As one of the most ancient forms of meditation in eastern spirituality, Zen meditation is an excellent practice of tuning oneself with the oneness of the universe.
What Is Zen Meditation?
Considered to be a widespread practice that has long historical lines, Zen meditation is deeply rooted in the spiritual traditions of people from Japan, China, and Korea.
Mainly, Zen meditation is a Buddhist practice that holistically alleviates our pain and suffering. By incorporating its practices in your daily routine, you’ll have a spiritual outlet, as you juxtapose your individuality with the universe.
7 Benefits of Zen Meditation
Before embarking on this spiritual journey, you might be wondering: What’s in it for me?
True enough, there can be other forms of meditation, such as chakra healing and/or reiki meditation. After all, what makes Zen meditation stand out, and why should I be pursuing it?
To answer this question, we’ve laid out a quick list of the obvious benefits that you’ll get as you immerse yourself in Zen meditation. Coupled with how it practically affects your life, you can adequately assess if this ancient practice is for you!
#1 Emptying of the Mind
As the first and foremost benefit of Zen meditation, it prioritizes the emptying of the cup. Just like the Confucian proverb, emptying one’s cup allows it to be filled with other things.
In fact, all the other benefits here require the act of emptying the mind because it is only then that we’re truly able to absorb new and better things in life.
For instance, if you are trying to learn swimming, you’ll find it challenging to properly execute strokes if you’re used to wronging habits.
Since unconscious habits are embedded in you, doing the right ones can be close to impossible, unless you’re able to let go of the bad ones.
Similarly, you may have the will to acquire positive skills and thoughts in life right now. But if your mind is filled with negative ones, any progress you make will most likely be temporary.
#2 Improved Focus (mindfulness)
As the second benefit of Zen meditation, an improved sense of focus becomes vital for everything else that you need to do. By improving your attention, you become more efficient.
And whether we like it or not, efficiency is something that goes unnoticed in the way we manage our lives.
For instance, when we want something, we put a lot of effort into it. But with the world’s offering to us today, the number of choices alone is enough to distract us from what really matters.
As such, what usually happens is that we spread our self too thinly, as we achieve mediocre results in life.
But with the help of Zen meditation, mindfulness becomes an integral part of our existence. This, in turn, brings an improved sense of focus, allowing us to properly channel our energies in an efficient way!
#3 Better Life Planning and Goal Setting
Apart from improving your focus, Zen meditation can also help you achieve internal clarity.
When we seek something in life, a lack of transparency can lead to confusion and half-baked efforts.
On top of the already confusing choices, having no clear goal can prevent you from achieving happiness and inner peace.
For instance, we can see this in people who’ve spent a lifetime finding themselves. Trying out things is good, but the lack of life planning and goal setting will set us back a lifetime.
However, if we took it upon ourselves to pause and reflect, just as what Zen meditation teaches us, we would have been able to clearly set goals in life.
This allows us to streamline our efforts and progressively build on what we have!
#4 Emanates Creativity
As a characteristic that’s unique to mankind, creativity allows us to imagine and re-imagine things. With that, creativity brings color to our life.
Without creativity, life becomes nothing more than a pre-determined set of responses.
For instance, someone who works in a factory, according to Karl Marx, will face the reality of alienation. Alienated from his own labor and its fruits, factory workers are robbed of creativity both internally and externally.
As a result, they become almost no different from machines if they’re not given humane considerations.
By doing Zen meditation, we bring creativity in our lives and prevent a similar kind of scenario presented above.
Whether you work for a company or you have your own company, life tends to get a bit static and deterministic. Thus, pausing for a while can bring color to life through creativity!
#5 Attracts Positivity
More than practical goal setting and creative inspirations, Zen meditation can bring an overall sense of positivity.
Attracting the positive energies of the universe, this meditation practice can uplift us in a spiritual/universal level.
For instance, the pandemic that we’re facing right now can bring existential anxiety and dread. Being locked down in our own homes, it can be psychologically challenging to even fathom such an idea.
But with the help of Zen meditation, even we ourselves can meditate in our own homes. Pausing and bringing to light our spiritual energies, Zen meditation highlights the positive things we can do despite the negative situation that we’re in.
#6 Acceptance of Life’s Uncertainties/Pains
Tied to the 5th benefit, this appeals to the negative benefit of Zen meditation. Just like Buddhism, the belief that our pain emanates from attachments is incorporated in this meditation process.
By doing Zen meditation, it is easier for us not to be tied down by things that aren’t under our control.
Using a similar example above (in order to compare them), accepting life’s uncertainties and pains through Zen meditation is like having an ego death. Letting go of attachments, especially to uncertain things, can bring inner peace.
Instead of being caught up in what goes around and beyond you, this meditation practice allows you to re-calibrate yourself.
Thus, even when you’re faced with a pandemic, Zen meditation is more than enough to bring calmness within.
#7 Unlocks the Spiritual Self
Finally, continually doing Zen meditation can bring a different kind of self. Beyond its rational, emotional, and existential benefits, Zen meditation can bring out our spiritual sense of self.
Since this practice involves intuitional introspection, constantly doing it can lead to a greater sense of resonance with the mental aspect of our existence.
For example, doing an intermediate to a high-level technique of Zen meditation known as Koan, brings about a great doubt.
Challenging the unconscious thoughts in our head, it is likely that we’ll find things in there that we don’t initially understand.
By constantly doing Zen meditation, we are unlocking dimensions of ourselves that are far beyond us.
Having presented these benefits of Zen meditation, let’s move forward to explore some basic Zen meditation methods and techniques!
How To Perform Zen Meditation
As the simplest and most popular method of Zen meditation, the Zazen or Seated meditation is used by beginners and experts alike. Given its relaxing posture, it can improve your focus on doing the whole meditation process.
Generally, the goal is to sit in a comfortable position in order to improve breathing. Zen meditation values breathing above all else, presenting how valuable this essential human function can be in changing our lives.
Zazen Posture and Positions
In all of Zazen positions, it is crucial to maintain a straight back yet relaxed. While this may be puzzling for most of us who associates relaxedness with slouching, a straight back is essential for proper blood flow, correct spine posture, and overall improvement in breathing.
Conceptually, Zazen meditation sees everything as interconnected. Meaning, when we think of our body, breathing, and mind, it is important to perceive how they can be unified.
Just like how the mind and body are inseparable, breathing, and proper posture is essential in doing Zen meditation.
To help that, here are the 4 basic Zazen meditation positions
- Full Lotus Position – a symmetrical and stable position, each foot is placed on top of the opposite inner thigh.
- Half Lotus Position – instead of placing both feet on the opposing thigh, only one is placed on top of the other.
- Burmese – sitting on top of a pillow, both feet will be placed against the ground.
- Seiza – bending your knees, your buttocks will be sitting on top of your upturned feet.
In doing Zazen, one will pick from the four positions mentioned above.
Zen Meditation Methods
Apart from the universal posture and the particular positions discussed above, the practice of Zazen meditation can be further distinguished by specifying the particularly applicable methods to you.
To begin with, one must choose between individual vs. guided meditation. Each of them has its own merits.
Often done by seasoned Zazen practitioners, individual meditation does not require a medium in following through.
Assuming that you’ve been doing meditation for a long time, it is likely that you’ve already integrated these practices into your system.
As such, individual meditation is something you can do even when you’re waiting for an office meeting to start.
Done by beginners and experts alike, this is a more social form of Zazen. With a seasoned practitioner guiding you through the whole experience, they will usually serve as a narrator, giving out simple and precise directives and visualizations.
Guided meditation is something you can do if you want an intensified and laser-focused session of Zazen.
Apart from these two methods, there are also two types of Zazen meditation. Similarly, one must also choose from Observation of Breath vs. Quiet Awareness.
Observation of Breath
As the title suggests, this type of Zazen focuses on your breathing. Being the pathway of life energy, breathing is at the core of everything we do.
Thus, regulating and mastering your own breathing techniques will lead to a clearer mind and soul.
In using this method, the main focus here is paying conscious attention to your breathing patterns.
For instance, you can do this by carefully noticing how the air goes in and out of your lungs, visualizing the life force energy that is being channeled to you each time.
In doing so, you are helping your body relax and attain a momentary state of meditation.
Unlike Observation of Breath, this type of Zazen focuses more on allowing your thoughts to flow in your mind. Without judgment or prejudice, both positive and negative thoughts will be flowing like a river stream.
By doing so, you hope to achieve a state where you get to confront these thoughts for what they are and accept their existence in order to let them go. With this meditation method, you’ll have a clearer vision of life’s transitory nature.
Lastly, Zazen is something that you can do indoors or outdoors, with varying Zen meditation music. While not limited to such, these things can be interchangeable.
- Indoor + Zen Meditation Music: Commonly done in Zazen centers, the feeling of being in nature is induced by a particular type of frequency and sound set.
- Outdoor + Nature Sounds: surrounded by the chirping of the birds and the rustling leaves, an outdoor Zazen session can allow you to reconnect with nature.
We have presented to you a good grasp of what Zen meditation is. To recap, this practice simply requires you to connect with the oneness of the universe.
By allowing yourself to be immersed in the most basic forms of being alive like breathing and reconnecting with nature, Zen meditation relieves you from the hustle of daily routines and the stress of the modern world.
Like most Zen meditation techniques, it only takes around 25 minutes. And just like what master Zen practitioners advise, if you don’t have that much time for Zen meditation, then it is high time for you to re-evaluate your life.