What Is Zen Meditation?
Many of us spend the entire day doing so much that we get fatigued at the end of each day, and end up feeling lifeless. This is definitely not a healthy way to live. We rarely ever have any time when we are still, focused, and get some peace of mind. The good news is that there`s a way out of this unhealthy lifestyle. Let`s discuss a comprehensive guide to this 1500-year-old practice — one that is proven as reliable: Zen meditation.
Zen meditation means “sitting meditation”. It is also known as Zazen. It`s a part of Chinese Buddhism, and is deeply rooted in spirituality.
There are many ways to practice this meditation. Its core components entail being aware of your breath and body, adding positivity to your life, and rejuvenating your being.
According to a legend, Bodhidharma, a South Indian king, traveled to China to spread ‘real’ Buddhism, and in the process, introduced the concept of Zen meditation. Monks practiced it in Buddhist monasteries, and it eventually spread through the teachings of Zen masters, and became a practice of common citizens. Contrary to the opinion of many, Zen meditation is spiritual, not religious. It is a lifestyle choice and a guide for peaceful living. It is also a universal attempt to understand life without the barriers of language or logic. Zen is liberal, as it accepts the tenets of other religions, with more focus on their core spiritual aspects. You must be more interested in this meditation now; let`s discuss how to practice it.
How to Practice Zen Meditation
It`s a simple process that focuses on posture and stillness. You need to be in a well-lit room with a comfortable temperature. Take a medium-sized cushion, traditionally called “zafu”, and place it on a mat to sit on. The cushion helps you have your hips elevated, and your knees are towards the ground. Make sure you wear loose, airy, and comfortable clothing and sit on the cushion in any of the two poses: the full lotus pose (Padmasana) or the half lotus pose.
For the full lotus pose, place each foot on the opposite thigh. A half lotus pose entails that you place either of your ankles on the opposite thigh. If you get uncomfortable sitting this way, you may take a kneeling position or sit on a backless bench. However, the sitting position is the ideal position. Ensure your back is erect and upright, and keep the body balanced, avoiding getting too relaxed or tensed.
You shouldn`t close your eyes fully when doing Zen meditation. Closing them partially helps you stay alert and avoid drowsiness. While you keep them half-closed, direct your gaze towards the ground, without focusing on anything in particular. Sitting in front of a wall helps to avoid distractions.
You should make your hands take the form of a cosmic mudra. To do this, make your palms face upwards, and keep your right hand on the other. Get both tips of your thumbs to touch each other lightly, almost forming a straight line. While maintaining the hand formation, place your wrists on your thighs and the inner edges of your hands against your stomach. Don’t disrupt the hand mudra because it is an indicator of your mind’s stability. If you hand loosens its mudra, then your mind is not concentrating enough on the posture. You need to focus.
Breathing correctly is the most important aspect of Zen meditation. You should shut your mouth while breathing during the Zen meditation — you should only breathe through your nose. Inhalation happens naturally, however, you need to be particular about exhaling. Find a rhythmic pattern in your breathing, and stick to it it. You should also keep a count of your breaths to increase your awareness.
Set your Mind
As you take the meditative posture and breathe, thoughts from your unconscious mind will resurface and try to distract you. You should neither try to avoid them nor keep them. Just let them pass. Paying attention to your posture and breathing whenever your mind wavers is an effective technique to remain focused during the Zen meditation. With constant practice, you get better at concentrating during the meditation. Beginners are advised to spend 15-30 minutes on Zen meditation. Always keep track of the time with an alarm.
Zen meditation employs soothing music that some monks wrote centuries ago. It can be generally unpleasant to new listeners, however, people get used to it with time.
Benefits of Zen Meditation
Stress hinders our ability to brainstorm new ideas and innovate. Creativity doesn`t go well with being stressed and overwhelmed. Zen meditation increases blood circulation to the brain and energizes the right side of the brain, which is responsible for creativity. When next you want to come up with new ideas, have a session or more of Zen meditation.
Zen meditation helps you to quiet your mind from the many distractions from your daily activities, and particularly combats stress, which dampens the memory. People who practice Zen meditation have shown signs of improved memory.
Solves Psychological Issues
Zen meditation deals with deep-rooted anxiety and depression, and helps people find answers to questions that bother them. It also helps people reconnect with life, and brings about empathy and inner awareness. What`s more? It serves as a catalyst to live life to the fullest.
Increases Knowledge and Understanding
Zen meditation makes people better knowledge seekers and gives them a higher understanding of the essence of life. It gives them deep insight into their place and purpose in the world and helps them detach from worldly expectations, and as a result, they enjoy life better. This, to a large extent, keeps anxiety away.
Some Meditation Facts
- Meditation increases resilience and mental endurance.
- It also and inspires social connections and enhances empathy.
- Meditation relieves lower back pain more effectively than over-the-counter prescription medications.
- Meditation benefits both genders, however, in women there are higher chances of self-compassion and mindfulness.
- Meditation stimulates the neocortex and reduces stress, and as a result, enhances creativity and innovation.
- Mindful meditation has helped people quit smoking more than many other alternatives.
- The brains of longtime meditators are less affected by aging than the brains of those who don`t meditate.
- Meditation has helped many people curb impulse shopping.
- Meditation produces certain chemical changes in the brain — transcendental meditation, for instance, releases prolactin, a soothing hormone.
- The most popular types of meditation are mindfulness, spiritual, focused, movement, mantra, and transcendental.
- People who practice yoga and some other kinds of meditation show improved mitochondrial energy production, resilience, and consumption.
- Meditation helps to improve the immune system.
- Zen monks who practiced long-term meditation experienced an improved sense of touch.
- Caring for your garden is a helpful form of mindfulness meditation: it helps to connect with the earth and cultivate a healthy mind and a calm feeling.
- Using a mantra while meditating can help you focus your thoughts. A common meditation mantra is the word “hamsa,” which means “I am the pure, unchanging, godly subject.”
- Chakra meditation focuses on placing the seven chakras of the body in harmony.
- Meditation is best practiced in four positions: sitting, lying down, standing, or walking.