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Zen Beauty: Simple Ways to Apprecaite Your Natural Beauty

“It’s a Zen thing,” is overused; a cliché. But it still carries meaning, even if that meaning is, “It’s ungraspable, but important”.. Some Buddhists may say that Zen making its way into mass culture even as a cliché may be completely appropriate, since the tradition of the Zen koan has long rested on an idea that cannot be grasped because it’s nonsensical. Koans are riddles that can’t be solved logically, but that open the mind, steering it from its normal, logical path and into the realm of the spirit. The sound of one hand clapping is the most widely-known koan, and in pondering this ancient riddle, practitioners may achieve enlightenment.

What Does "Zen" Really Mean?

Zen is simple and complicated: if you do it right, it’s simple, but doing it right is a complicated matter, since in the process you have to set aside preconceived ideas, old habits, desires, logic, and even belief. So it’s no wonder that, when you come to notions of Zen beauty, it too is complex. On the one hand, if everything in life is ephemeral, beauty and ugliness are irrelevant. On the other hand, creating beauty is a human urge, used to focus the mind and glorify spiritual themes.

The simplest thing to say about the Zen concept of beauty is that it rests on simplicity. Not the simplicity, though, of untouched nature. Zen beauty is about controlled simplicity; careful planning, weeks, years or even decades of training the branches of a tree to bend a certain way, of creating small ponds or waterfalls that will, over the course of many years, wear away a particular stone in a particular way. Zen gardens require massive amounts of patience: their genius is that, a well-crafted garden looks utterly natural, so that the visitor’s mind becomes calm, reflective. More patient. And for the gardener, the daily work of sweeping the path, raking the gravel, caring for the plants, is a time of serenity and peace.

Zen Beauty in Your Home

We’ve all seen photographs of interiors done based on Zen themes. They are characterized by openness; cleared surfaces, a plant or flower, a single art object. Based on Japanese architecture, Zen design makes the finest use of small spaces. Nothing ruffly. Wood and stone, natural colors rather than busy textiles or bright paints. Simple, but complicated for modern people who have so many things, so many distractions.

Incorporating Zen Into Your Personal Style

When we start thinking about Zen in terms of personal style, much of what we know of fashion goes right out of the window. The art of Ikebana, (Japanese flower arranging), relies on the fact that a perfectly placed Ikebana may be shown with one other work of art, a watercolor or a pot, but never more than one. Frequently, Ikebana, a few flowers, a long strand of reed, is the only artwork in the room, whose bareness and simplicity leads the eye to the arrangement and rests the eye when the viewer looks away. If we apply Ikebana to personal fashion, the question would be, do you intend to be the Ikebana or the room?

The Zen answer? The room, of course. Because the Ikebana will die in a few days, but the room is always there to provide shelter, to delight the eye and rest the spirit.

If you decide to take up Zen style, you’ll start by paring down your wardrobe. Throw out trendy stuff, and accessories beyond the absolute essentials. Pack away the bright colors, in case you change your mind (Zen is not wasteful). You probably won’t choose a plain robe and sandals for your daily wear, but, your job, environment and lifestyle will dictate the fashions you choose. Zen style being based on simplicity and ease, you may decide to create a daily wardrobe; a sort of personal uniform that keeps life simple. You may choose Levis and a white T-shirt; chino skirts and tops; tailored suits. Trends won’t move you, any more than a bouquet of carnations from the drugstore would cause envy in an Ikebana. Neutral colors, the colors of wood, stone, sky and water make a wardrobe that’s flexible and elegant.

Makeup will be extremely complicated because it should be completely unnoticeable. You could skip it entirely, but if paths are to be swept and gravel raked, caring for the complexion might be considered the same sort of activity. Take your time, blend carefully, choose soft, neutral tones that show your face to its best advantage without overpowering your own colors. Go for matte over shiny, natural colors over bright ones. If you like perfume, choose one with a single note; there’s no sense in mucking up a Zen sensibility with heavy, complex scents.

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