Zen moment” vs “regular moment
The difference between a “Zen moment” and a “regular moment” is the difference between an event and a story. We are so used to telling each other stories, of narrating every minute of our existence to others that we tend to edit our experiences (think of the common phrases “cut to the chase” and “skip to end”). Our lives are full of events: workdays, weekends, encounters, meals, etc. Those events are already zen. The minute the one who experiences these events begins to narrate them is the very minute zen is lost.
When you experience an event that contains pleasant, expansive or poignant qualities of a kind you rarely feel, you start having all sorts of thoughts about how good the moment feels. You may want to share this moment with someone else. You maybe even begin to imagine what it would feel like to always have moments like this.
Your impulse is to put a metal frame around such moments, to capture them the way hunters keep deer heads as trophies. Whenever you have such an experience, decline this impulse. Don’t fight against the impulse or try to suppress it; simply decline, the way you would decline a glass of water if you weren’t thirsty. The stories born of that narrative impulse are no more zen moments than those deadheads on the hunter’s wall are real deer. Declining to make your experiences into stories, or to overlay them with thoughts (even “deep” or “spiritual” thoughts) is the only way you can make sure you will actually experience “Zen moments.”
Instead, just experience every moment as it is. This is not difficult. All you have to do to truly experience a moment is to simply pay attention to it. People who meditate regularly are so used to declining the things our minds offer up to us that we tend to forget when we are talking to people who are unused to meditating-to mention that we are just as bombarded with thoughts as everyone else.
This lack of communication sometimes leads inexperienced meditators to believe it is possible to un-think or to shut off one’s mind somehow. So many people see “Zen moments” as unattainable because they get caught up thinking they have to wrestle their minds into submission before they are able to have “deep” experiences.
Have you ever had a conversation with a friend in a crowded restaurant? Were you able to listen and intelligently respond to him or her despite the constant background noise? If you can pay attention to someone you’re having a conversation with, you can have a “Zen moment”. It’s the same principle.
The Zen moment is your friend, the crowded restaurant is your mind, the background noise is any thought that takes you out of that moment.