3 Lessons I Learned from a Zen Buddhism Group Talk

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I did something different on Friday night.

And it’s something I’ve been curious about for while…

I attended a group talk!

3 Things I learned from Zen Buddhism

My good friend, Michelle, told me about this event about Zen Buddhism which was called “New Minds Night.” It was organized by a guy she knows from a weekly group she attends and really enjoys. She told me it would be an intimate gathering at an adorable vintage café in Lincoln Park called Bourgeois Pig.

I wasn’t sure about attending at first. Buddhism? I enjoy learning about mindfulness and spirituality but the term just sounds so official. I was raised Roman Catholic but I see myself as more spiritual than religious (although I do love my Polish traditions, all rooted from Catholicism). After some discussion and reassurance that this will not be a cult meeting where they try to convert me into a Buddhist, I agreed.

How was the group talk?

I thought it was amazing. There are several things I realized and noticed that I haven’t thought of before, related to Zen and not. But before I get into it, I wanted to recommend everyone to seek out events and meetups like these – they are so fulfilling and they really get your mind stirred and thinking. It made me feel like I was in Philosophy class all over again, except everyone there was willing to listen, discuss, and learn. It was a ever-flowing conversation between 13 people. One person was leading the conversation but everyone was eager to learn about Zen and push our minds to think philosophically and realistically about it.

Now, some things that stuck with me from this great group talk:

1. We don’t have meaningful conversations.

Sure, we talk to people. We discuss what’s currently happening in the world, who’s dating who, and Mary did what?, and I made the best brownies the other day, and I just really don’t feel like working out today…

But we don’t really have many intellectual conversations anymore. Oh and by the way, when I say we, I don’t mean everyone. You might be the deepest thinker alive, I wouldn’t know – but if you are, good for you! I applaud you for exercising your mind. If you are, then this point clearly does not apply to you and you can move on to point 2 and 3.

Anyway, we stopped thinking about more meaningful things; we stopped having those intense passionate conversations about life, what is means, and why we do the things we do. As a Psychology student, I was always curious about people and their thoughts and actions. I forgot, however, that Philosophy is just as important in self-growth. Philosophy makes life so much more fulfilling – not only does it make your mind feel like it’s doing the work it was meant to be doing – thinking, but it also allows you to free yourself of the daily irrelevant talk and complaints, by connecting with your inner being, your purpose, and reality.

2. We don’t connect with people as much.

I almost feel guilty saying this since I work in social media marketing but social networking really has hindered our ability to truly connect with other people. While I love social media (clearly) and I find it a wonderful way for brands to connect with consumers and for people to stay updated with acquaintances and family, social networking also inhibited our innate needs for human contact.

I’m sure you remember the good old days where there was no Internet and you could only rely on your house phone to contact someone (if you even had one of those). To see a friend or family member, you actually had to make an effort to see them. You had to get out of your house, go over to theirs, knock on the door, and say hello – in real life. Face to face. Real human interaction.

Many of us, especially my generation and the generations going forward, are starting to forget the importance of real human interaction. Social networking has become an irony because it has made us less social than ever before. We hide behind our computers and smartphones and rely on technology to talk with people instead of making an effort to be truly social. As much as I love technology, it should not control our lives. Can you live without your phone? Without Facebook? Email? Most will say no. Heck, I’ll say Absolutely NOT! We are attached. The convenience of technology has made us reliant on this luxury but has also absorbed us and is slowly taking some of our human needs away from us. We must remember to stay social. To meet in person. To discuss things. Real life. That’s where life happens! In real life!

3. Living in the present is a miracle.

Now finally a lesson I learned directly from the discussion we had. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the discussion but the core lesson is this – we must learn to live in the moment. If we don’t, we will eventually burn ourselves out and lead our life into deeper shadows of exhaustion and superficiality.

Today is a gift, that's why we call it the present
Photo by Lindsey Buchmann

“Today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.”

We live in a society which glamorizes always being on-the-go. We have food to-go, drinks to-go, smartphones which allows us to get our news, email, reading, and “social needs” all taken care of in one place. We often forget to relax. We often forget to appreciate the moment.

We are always on the go; always on the run, but we never really arrive.

Once you have completed one thing on your to-do list, there comes another, and another, and another. Does it ever end? When does madness begin and where does it end?

I’m not saying we should abandon our responsibilities. Absolutely not. I have no intention of being a homeless person so I must have certain things that I need getting done. Having to-do lists is helpful and can definitely maximize efficiency. The point is, we must also remember to take a breath and relax.

We must notice the moment. Take a breath. Be present. Meditate. Be intuitive.


I would love to hear your thoughts!

Do you agree? Disagree?

Let’s discuss.

Shared at Heart + Home, Anti-procrastination, Tell me, Tues Confessional, Things They can’t say

Last Updated on March 28, 2019

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  1. Wow, I really felt like all three points you discussed were totally pointing the finger at me. Between work, school, taking care of my little guy and my bigger guy, I feel so lost in the shuffle, rarely having time to enjoy the moment and really connect with others. This gives me a lot to think about! Thanks for such a great post. 🙂

    • Oh don’t worry Syl, I am in the boat. Especially this semester (my last one in college) and it has been extremely hectic. The thing is I actually enjoy being busy so it is extra hard to take the time to relax. I’ve been telling myself to start meditating for months now and still have no gotten around to actually doing it. I’m disappointed to admit, but after this meet I realized the importance in it and hopefully it will help me by pushing me to actually take the time for myself. We need it. Thanks for reading, love!

  2. The first two of these really resonate with me. I had a pretty crummy first two years of college because both of those were definitely missing from my life, but I became a lot more intentional about incorporating them during my junior and senior years. I have one friend in particular that I can almost always count on for good, solid conversation when the two of us meet up (which is difficult nowadays, since I’m in Chicago and my friend’s in North Carolina). It’s incredible how much of a difference being with someone and having a real, authentic discussion with them makes in building a relationship (not necessarily a romantic relationship…I mean relationship more as a contrast to a fluffy, surface friendship that doesn’t have much/any substance).

    • I absolutely agree. There are honestly only two people I can count on having significant and meaningful conversations with. Thankfully, both are my best friends but I don’t see them very often nor do I speak with them every day. But I have neglected the first two points (and the third, although that’s the point I’ve been trying to work on in the recent few weeks) and it has caused a certain feeling of LACKING in my life. And it’s a difficult thing to grasp because it does not portray itself as such. It is not prevalent right away that THIS is why we feel like this, we just feel a certain negative emotion or lacking of fulfillment and it strips us little by little. I have recently started trying to surround myself with more people who CARE About life and discussions and concepts, not just events and irrelevant things. It’s not as easy as it sounds :/ But hey if you ever wanna hang out and talk, I am MORE than willing to 🙂

  3. How great of you to take a chance and experience something new..and for sharing it with all of us!

  4. It sounds like you had a meaningful time and learned some great truths. I would suggest that you explore how Buddhism differs from Christianity since you have Catholic roots. I found this great site to answer some of my questions, and they have a whole section of well-written articles from a Christian perspective. Here’s the list of articles of Buddhism (since Zen is a faction of Buddhism). I hope this will add to your growing knowledge. Bless you, Gail

  5. thank you so much for sharing this! i can relate to so much. “today is a gift, that is why we call it the present” is actually vynal on my wall!

  6. “We are always on the go; always on the run, but we never really arrive.” <- Wow! This totally stopped me in my tracks! You are SO right on with this! And the whole social media taking away our connectedness? SO TRUE! I see it in the hospital ALL the time…I'll get a teenager as a patient and I'm standing there trying to get something out of them…WHAT hurts, WHERE does it hurt, HOW do you feel?? Most of them just shrug! And FORGET about making eye contact! (?!?!) It's so sad to see these younger generations hiding behind their computers and smart phones and such. I sincerely hope that if I ever have children one day, that I can teach them how to PROPERLY communicate! *steps off soapbox* 😉

  7. These are some beautiful lessons. Sometimes attending something like this can be so transformative.

  8. Sounds like it was a great class! I totally agree that we don’t really have meaningful conversations.

  9. In other words: “We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”- Charles Bukowski

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