Namasté dear one. On the last episode of season 3 of my podcast (listen to “Live Free with Selena Sage” here), I announced that I was taking some time away from social media. Between then and now, I’ve been developing Instantly Zen, which I’m so excited to introduce! (I’ll share details about what it is at the end of this post because this message is focused on how Instantly Zen came to be.)
At the time that I disabled social media (way back on October 17th haha), I knew that I needed to take a step away from everything. I felt something new trying to bubble to the surface and I needed to block out all of the noise.
In the silence, I generated a lot of ideas, and I’m so thankful for persons in my “inner circle” who gave me feedback, both helpful and harsh haha, to get me closer to what this idea needed to be.
I admit freely that my first idea / presentation was off the mark, but putting it on-screen and sharing it allowed me to process it; the feedback I received helped me strengthen it; and as I developed it, I ended up weaving in parts of the original idea that were worth keeping.
I say this because often times we try to process ideas in our heads and resist sharing them with others for various reasons. Those reasons for not sharing can sound like: “It’s not ready,” “It’s not perfect,” “They will steal it,” “They will tell someone else who will steal it.” But please let me tell you that original ideas are never really ready or perfect; most people don’t have the know-how or energy to actually develop and execute the idea like you can; and if you have that concern about a person stealing or sharing your idea with the wrong person, they probably shouldn’t be in your inner circle.
That said, know, too, that thoughts are constantly changing, so the mental-development method is not really that trustworthy. Instead, I find there is great power in taking a moment to jot down random ideas that come up, and choosing to work through the idea that you vibrate with on the highest frequency (meaning, you keep thinking of it or it stands out).
Once you’ve made that mock-up, treat it like a first draft and share it with only a very small number of very trusted people (two or three) that will give you honest perspective. Then, prepare yourself for both positive and negative feedback and stay open to both. Don’t let negative feedback discourage you, and lean into positive feedback (even if it’s your own belief that it will work) to fuel you as you take the next steps forward to fine-tune your first idea.
But while progress is important, I cannot overstate the importance of rest. Whenever a feeling of tiredness or burnout starts to arise in you, take a step back, take a nap, do something totally unrelated—for me this often means playing lots of music, talking long walks, and binge-watching Netflix shows and TEDTalks! Haha
While this rest seems counterproductive to people, it actually allows your Consciousness to step in and magically work things out in the space that is left when you shift your attention. I also find that other works of creativity (nature is the art of the Creator) will inspire you, too!
For Instantly Zen to happen, I give my sincere thanks to my dear Mrs. Quander, Hana, and Lelita for giving me the feedback I needed to shift and modify the original idea. A conversation with Gigi helped me simplify and come to the recognition that the simple idea was enough, and our naming brainstorming session turned magical and she channeled the perfect name for me. My sister Iris was my style and creative director (haha) and patiently viewed, and gave her typically-excellent and honest feedback to all of my logo designs and font choices; web-design layout ideas; and social media pages! My sister Camille, and our dear parents, were the total cheerleaders and poured positivity onto everything I shared. I am also so very thankful for the initial participants in the Instantly Zen process for their kind feedback, and all of those before them who have experienced me walking them through the steps of Instantly Zen before I called it that haha.
ALL of these persons (and more that I’ve not named), and the teachers who inspired me and brought me to a place of *getting it* are the ones responsible for helping to grow the original seed.
More important than what Instantly Zen is, I believe seeing that it was a collective process only further supports the recognition of Oneness. This is why I name those that expanded, supported, and fine-tuned the vision before even explaining what Instantly Zen is. Though I developed the idea, built the pages, and facilitate the events and sessions, every part of that is imprinted with the sun and water that nurtures me. I am so thankful.
About Instantly Zen
I was so sure of the vibe I wanted for the logo that I developed and finalized it within two days (with special thanks to Iris again and Lelita for lending me a computer after mine stopped working).
The Zen enso symbol (painted open circle) is so important to me that it can be found in all of my logos. The enso has so many meanings that I just did a quick search for you and found this wonderful page which has a beautiful overview of different perspectives, in case you’re interested (ironically the page is called ‘Modern Zen’ which was a name on the brainstorm list haha). For me, the enso represents Isness, existence, and the body.
For the Selena Sage logo, I placed the Taoist trigram for Heaven inside the Zen enso to mean Heaven Lies Within.
For the ZenTao Books logo, I placed the well-known Taoist Yin-Yang symbol inside the Zen enso to emphasize that the swirl of good and bad (the phenomenal experience of duality) exists within the One.
For the Instantly Zen logo, I placed the word “Zen” within the void of the enso to illustrate that Zen is the emptiness.
In all three of the logos, I use the same open enso to capture the spirit of artistic creation, celebrate the beauty of perceived ‘imperfection’ (open, unfinished circle versus closed and ‘perfect’ & freedom of flow experienced while being of no-mind) that is often keenly felt by artists, and signify that all of my creations — blog posts, podcasts, books, events — are intended to be an opening for the exploration of that which is inside perceived boundaries (like the body or even a book)…but is both within and all around.
After really contemplating all three logos, I was delighted to recognize that the positioning of the enso moves from the first position, to the middle, to the end position of the logos…in the order of my creations and development! This was unintentional but beautiful to discover. It is so fitting as it illustrates the progression of my mode of sharing Zen—from this blog, to books, to live experiences!
The font choice for the ‘Zen’ part of the Instantly Zen logo is the “Be Vietnam – Thin (version)” font, designed by Gabriel Lam, Tony Le, Vietanh Nguyen, beGroup Vietnam and it was the default for the template (in Canva) that I was using. I immediately liked it and I didn’t change it haha.
For the ‘Instantly’ part, I thought I wanted a styled, cursive, or calligraphy font to show motion and quickness or immediacy, but every font I tried was unreadable haha I stumbled into the “Sukar – Regular (version),” designed by Ghiath Alsory, and I loved the clarity, simplicity and directness I felt with the font (fortunately Iris agreed! Haha). I increased the spacing between letters for the Sukar font to add clarity and space.
Combining two fonts and a shape is tricky, so I spent a whole day playing with various font sizes and placements to achieve a result that felt right to me.
I take the time here to walk through font choices because it is an often overlooked part of design, but it is truly one of the most important parts. My love for font creators compels me to give them shoutouts, thanks, and praises in every book (each book I’ve published has an “about the font” page) and project I produce! I believe their work is essential, and the central part, of each of my creations. Thank you, thank you!
While I’m on the topic of fonts and logos, I’ll also note that the ‘Selena Sage’ part of my logo is my own handwriting — the result of an inspired moment in my graphic design team’s office and being handed a sharpie pen that was on the counter haha.
The font of the ‘ZenTao Books’ logo is in the beautiful Dolce Vita font (with some modified spacing), designed by MuraKnockout Media & Design. I love this font so much that I used it for the main text in my first published book, “Meditative Questions.”
Okay, so what is Instantly Zen?! Haha! Simply stated, Instantly Zen is a 3-step process I developed from Zen, Advaita, and Zen principles—combined with my own experience—to transcend stressful thoughts and have direct recognition of one’s true nature. This is done through the power of the Observer Consciousness.
I went back and forth about sharing those steps in writing, but at the moment it feels that this would create confusion and possibly minimize the actual experience. Indeed, there is no substitute for experience…and experience was the way that I divinely received a direct transmission of Truth from enlightened master Mooji. I still have not found an adequate way to put that experience into words.
It has become more clear to me that teachers are able to teach because they have first learned through experience. And while I wholeheartedly consider myself to be a student of Zen, there is a feeling that the experiences I’ve been gifted might be shared through me in a way that is separate from any defined spiritual path, to audiences who may have never heard about these kinds of things before.
When I consider all of the aspects of my personal identification, I struggle to think of any young, black, American women who are talking about Zen. As I expand to include young, black, American women with Engineering degrees who left lucrative corporate careers in business to move to a remote island in Africa to meditate and study with a Zen master, the pool seems sufficiently empty for me to jump in haha
Another aspect of providing any type of guidance is that every person’s interpretation is extremely unique. It is based upon personal conditioning, so the way one may read a set of steps is totally different from how another might process them.
By facilitating live experiences, I am more able to vibrate with where another person is in their processing, and their level of attachment to their conditioning, and modify guidance to better assist with their discovery. I continue to try to stick to pointing and not telling people what they should see (or not see), but I believe that to be a practiced skill haha I’m working on it haha ;)
I’ve already been reminded that the simplicity of this Truth can feel liberating and profound to some, and rudimentary to others. Since the process is simply uncovering your true nature, you can never not be what you are, so there is an inherent simplicity to the discovery.
However, through repeated practice of the recognition, and checking in to understand what position one is operating from, a deepening happens. (This is the distinction between kenshō and satori that I briefly explore here.) More and more the truth that we choose to suffer begins to emerge, and then ultimate freedom can also been seen as a simple choice of identification.
In the same way that it is very difficult to put love, happiness, freedom, or joy into words, Zen is the same. I say peace or freedom as shorthand, but the ultimate liberation that Zen represents is beyond words.
While I believe that this freedom is possible for everyone, especially if you find yourself reading a blog like this one haha, the results depend on how tightly one holds onto conditioned beliefs of identity.
Just as I believe that the greatest masters create other masters, the mission here is to teach a method to create other teachers, but it might also make you a lifelong student of Zen. The mysteries unfold and then seem to unravel as all is resolved in the Unborn (a nod to the great Zen master Bankei).
I welcome you to attend our upcoming virtual events from wherever you are in the world or on your spiritual journey. As we free ourselves, we free others, so let’s continue to get free together! ;)
At the time of the post, the next event will be on Saturday, 5 December. You are welcome to register here.
Thank you for your loving and kind support.
Photo: Since I’m sharing the background of every aspect of this project, I’ll do the same for the primary photo of this post:
While starting on the website, I recognized that I needed some non-selfie photos haha Then, I tried to figure out what to wear! After talking with a dear friend here in Ponta do Sol (Cabo Verde) about my limited wardrobe, she inspired me to keep it real with the loose pants from Thailand that I bought on my last trip there and wear almost religiously haha She suggested that I pair the pants with whatever top seemed right. (Great advice! I’d forgotten about this lovely blue color-block top before opening my closet! I don’t think that I’ve worn it since I met Sri Mooji in 2017 (!!), so it felt even more perfect haha)
Next, I asked if she’d take a picture of me. (I’m purposely not saying this dear friend’s name because of what comes next haha.) We set a date, but in the next moment, she started reviewing all of the things she had to do, and the date kept moving further and further into the future as she kept taking haha I was trying to finish the website within weeks and it was feeling like the photo shoot might take months to schedule haha
But, as with all things, this was the best thing that could have happened because it inspired me to take the $20 tripod (which even has a Bluetooth enabled remote to signal a phone to take the picture!) I bought during my last trip to the USA and go take a picture of myself haha
I set up my little operation in my favorite area of Sinagoga in the early morning and proceeded to take too many photos to count haha
At some point in the process, I decided to do a lotus position seated pose over the rocks…and out of the whole bunch, this photo was my absolute favorite! I should mention that my hands are behind my back mostly to conceal the small remote control I was holding haha
That same day, the inspiration arose to take pictures around Sinagoga in the soft light of the rising sun, and I used all of those pictures on pages within the InstantlyZen.com website. In one day, I actually created the vibe for the brand! This is beyond what I expected to achieve as my first idea was really to take test shots, not necessarily final shots.
On the site, there is also a one-minute video of me introducing Instantly Zen that I went back to the same area of Sinagoga a few days later to shoot. Since I was wearing a pink shirt that day, I thought it would be a good idea to take some more photos in addition to the video, for variety haha.
One pose I felt was missing from the first photoshoot was a Namasté pose of gratitude that I use often in my everyday life. Since I had forgotten to charge the tripod remote after the first shoot, it was out of battery. This time, I had to use the timer feature on my iPhone, and its 10 second maximum, to make the photos.
There were a few fishermen out that morning and they must have had a good laugh seeing me press the photo capture button on my phone (on the tripod) to activate the timer and run back to the rocks and get into lotus position—within seconds— to beat the timer haha
It all worked out great! And I probably wouldn’t have been able to take this photo with the remote anyway, unless I was able to smash the depressed button between my palms haha I’m still amazed that I somehow managed to look poised after the frenzied timer gymnastics haha:
Living on a remote island has required me to get creative in a lot of ways to achieve various visions. I’ve done a lot more with a lot less than I had living in the USA, and I’ve learned that progress is doing the best you can with what you have.
If your vision requires others showing up to help you finish things, recognize that it may actually be more difficult, and more time-consuming, to finish. While there is nothing wrong with collaborating to achieve your vision (indeed, it is often necessary), I still encourage you to keep pushing forward without waiting for others as much as you can :) Much love.