Practicing and Understanding Zen Meditation

Yaima (The Sacred). Listen while you read.

Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future, and that makes us anxious. Pretty soon, your asking yourself why you feel anxious, why the simplest things that go wrong annoy you, and why you can’t shut your mind off when trying to go to sleep, etc. Humans are in constant thought and their minds are always thinking, thinking of the past and future, what they could have said, what they shouldn’t have said or what they will say. None of that matters, what matters is now, this moment. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you are doing.

  1. What is the purpose of Zen meditation? 

Being mindful really starts to pay off because you will notice that you are tense in certain areas. Prolonged tense muscles can cause injuries to those muscles resulting in pain as well as stress and headaches. Once you notice it, you can relax those areas which bring calmness and relaxation to your whole body. Zen meditation or, mindfulness meditation is perfect for anyone starting out and it only gets better with time. As you advance in your meditation you will find that your mindfulness meditation also advances and you gain more and more from it as time goes on. Not only does it get easier to concentrate on your breathing but in your everyday life, it will start to play out.  

You will notice that you are becoming more adapted to certain situations and that they do not affect you as negatively as usual. Using this meditation technique, you will not only gain inner peace, a calm mind, and a stress-free life but you will start to slow down your life. Most people do not understand that their life is fast-paced. They live in the future never being in the present, which is all that really matters as the present is all that is real, the future has not even been written and the past is done. Mindfulness meditation will change the way you see the world, it will change how you eat, talk, and walk and how you go about everything in life. The reason is, mindfulness meditation is a training camp for your brain. 

Your mind learns to slow down and that, in turn, will slow the body which of course makes your life slow down. Things will start to seem more pronounced in life after just a year of mindfulness training. People have reported enlightening experiences from practicing this technique for extended periods of time. 

  1. How is Zen meditation different? 

Mindfulness (Zen) meditation is endorsed by Zen Buddhism as its main practice. When you see the Zen monks sitting in silence with their eyes closed facing a wall in the monasteries, they are in mindfulness meditation. Buddha himself used this technique as his main one; he was in mindfulness meditation for days before he reached his fully enlightened status there under the Bodhi tree. In perspective to other types of meditations that are “by the book” when it comes to posture and style, etc., mindfulness meditation is not just something you can do sitting; practicing mindfulness goes a long way into your spiritual journey, throughout everyday life. After you learn to use this technique, you may want to expand on your knowledge and one way to do that is to explore mindfulness meditation further.  

Those that become advanced in this and other meditation techniques learn to meditate while they are walking, laying down, and doing whatever it is they do during the day. This is one technique that does not have to be done sitting. In fact, walking meditation is practiced a lot in Zen and the monastery monks will have times of walking meditation daily, where they practice mindfulness. If you are going to practice this meditation technique while walking you will want to keep your eyes open and focus on your steps as opposed to your breathing. Breathing still plays a role though, so do not disregard the breath altogether. Just focus on each step and step slowly.  

As one very well-known and respected Zen monk put it, “Walk as if your feet are kissing the ground”. 

In fact, if you ever have the chance to visit a Zen Monastery, you will notice that Zen meditation is practiced constantly. No matter what people in the monastery are doing they are practicing Zen meditation. 

  1. How to do Zen meditation? 

Mindfulness means concentration on the present. So in mindfulness meditation, all you are doing is concentrating on your breathing. It seems quite easy, but your thoughts will betray you. In this meditation technique, it is vital that you just do not ever give up. It gets easier with time and practice, as stated before even those that have been in meditation for most of their lives sometimes still struggle with keeping a still and quiet mind while meditating.  

This is the meditation that can and will change your life. So how do we do mindfulness meditation? Pretty simple, sitting in a comfortable position which is usually legs crossed but not lotus style, although you can sit lotus style if you want. Your back should be straight; your head level with your chin slightly tilted down. Your eyes should be closed but not too tight so you are having to work to keep them closed. Your tongue should rest naturally and slightly touching the roof of your mouth and your hands should either be sitting comfortably on your knees, palms down or in the Zen position. The Zen position for your hands is like this: For males, your left hand sits on your lap palm up while your right-hand rests on your left, palm up.  

Your thumbs will naturally touch them, this is the proper technique. For females, your hands will just be the opposite. It might help you to place a soft cushion under your hips so that your hips are slightly off the ground. This is also good for your back and will help keep it straighter with less effort. Again traditional poses and such are nice but not necessary to meditate. Close your eyes and clear your mind. Look for that dark empty void where no thoughts are coming and no visions, just total emptiness. Now start to focus on your breath. As you breathe in and out follow the breath and concentrate on it. Think of only your breath.  

Try and notice what your breath is doing, what your body does when you inhale and exhale. As you breathe in think, “I am breathing in.” As you breathe outthink, “I am breathing out.” Try and keep your focus at the end of your nose in your mind. Whenever a thought arises, allow it to come and go making no judgment to it whatsoever. If it lingers, try, and force it clear and then bring your attention back to the tip of your nose and you are breathing and continue. As you sit in meditation focusing on nothing but your breath you will notice that you are getting very calm. If you start to drift off, bring your attention back to your breathing again and continue.  

Make no judgment of anything your mind or body does. Your mind and body are acting normal. As time goes on things that hinder your meditation like this will decrease and meditation rewards will increase. 

  1. How do you live a Zen life? 

Living a Zen life is surprisingly quite different than normal everyday life in modern America. Here are some great ways in which you can transform your life into more of a Zen style of living.  

#1- Eat at a short table and sit on mats over chairs and sofas etc., known as high seats. 

#2- Eat in silence, Zen monasteries practice Oryoki eating. Learning the art of meditative eating is a wonderful way to transform your eating times into pure Zen. 

#3- Burn incense throughout your home and other areas where you spend a lot of time. Research certain herbs and their benefit to you mentally, emotionally, and physically and use the information to help you in those areas. 

#4- Replace inanimate decor with moving water features. Small tabletop waterfalls and the sound of peaceful falling water have a meditative effect all their own. Adding this to your area will increase peace and serenity making relaxation even more mind involving. 

#5- Create a daily routine meditation schedule and stick to it for life. Part of Zen life is daily meditation practice. Practice mindfulness meditation every day for maximum effect. 

#6- Change your diet to follow a more Zen path. Eating Zen style involves, more natural ways of eating, words such as Paleo, Raw, Organic, and vegetarian can all be used to describe Zen eating. 

#7- Listen to music for more of a meditative tool as opposed to an entertainment reason. Sounds such as chanting, mantra, humming, nature, and water sounds paired with meditation music and binaural beats have all been shown to be extremely meditative. 

  1. What are the Zen meditation benefits? 

In the year 2011, there were a lot of studies on mindfulness Zen meditation that proves its worth to everyone instead of just those that are Buddhist or following some other spirituality.  

  • Zen meditation has been found to make your brain grow. 
  • Meditation was used by a Buddhist monk to cure an incurable disease. 
  • Zen meditation is now being used as a remedy for autism which can replace the drugs.  
  • Zen meditation is now being used as an alternative to dangerous drugs as a remedy for ADHD and ADD. 
  • Zen meditation helps you relax more, become practically stress proof and think better under pressure. 
  • Practicing Zen meditation daily increases your immune system and makes you less prone to becoming physically ill. 
  • Zen meditation sharpens your mind and can help you become less prone to wrong decision making. 

Once you practice mindfulness living, you will start to see changes in your life for the better. It is very important to be mindful in all aspects of life.

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