Steve Jobs, Zen, And Your Space. 7 Principles To Step Out Of The Mundane And Mindless.

Steve Jobs, Zen Buddhism, Apple Computers.  While Steve Jobs and Apple Computers go hand in hand, I had not associated Zen with the equation (at least not consciously)
Apple Computers earns $300,000 per minute. The company, worth more than the entire Russian Stock Market, has more operating cash than the US treasury (Apple Facts). 

Steve Jobs created the Apple Computers we know today. A pioneer and an inspiration, he changed the face of technology. 

Jobs', a practicing Buddhist, was passionate about elegantly simple and intuitive design. The understanding of his own mental processes, were shaped and encouraged by his practice of meditation and Zen Buddhism. 

Now that Zen is brought into the equation, it becomes apparent that Zen is everywhere in the company's design.

"...[It's] engineering and design aesthetic that set Apple apart from other technology companies and ultimately helped make it the most valuable company in the world. Its guiding tenet was simplicity—not merely the shallow simplicity that comes from an uncluttered look and feel and surface of a product, but the deep simplicity that comes from knowing the essence of every product, the complexities of its engineering and the function of every component." 
Walter Issacson
Smithsonian Magazine

The Zen Of Design
In this increasingly consumer focused, information overloaded, noisy world, I find myself drawn to simplicity.  Looking for a break, seeking balance,  I came upon the Zen of Design by Garr Reynolds. It's been a refreshing way to help bring in some elements of calm, and a sense of meaning and purpose. 

Reynolds, a sought-after speaker and best selling author, is known for incorporating lessons and principles from the Zen arts in Japan. His fresh approach is inspiring and reveals simple ideas for living (and communicating) better.

Reynolds shares key aesthetic principles called the Zen of design or the Shibumi/Shibui 7

Shibumi (渋み) implies a simplicity of spirit, an attitude of refinement without pretension, honesty without apology, beauty without artifice. (Shibumi Santuary)

Applying The Zen of Design
Project: Pick 1 room in your space. Preferably the room you spend the most time in.

Objective: Create a space in your home based on the Zen Design blueprint so you can 
  • Discover mindfulness,
  • Gain insight, 
  • Live in balance, calm, and with purpose

Underlying Principle:  Changing our environment causes changes in our living experience.
We are in constant energetic dialog with our environment. Our thoughts, feelings, and emotions find their way to our surrounding space. The reverse  is also true. We take on the characteristics of the environment.

Rules: Pick the principles that best align with your desired outcome. Let these guide your process. Take on one room at a time, possibly on a weekend, giving yourself time and space to enjoy the project .

The Shibumi 7

1. Kanso — Simplicity

Beauty and utility need not be overstated of ostentatious. A nice piece of furniture is more beautiful when it’s not surrounded by clutter.
  • Remove the clutter and chaos. For inspiration and ideas on simplifying and de-cluttering check our previous post here.
  • Eliminate every single object in the space that's not important. 
    Try the Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo's KonMari method to remove unnecessary things. This previous post has a video of Marie sharing her "spark joy" concept.
  • Focus on whats important to you, go for fresh, clean design.
You will find the space and the breathing room that you need. Kanso will help bring you into balance.
 Aesthetic Value: Simplicity
2. Koko — Austerity
Create a sense of focus and clarity in a space. Remove all items that are not necessary and/or that have nothing to add. The goal is to present something that both appears spare and imparts a sense of focus and clarity. Like a single piece of art in the room. Or focus only on one painting on a large wall.
Aesthetic Value: Elegance

3. Shizen — Naturalness
Include naturally occurring patterns and rhythms into your space. Shizen means finding the natural balance between being "of nature" while maintaining your distinct identity.
Aesthetic Value: Naturalness (i.e., nothing artificial or forced),

4.  Yugen — Subtlety
If you look at a good photograph, it always has something in it that evokes the power of suggestion. According to the Zen view the power of suggestion is often stronger than that of full disclosure. 

Leave something to the imagination inviting involvement and moving us to action. Placement of an object that arouses curiosity or a unexpected accent perhaps. The more subtle the clues, the more powerful the effect.
Aesthetic Value: Suggestive rather than the descriptive or obvious

5.  Datsuzoku — Break from Routine
For many of us our spaces have become static. Attempting to look at the room with fresh eyes can be a challenge. Rearrange the furniture, change the accents, give the room new meaning and functionality.
Aesthetic Value:  Creativity

6. Seijaku — Stillness and/or Tranquility
Meditation makes us self-aware and helps us find focus. When the mind is still, creative inspiration floods in. Create a quiet space that's welcoming and invites one to spend time in quiet meditation.
Aesthetic Value: Calmness

7. Fukinsei — Imperfection and/or Asymmetry
Nature is in balance through its asymmetry. Embracing the beauty of being imperfect, helps let go off rigidity. It allows others to participate in the creative process. What you end up with is truly unique. Your space must be a platform for open innovation.
Aesthetic Value: Viewer supplies the missing symmetry and participates in the creative act.
Encouragement fuels us with motivation. The following are a few sources that I hope will help inspire and bring intentionality into your space.

Whether its Richard Gere, Orlando Bloom, Tiger Woods, Steven Seagal, or Steve Jobs, the influence of Zen is undeniable. Executives from Google and Apple, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists regularly visit the Kannondo Zen Meditation Center. 

While your objective may not be to be the next Steve Jobs or change the world, you can bring in some simplicity, calm, balance, and meaning into your own home and lives by adopting some of these Shibumi Seven. 

I for one was quite inspired by the Zen Interiors' Visuals. Simplicity and Subtlety are two principles that seem to draw me in.  As I work on the project of applying the Shibumi Seven to our space one room at a time. I already feel the positive effects of simplicity, owning less, and a life rich in experience. 

Would you like to live in a Zen like retreat home? Do you find it difficult to focus in your space? Share your thoughts with us. Which of the Shibumi 7 appeals to you?

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