, listen to the birds or the trees or the whistling of the wind. Only you and you alone know about it, and you only decide to share it with those people closest to you, if anyone at all. It can be a pond or a lake or a bay dock. It can be a mountain overlook or a nearby stream. It can even be a field of grass tucked away from sight and for which you only know how to reach. If you are really being creative, even going up in a tall tree or taking some time out in the desert sands may be your own place of Zen.

The key word to keep in mind here is the ‘Zen’ involved. Does your own place that you can seek out serenity or calm or quiet give you a bit of inner peace? Does it quell your anxieties, your fears, or your doubts? Does it allow you to think deeply about your past, your present, or your future or generally whatever is on your mind?

If the answer to all these questions is a strong ‘Yes’, then you have found your place of Zen. Just 5-10 minutes there will improve your day in my view. I believe that we all need some time alone to recharge, to destress, and to come back better than ever after taking a break in our place of Zen. If you have a few minutes per week or ideally each day to visit this place of Zen, you will be better off for having been able to go there.

‘Zen’ involves total concentration, total awareness, and a dedication to come back there again and again. If you are not consistently able to go there and is out of reach for you, then you should consider finding a new place. To maintain that Zen beyond your own special place and to stay calm, cool, and collected when you are not actually there, you must be able to visit there at least once a week. I do not think it is enough to only go there once a month or once every other week, you should be able to take the time and the effort to go there at least once a week to get the various positive results out of your visits.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to keep your place of Zen a secret to others. The world can be a crowded place sometimes and we all need our own little space to think, to relax, to observe, and to reflect without anyone joining us. It’s important to have our own secret space to come back to and find if anything has changed there besides you as you go through the years of your life.

I have written before about how ‘a walk in the woods’ has been beneficial to my life and how it has calmed me, kept me centered, and allowed me to reflect. I have found my own place of Zen that I hope to have for many years to come. You can have more than once place of Zen if you’re lucky but if you find other people constantly there or intruding on your time spent there; it may be best to find a new place to find that brings you Zen-like relief. The good thing is that if you’re reading this article, you already crave to have that special place to call your own where you can be more Zen-like and improve your life at the same time. Zen does not come to those who do not seek it out to begin with.

While the world is likely to get more chaotic, more unpredictable, and perhaps more crowded as well, having our own place of quiet, serenity, and peace that only you know and appreciate will become even more important. The world can be a rough and tumble place where it is not easy to catch your breath, to refocus yourself, to be at ease, and to relax fully in the quiet around you but I believe it is vital to do your best to find your own place of Zen. It may not be easy to do so but I think the journey to find that place of Zen will be worth the effort you put into it. Good luck.

The Grand Canyon

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

Sedona

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Sedona, Arizona, United States

Desert Botanical Garden

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Desert Botanical Garden; Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Pacific Beach and Mission Bay Park

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: San Diego, California, United States

Sunset Over The West

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Western United States (In The Air)

The Urban and The Natural

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Washington, District of Columbia, USA

The C&O Canal and The National Cathedral

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Lake Anne

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Reston, Virginia, USA

Quiet of the Desert

“Here, I find absolute quiet…I struggle to remember the last time in my life where I could hear nothing at all.”

Here, I find absolute quiet…I struggle to remember the last time in my life where I could hear nothing at all. There are sounds here and there but they are all natural and non-man made. The wind blows full gusts across my body, to hear the rocks move or jolt under my feet as I step over and around them to soar to new heights, and to listen to the sharp squawking of the desert falcon soaring into the air above me.

For the first time in a long while, I am completely alone with my thoughts and my feelings. There’s no one else around and I am alright with that. I am finally able to take a much-needed breather in this fast-paced world and able to concentrate on nothing but the natural sounds around me, intermittent at best. As a city slicker and former suburbanite, the desert is so unfamiliar to my senses that it feels overwhelming to me at times.

Away from any civilization, on my own, and accountable to only myself for once, it is truly refreshing to be able to live deeply in each moment, putting one foot in front of the other as I focus on my singular goal of hiking through the Sonora desert landscape, enjoying every sight and sound without a screen or a person in sight. “This is the way that life should be more often”, I think to myself.

Still though, I am not quite used to the quiet and I struggle to remember the last time I went an hour where I heard nothing but natural sounds or sights. Too often, we desire to be in the hustle and bustle, to be constantly in front of a screen, or each other. Maybe what we need more of is more time in a natural environment where our primordial ancestors were born and raised to hike, fish, hunt, and bathe in environments much more natural than our own today. While cities and towns have their modern advantages, as I get older, I crave these nature experiences. Also, I desire to be alone with my thoughts and feelings, but to fully take in each moment that passes as my life narrows down to the minute here rather than to the week or the month ahead.

As I crisscross the hiking trail I’m on in the desert, I am reminded that nothing in life is ever guaranteed and that the desert suffers no fools indeed. The quiet of the desert can lull you into true tranquility but if you are always not fully aware of your surroundings, you can become one of its unknowing victims. Checking to see if you are conserving enough water, getting some shade in the sun, making sure you are on the right trail, and have a path back, these are necessities to making your desert stay a pleasant one. Luckily, your senses are heightened to the 9th degree as your priorities become solely about both survival and endurance rather than about paychecks and promotions.

I continue to watch my footing, check my pulse, and even observe the environment for snakes that could be disguised as branches. I am once again thrust in a foreign place where I must take care, or I could end up not coming back at all. However, unlike being in an average city or town or even a farm, I am truly alive here and for that, I am grateful. Not everyone gets to experience the multi-colored hues of sediment and rock formed over millions of years. Not everyone is able to see the huge mountains, the unique canyons shaped like chimneys, and the red rocks, and the deep valleys that were molded for many millennia before man first walked the Earth. How wondrous it is to experience this kind of environment, for which we are all caretakers of. I treasure these moments because I know that as we live on a planet under threat from our short-sighted actions and careless deeds, the need to protect the quiet of the desert rings true.

Making my way to the summit of Thunder Mountain, I hear nothing but the gasping of my own breath and the sweat dripping down my neck. I am in awe of the large green plants like the cacti, the red mountains, and the bright, blue desert sky. What a great joy it is to hear absolute quiet at the summit of this mountain and I hope it is not long until I can be here again to enjoy a silent hike, to see the beautiful views, and to be able to hear nothing, nothing at all.

As I reach the end of my hike, I realize how the natural environments are best for people and too often today, we try to drown out the quiet because we have little or no peace in our lives. My trip to the desert taught me to embrace the quiet, to embrace my own thoughts, and to remember to be present with myself when no one else is around. The desert asks you to hone your survival skills a bit and if you can persevere, do your homework, and act wisely, you’ll be rewarded with the absolute silence that many of us crave but few of us ever take action to have.      

When it comes to my favorite thing about being in the desert, it is no contest for me: the stillness, the quiet, and the vast nothingness calm me in ways few other things in life have. That revelation, for me, is worth the strenuous journey to get together, to be there, and to come back having learned more about who I am as a person and what I truly need in this life of mine.

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