8 Principles for a Zen Marriage

Relationship Design, Simplicity

Photo courtesy catmadogma

A year ago on Simple Marriage: originally posted April 16, 2008.
For over a year now I have been a Zen Habits follower. In fact I have even used some of Leo’s work on Simple Marriage. Recently Leo wrote a post on how to live like a Zen Monk. Which got me thinking about how a couple could create a Zen Marriage.
To begin, what exactly would a Zen Marriage look like and why would anyone want to experience one?
Zen Monks devote their lives to being present in everything they do and to serving others. So why experience a Zen Marriage? Who among us wouldn’t benefit from a life and relationship with more focus, peace, simplicity, and mindfulness? As well as life at a slower more deliberate pace.
Thich Nhat Hanh simplified the rules of the Zen life in just a few words; “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” My wife and I have adopted this as a mantra.
I don’t know if a complete Zen Marriage can be attained, that’s not really the point. There are however certain principles that can be applied to life and relationships. The goal is to become more present, both in life and in marriage.

  1. Do less. A Zen life is not a lazy life. It is a life devoted to work and others. A Zen Marriage could be the same. Most people seem to try to pack too many things into each day. Leaving you both tired and often leaving many things left undone. Plan to do only one or two things together, starting on the weekends. Keep a family schedule and work to keep it focused on a few things each week.
  2. Put space between things. When scheduling things, don’t schedule things too close together. Leave time between activities. Allowing more time to enjoy each thing and less rushing around from place to place.
  3. Do one thing at a time. How often are you with your spouse and each of you are doing something different? Spend time together doing the same thing. When you are having a conversation, just talk and listen, don’t pay the bills or watch TV as well. When you eat together, turn off other distractions and eat together. Begin the process of single-tasking.
  4. Whatever you do, do it slowly and deliberately. Take your time and learn to enjoy more of the moments as they occur. Slow down. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. With practice, everything in your marriage can be done slowly and deliberately. Everything.
  5. Plan daily zazen. Zazen is the practice of meditation. Whether sitting or walking or cleaning, incorporate some meditation time into each day. For me, I use this time not only for meditation but for spiritual pursuits as well. Prayer. Study. Experiencing God and His blessing. The key is daily regularity. Even it is just five minutes, spend some time separately or together sitting and experiencing what’s going on around you.
  6. Serve others. Being a servant is not only good for the community, it’s good for you as well. It teaches humility. Patience. Compassion. It also helps you serve your partner in marriage. Seek out opportunities to serve others with your family. It will teach valuable lessons to your children.
  7. Designate time for certain things. Similar to point #3, set aside time to do the things important to you in your marriage. Consider a weekly date night. An afternoon walk together. If it’s important to you, plan ahead to include it.
  8. Live simply. At the core of a Zen Marriage and life is living within necessity. There is no law saying what should be essential for you – but you should consider what is most important to your life, and make room for that by eliminating the other less essential things. Clear away the clutter and distractions.