Zen Communication in Everyday Life

By Susan L. Schoenbeck & Helen Lee

Zen began in China during the 6th century as a way of looking at the world with a centered and calm mind. Although associated with Buddhism, Zen is not a religion, but a meditative state associated with the search for truth and self-improvement. The meditations that follow will unlock new doors of perception and cultivate a Zen spirit within you.

The following are basic principles of Zen:

  • Zen asks that we be quiet and contemplative at times, allowing surrounding energy forces to enter us.
  • Zen tells us to be open to serendipity, letting go to the ebb and flow of daily life.
  • Zen asks that we pay attention to the everyday moments of life.
  • Zen encourages us to fully experience and appreciate each moment…one at a time.
  • Zen underscores our true nature as one of compassion and wisdom.
  • Zen instructs us that recognizing our own weaknesses and strengths helps us better understand the trials and tribulations of others.
  • Zen teaches us that reflection on our own lives helps us realize not only how we can be better human beings, but also how we can help others to become kinder and gentler.
  • Zen beholds the holy faces of the weak, the sick and the poor as representations of divine opportunity to serve in a secular world.
Plants in a barrel image

How often do you find yourself among people who jump in to give their view before you have even completed your sentence? This way of being is contrary to Zen behavior. Essential to communicating in a Zen fashion is accepting the principle that “The quieter we are, the more we hear.” In order to hear, our hearts and minds should be listening. Our lips must be quiet. Exchange of ideas can happen because silence communicates respectful listening.

The following meditations celebrate Zen-like communication. Using the principles within each will make your voice rich in rewards.

Looking Beyond the Masks People Wear

Zen is a way of looking at and through events. People send out messages about who they are, who they say they are, and who others think they are. When we quietly listen, we can look beyond the masks people wear and come to know how the person is really thinking and feeling.


Zen has no map or destination. Zen encourages people to ask questions. Be comfortable searching for deeper meanings. You may thereby learn more about the people around you.


A person can be neither good nor bad. Such a distinction is artificial. Accept people as they are.


A person is enlightened about their purpose in life through experiences with other people. Each contact we have with others encourages us to ask, “What is the reason I am here today?”

Digging for Meaning:

Using a Zen-like mind, we understand that sometimes people will say “yes” when they mean “no,” just to be nice. Have the good sense not to believe everything you hear, but to dig deeper than asking a “yes or no” question. Ask people to tell their stories to find out what really is on their minds. Digging for meaning, rather than settling for pleasantries, uncovers truth. “Tell me” can be powerful words in your vocabulary.

The Many Paths to Truth:

Zen teaches us our ways of living are not the only ones that may lead to truth and beauty. We meet people from all walks of life, and from varied cultures, religions and social status. A person operating from a Zen point of view understands people who take other paths, and respects their journeys.


Zen teaches us inner peace makes you peaceful on the outside. Many times we have to put our own concerns aside in order to find space to listen to others.


Zen sees no red or black skin, yellow or white skin, or any in-between skin. Zen recognizes the human spirit. The person with a Zen-like spirit can see beyond the earthly garments people wear.


Zen teaches us that life will not wait for us. We must travel the road now despite whatever demands placed on us each minute of our day.


Zen reminds us we are all brothers and sisters. We should not let pride stop us from working side-by-side with team members with different opinions. Those with Zen-like thoughts work hand-in-hand to create the greatest good.


Zen uses meditation as a way of clearing the mind to find answers. We require quiet times to focus our thoughts. Meditation helps us become more aware.


Zen tells us to look deeply at each day. Sometimes the future looks sad. Many times, out of depths of despair, we are able to create some good times. We can view each day with a measure of hope, full of potential, not necessarily for the future, but simply for the day at hand.

Seeing the Oneness:

Zen is about oneness of the universe. Zen cares not how many degrees we have or books we’ve read. Rather, Zen cares about the spirit we will be when we die and all worldly things fall away from us. We are all pretty much alike despite the differences in their education, race, social status and religion. Where others see diversity, those operating from a Zen point of view see oneness.


Zen recognizes the impermanence of life. Nothing lasts forever. We must be open to all possibilities. We see people change. Some change for the better and others change for the worse. We are ready for either.

Every Day is a Good Day:

Zen teaches each day can be good. We must strive to make it so. We can create an atmosphere where much good can be achieved. Sometimes a little good is good enough. We can be satisfied with a little progress and walk away with satisfaction, knowing we gave the day our best.