Zen meditation is an ancient Buddhist tradition that dates back to the Tang Dynasty in seventh century China. From its Chinese origins it spread to the Korean Peninsula, Japan and other lands where it continues to thrive. Zen meditation is a traditional Buddhist discipline which can be practiced by beginners to meditation. One of the numerous benefits of Zen meditation is that it provides insight into how the mind works. Similar to alternative varieties of Buddhist meditation, Zen meditation will benefit individuals in myriad ways, as well as providing tools to cope with depression and anxiety problems. The deepest purpose is spiritual, because the practice of Zen meditation uncovers the innate clarity of the mind.4
Nature of Zen
In contrast to several popular varieties of meditation that specialize in relaxation and stress relief, Zen meditation delves much deeper. It tackles deep-seated problems and general life queries that always appear to lack answers, and makes use of both the practice and intuition instead of study and logic.3, 4
Zen meditation is a traditional Buddhist meditation technique where the goal is to regulate attention. It’s sometimes referred to as a practice that involves “thinking about not thinking”. During this practice, you observe your thoughts and feelings that may arise and you let them go. You also develop an insight into the nature of your body and mind. At the heart of the Zen practice is Zazen, a form of seated meditation. Zazen is known as the study of the self. Zen meditation aims to train the mind to achieve calmness. Those who practice this form of meditation have other benefits as well, for example better focus, more creativity, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety + stress, better immune system, and better sleep. There are few different variations of a zen meditation. Today, we will focus on quiet awareness.3, 4
Quiet awareness meditation sometimes also called open awareness meditation is a form of meditation where one is not focused on a single thing such as your breath, but your attention is instead open and remains aware of everything that is happening. These things include for instance:
1. Sit comfortably in a cross legged position with both feet resting on the floor. Add a towel or two under your pelvis. Keep your back straight and your chin slightly tucked.
2. Keep your eyes lowered, looking at the floor 2-4 feet (60cm to 1.2m) in front of you.
3. Put your left hand in your right hand with both palms facing upwards and thumbs slightly touching.
4. Take a deep breath through your nose and count one.
5. Exhale slowly through your nose, focus on your breath and count two.
6. Continue doing so until you get to 10. The counting helps you to stay more aware.
7. During this meditation, thoughts, images and emotions will come up in your mind. Let them be and let them go without any judgement just like clouds in the sky. As soon as you feel your mind move towards these thoughts, images and emotions, bring your focus back to your posture and your breathing and start counting at one again.
8. Continue doing the zen meditation for few minutes.
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1 Singla, R. (2011, April 05). Origins of mindfulness & meditation: Interplay of Eastern and Western Psychology.
2 Manocha, R. (2014, April 05). Meditation, Mindfulness and Mind-Emptiness. Retrieved from SteveClarkPrincipal: https://www.scholarsage.com/releasing-the-acquired-mind/
3 Amy Morin, L., & Steven Gans, M. (2020, April 17). What Is Zen Meditation? Retrieved from Verywellmind: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-zen-meditation-4586721
4 Mindworks Team. (2020). What is Zen Meditation? Benefits & Techniques. Retrieved from Mindworks Meditation: https://mindworks.org/blog/what-is-zen-meditation-benefits-techniques/