7 Zen Commandments That Will Change Your Life

7 Zen Commandments That Will Change Your Life

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 13 October, 2022

The zen commandments are principles oriented towards greater awareness and a simpler life free of unnecessary worry. 

Zen monks deeply value peace and consciously seeing reality for what it is. That’s why all zen commandments focus on ridding yourself of the unnecessary and irrelevant. It also means adopting certain habits that will help you find inner peace and purify your conscience. 

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.”

-Shunryu Suzuki-

They say that you can summarize all zen commandments in a single sentence: “smile, breathe, and go slow.” Strictly speaking, the commandments are complex. However, they can be summarized in the following principles.

1. The first zen commandment: do one thing at a time

Doing one thing at a time is hard. In our society, we see multitasking as the way to go. So many of us are constantly doing several things at the same time.

We have lunch while we make business deals. Or we do one task while thinking about another. In the long-term, it can destroy your nerves. It is a source of stress and leads to ineffective results. The best thing you can do is focus on just one activity. Then your spirit will be able to maintain a peaceful rhythm.

zen commandments

2. Do things slowly and willingly

Speed is another hallmark of today’s society, in everything from work to sex. It would seem that our slogan is to do as much as possible as quickly as possible. It’s as if there were never enough time.

Zen commandments indicate that you should actually do just the opposite. Do things slowly, without any rush. In today’s world, that’s not easy. It takes training. The result, however, is wonderful. You will be able to focus better, so your results will actually be better too.

3. Finish what you start

Multitasking and speed often end in leaving things unfinished. Sometimes indefinitely. That’s exactly where that feeling of never having time for anything comes from. The effect that this has on your emotions very negative. In the first place, it feeds anxiety and worry. Secondly, your attention will be dispersed and superficial. It’s like living by just watching life go by.

4. Pause between one task and the next

One of the most neglected aspects of life in our modern world is restSo many people have a hard time stopping and resting. They feel guilty or tormented if they stop just for a moment. They only do it when they’re overcome by exhaustion.

One of the zen commandments says that it is very important to rest between one task and another. The fundamental goal is to put your life in order. You need to allow the mind to disconnect from one activity before starting the next.

Zen rituals.

5. Have rituals

Rituals are ceremonies that you always carry out the same way. Their purpose is to give special meaning to a moment or activity. Rituals predispose the mind and spirit to develop in a positive way. 

Zen commandments recommend creating your own rituals. It will help you be more aware of specific moments. It is a way to prepare yourself to experience everything intensely and fully. The idea is to do rituals with everyday situations like eating or sleeping.

6. Do less

Another harmful modern habit is filling the day with endless tasks and commitments. We do this, supposedly, to make the most of our time. We measure effectiveness in terms of quantity and not quality. But c ramming your day with activities has more to do with anxiety than effectiveness. 

Zen masters recommend purifying your time. Eliminate unnecessary activities. Organize your time so that you can fulfill your responsibilities and take breaks every day. Make sure you’re making time for things in your life other than work.

7. Smile and serve others

Smiling and serving others is a good way to improve your quality of life. You might not notice at first, but with time you will see clearly how other people’s attitude towards you is kinder and warmer.

Serving others is also a way to increase a feeling of self-love. The word “serve” here doesn’t refer to servility. It refers to being useful to other people and generous with their needs and adversities. Kind and helpful people experience the world  more positively.

serving others

These 7 principles don’t literally correspond to the zen commandments. Rather, they are a summary of the distinguishing features of this particular philosophy. The goal is to give you some practical ideas so you can live a happy, peaceful life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Brooks, Jennifer (2013). La magia de la meditación zen: secretos para encontrar el tiempo para la paz mental todos los días. Createspace.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.