I have been practicing Zen Buddhism for the last twenty-one years. Since the beginning of that journey, I have not had to consciously remind myself of its teachings so much until I opened my first business, and especially now during the lockdown.

At the core of Buddhism are the “4 Noble Truths”, which in a nutshell are about accepting that life includes varying degrees of suffering. However, what isn’t immediately apparent, is this acceptance illustrates a problem that we often view the world with a binary lens. So we end up defining suffering as an absence of something we desire and end up living life going between two extremes. 

The more you recognize you must reject this binary lens: suffering and non-suffering, profit and loss, happiness and sadness – the more content you will be with life and in business.

Applying this in daily life

The lockdown is an interesting moment in history, because it challenges our thoughts, feelings and physical being, both at home and in business. Zen has taught me to consider the following in my daily life, and as mentioned, even more so during the recent weeks:

    1. Recognize what state of mind and emotion I find myself in. Before I act upon or react to anything: my partner, a colleague, or even the lockdown itself – recognize what state I am in and how that might colour my thoughts and emotions.
    2. Allow the circumstance I am in or the person I am with, to be what it is or who they are. Getting lost in judgments or desires of what we would like a person or situation to be, will only cause more pain and stress – thus forcing me to refocus on that binary lens, and preventing personal growth.
    3. Think about what has caused my current state. Why did it happen? What are the consequences if I act while I am in this current state? Does such action serve the overall goals I created for myself, to begin with?
    4. Finally, it is important to remember that I am not my emotions, I am not my body, and I am not my thoughts. The I that is me is greater than the sum of these parts. Remembering this can especially help when I am overcome by emotion, when I need to overcome physical pain, and when I can’t think a way through a situation.

How to remain focused

I am by no means a good Buddhist. Sometimes I forget these disciplines at the height of a moment, but the point is to come back to them as soon as I recognize this. 

A few times I’ve sat in Zazen sessions (meditation) that have lasted an entire day. I learned even the most experienced of my colleagues will have trouble clearing their minds. So the point is to focus on the path you want to be on and remember to apply your discipline as often as you can.

Becoming a Zentreprenuer

These principles have served me especially well in business. They can help you stay true to the path you created for your business. While it may seem odd to not focus on profit and loss, often business owners find they do better financially because they stay focused on their path – and that path is often what becomes their brand.  

When a new state is forced upon you, such as the lockdown, these principles can help you more readily determine if you need to accept a circumstance or see a way through it. While running a business during troubling times, it can help you determine if you need to let your entire business model go, if you need to pivot your offering, or if you can stay the course. 

These principles have served me well over the years and hopefully will help you as well.