Zen meditation isn’t only for monks, you can enjoy its benefits too! Just follow this guide.
This meditation comes from Zen Buddhism, where it is called zazen, meaning “seated meditation.”
The Buddha used zazen to study the self, and to cultivate enlightenment. When using this meditation technique the breath provides the focus for awareness.
It is a profoundly simple practice that is easy to follow. It only requires your intention, attention, and doing it!
Zen Meditation Guide
#0 Create the Conditions for Meditation
Wear Loose Clothing
Your clothing should not restrict breathing or circulation. It should allow the diaphragm to move freely so your breathing can be deep, easy, and natural.
How you hold your body has powerful effects on your mind, your breath and your being. What is important is to be stable and comfortable while allowing for the full expansion of your chest and abdomen in breathing. For example:
- Sit like the Buddha (lotus or semi-lotus position). Use a small pillow on the floor to raise the behind just a little, so that the knees can touch the floor like a tripod.
- Sit in a straight backed chair with both feet on the ground.
Keep your spine straight, yet relaxed, respecting the natural curvature of the back.
Close Your Mouth and Let Your Tongue Float Up to Lightly Touch the Upper Palate
Gaze on the Ground About 2 or 3 Feet In Front of You
Your eyes are soft focused with eyelids lowered.
Tuck Your Chin in Slightly
Your nose is centered in line with the navel, the upper torso leaning neither forward nor back.
Fold Your Hands in the Cosmic Mudra
Mudra, meaning “seal” in Sanskrit, helps focus the mind inward. It provides a wordless connection between your body, deeper consciousness, and the cosmos.
To adopt this mudra, use your dominant hand to cradle the other hand, with both palms facing up. Lightly touch your thumbs together to form an oval. Rest your hands on your upturned feet if in a lotus position, or on your thighs if sitting (as with the Buddha image above).
Hand gestures activate the same regions of the brain as spoken or written words, found brain research published in the National Academy of Sciences in November 2009.
Bring Attention to Your Hara
Your hara, the spiritual center of the body, is located two inches below the navel.
#1 Count Each Inhalation and Each Exhalation
Imagine the breath coming down into the hara and returning from there. Make it part of the whole cycle of breathing.Count each breath-in and each breath-out separately. Begin with 1 and end with 10, then start over, beginning with 1. For example, breathing in is 1, breathing out is 1, next, breathing in is 2, breathing out is 2, and so on.If your mind wanders to thoughts, just notice them, then let them go and deliberately and gently return your attention to counting breaths starting at 1.
Counting helps you focus your attention and know when your mind has drifted off. Each time you return to the breath you empower yourself with the ability to put your mind where you want it, when you want it there, for as long as you want it there.
#2 Count Each Breath Cycle
Count each cycle of breathing in and breathing out as 1, the next cycle as 2, and so on to 10, then start all over, beginning with 1. Both the in-breath and out-breath are counted as one unit.This provides less feedback, but with time you will need less feedback.
#3 Following The Breath
Zen Meditation Wisdom
- Take Your Time: “Each Step Is The Real Thing”
Each phase is important and offers its own wisdom.
“If you move ahead prematurely, you’ll end up not developing strong joriki. And it’s that power of concentration that ultimately leads to what we call samadhi, or single-pointedness of mind,” say the Zen Mountain Monks.
- Dealing With Thoughts
Most often the thoughts that come into your mind are just random thoughts and are treated as distractions.However, sometimes the same thoughts keep recurring, especially if you are dealing with something important in your life.
“Sometimes that [thoughts]needs to happen,” say the Zen Mountain Monks, “Don’t treat that as a failure; treat it as another way of practicing. This is the time to let the thought happen, engage it, let it run its full course. But watch it, be aware of it. Allow it to do what it’s got to do, let it exhaust itself. Then release it, let it go. Come back again to the breath. Start at one and continue the process.”Don’t use zazen to suppress thoughts or issues that need to come up.
- Zazen Uncovers Your True Nature
Eventually Zen Meditation brings you to a point of stillness that you don’t even reach in sleep. Here you are your true self unobscured by scattered mental activities and energy that also separate you from others and your environment.It is the natural you, fully alive, fully awake.
Follow this guide to enjoy Zen Meditation. Its simple method of using the breath, serves a powerful source for natural healing.
Come home to your true nature. Come home to lasting peace.
Sources and Resources
Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Keys, (New York: Doubleday, 1995).
Zen Mountain Monastery, http://www.mro.org/zmm/teachings/meditation.php.