Zen and the Master in the Art of Living

Inspirational quotes often strike a chord deep within us and can serve to encourage us through a particular phase in our life. The quote below has been with me throughout my career, and sums up my approach to life.

The Master in the Art of Living
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.
From the Zen Buddhist text (well, so I used to think…..)

Despite its attribution to the Zen Masters, it would appear that a teacher and Unitarian minister called Lawrence Pearsall Jacks (AKA L. P. Jacks) wrote it in the 1930’s (not the Pulitzer Prize winner, James A. Michener as widely believed).

So – whilst I was dissapointed when I realised it was not a quote from an old Zen text, the intention remains the same, and still sums up my approach to life.

What quote(s) has inspired you – and why?

Please share your thoughts by commenting below!

About deancarlton

Leader | Business Change Consultant | KJ | Yachtsman | Yoga & Meditation Teacher | Unleash the Tiger Within & release the POTENTIAL + VALUE in People & Business
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15 Responses to Zen and the Master in the Art of Living

  1. Hi Dean,
    First time rocking your comments.
    You’ve asked and you received:

    If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.~Jim Rohn

    “No distinction between work and play”…hmm, something to think about;)


    • deancarlton says:

      Hi Derek,

      Great of you to drop by – LOVE your free eBook – recommend all my readers to hop across to Goals Blogger to snag a copy! Then get goal-setting and living life.

      I’ve been coming back to Jim Rohn this last few months, I like this one:

      “Get around people who have something of value to share with you. Their impact will continue to have a significant effect on your life long after they have departed” ~ Jim Rohn

      OK, you got me – I have been working on the balance between work and play this last year (took me 24 years to work it out!), have got it into a better perspective now.

      The spirit of that part remains the same though – I apply myself to excellence in ALL that I do.

      • When work becomes play: Is it just an ideal, or it can be done?
        Perhaps, or maybe we will always fluctuate between the two rather than combine them?

        • deancarlton says:

          Personally speaking – I ‘got into’ computers when I was 12 (31 years ago!). After spending 6 years playing and programming all day and night, the logical career choice was to go into IT – and I loved it! Getting payed very well for doing what I enjoyed playing at!

          Roll forward 25 years into my career and what am I doing?

          I am still helping big businesses to better serve their customers – through the application of strategic business consultancy – underpinned by appropriate enabling technology solutions (if required).

          Am I still loving it? You bet! Is it work or is it play? Whichever way we look at it, of course I am working. But each day, each new challenge is fun – I have to enjoy my work, otherwise I’d just have to pack up and go home!

          I appreciate that not everyone loves their work / job – but it is how we conduct ourselves in each moment that defines whether we are working or playing. Which has just given me an idea for another post (thanks Derek!), so I’ll stop there!

          What do YOU think?

    • Bill Dorman says:

      Prophetic, huh? Good model to follow….

  2. I think that my feelings fluctuate, sometimes I hate my job, due to the repetitive nature. But I’m not a fool. I also have an attitude of gratitude to keep me centered. My observation tells me than any job can become boring.
    And here it becomes interesting.
    1. My job is just a matter of short time, because I have grand plans.
    2. My job is actually helping me to realize my plans.
    In the grand scheme of things, I am a very happy and fulfilled guy. No bulshit here.
    I’ve just learned how to take anything that happens and make a lemonade;)
    Looking forward to that post.

    • deancarlton says:

      Well said Derek.

      Each moment we learn and gain something that helps us to realise those grand plans – whether we realise it or not.

      Experience is just an accumulation of individual moments – each moment passing too quickly to be noticed on its own, or to assess how it impacts on ‘who we are’. It is only after the passing of time that we notice how we have grown or changed.

      Everything happens for a reason – learn what that reason is and move onto the next level. A ‘job’ should be a stepping stone to that grand plan – wear it like a millstone round the neck, and you’ll likely stay stuck where you are in your life.

  3. I am a believer that if your work doesn’t seem like play, then you are doing something wrong. Maybe your job or career isn’t the right one for you? I love what I do and I think that’s the key to my success. Yours too, I’m sure!

    • deancarlton says:

      Hi Martha,

      Glad you love what you do as much as I do!

      I absolutely agree with what you say about maybe not being in the right job/career. But even if people are, there are positive approaches that can be taken. Derek inspired another post I am working on that explores this theme.

      Thanks for stopping by – loved your ‘Remember the First Time’ post!

    • Bill Dorman says:

      My work is like play; I just wonder why they are always telling me to get serious, I thought I was supposed to be having fun here, huh?

  4. Bill Dorman says:

    Hey Dean, I don’t think I have seen that comment before and I wish I could say something prophetic like that. The funny thing is, that is how I live my life. What you see is what you get play or work. I try to keep the same positive, happy go lucky attitude at all times. I can be serious, focused and on task when I need to be.

    Good to see you and I’m sure we will bumping into each other more often.

    • deancarlton says:

      Thanks for stopping by Bill.

      Glad you enjoyed the quote – do you have one to share?

      Reading your posts, I can see that you live your life like that. For the right type of person (obviously, both you and I!) it really is strongly alligned to who we are – which is why I guess it is still with me after 25 years.

      It is just SUCH a shame it was not a ‘proper’ Zen text after all!

  5. guylaine says:

    i’d love to add my favourite quote, but that is the very one!
    (and thanks for posting it with its rightful author — although don’t be disappointed, there is a little “zen” into each of us)

    i have this lovely little book where i write my favourite quotes, and since it is presently inaccessible, your post came in very handy. fortunately my second favourite quote is also on my computer, so i am happy to share it with you. ~ it has a similar tone which also reflects my life’s inspiration.

    . . . . . . . . . . .
    The Secret of Wisdom

    Not knowing is the secret of wisdom. That’s the mystery that gives us access to the very source of liberating clarity. When we don’t know, there is an empty space through which the mysteries of life and death are revealed to us. But most of us don’t have the courage to not know, because we’re too attached to the ego, and the ego is deeply identified with knowing. We don’t have enough faith, trust, surrender and abandon to throw everything we think we know over the cliff, and stand alone on the edge, unsupported and undefended, knowing absolutely nothing in the face of everything. But that is the truly liberated relationship to the human experience. Ultimately that would become the surrendered place in which we’re always living, perpetually alone on the edge of that cliff, willing to know nothing before we know anything, over and over and over again.

    Andrew Cohen
    . . . . . . . . . . .

    as i read steve jobs, the biography, i am extremely touched to recognize that he lived and breathed both those philosophies.


  6. Def agree, dude. How you do one thing, you do every thing. No difference. No change. Just always be.

  7. Lee says:

    Hi dean that’s a great quote even like you say not from a zen master. A sayins someone told me was which is sort of on the same lines is. The day you get up and don’t want to go to work. Is the day you look for another job. I enjoy my work but unfortunately a lot of people don’t. Maybe they should be striving for more from life. I’m not sure.

    Thanks lee

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