"Unconventional" SCIENCES and NEW DISCOVERIES > MEDITATION : the Key to open many doors

How to Begin Zen Meditation (Zazen)


Author's page : How to Begin Zen Meditation (Zazen)
How to Begin Zen Meditation (Zazen)


Meditation can be an invaluable means to de-stress. If you're feeling under pressure, experimenting with meditation can help. Zazen is a type of meditation unique to Zen Buddhism. It involves focusing on the breath and remaining in the present moment. To begin practicing Zen meditation, find a comfortable place and position. Try short sessions where you focus on your breath. With time, develop a routine that works for you. Meditation can be difficult at first, as it takes practice to clear the mind, but you'll eventually find a meditation routine that works for you.

Part 1
Getting in the Right Position

    Create a relaxing place to sit. It's important to meditate in a relaxing place that's free of distractions. Find a place in your home where it's relatively quiet and take steps to create a relaxing environment. This largely depends on personal preference. Some people like to make an altar using objects like seashells, stones, or flowers. Other people enjoy lighting candles. Gather objects that you find soothing to create the right space to meditate.[1]
        Your space will grow naturally with time, so do not worry if it's not perfect right away. You will figure out what does and does not work for you as you begin meditating regularly.

    Get into a stable position. The literal translation for zazen is "seated meditation". How you sit is very important. What matters most is that you stay comfortable and keep your back straight. If you need to do something like cross your legs, or use pillows to prop up your back, do so.[2]
        If you are very flexible, try the half Lotus Position (Hankafuza) or the Full Lotus Position (Kekkafuza). The Half Lotus is done by placing the left foot onto the right thigh and tucking the right leg under your left thigh. The Full Lotus is done by placing each foot onto the opposite thigh. If either positions are painful, however, avoid using them as they can be distracting.

    Position your head in a comfortable fashion. The positioning of your head is important for Zen meditation, as it's vital you do not do anything to strain your body. Hold your head in a position that feels natural and does not cause strain in your neck. Ideally, your spine should align with your neck. Imagine a straight line running up your spine. Move your neck so this imaginary line continues across your neck.[3]
        Tucking in your chin helps align your spine and neck.

    Relax your jaw and facial muscles. Before you begin meditating, pause and be aware of any tensions you're feeling in your jaw and facial muscles. You may not notice the tension in your jaw until you pay attention to it specifically. Try to loosen your jaw and the muscles in your face in general before you begin meditating.[4]
        If your jaw feels very tense, use your fingers to lightly massage your face to loosen up the muscles.

Part 2
Practicing the Basics

    Breathe through your nose. With Zen meditation, much of the focus is on the breath. It's important to breath through your nose. Nasal breaths create a cooling and warming sensation as you breathe in and out. This can make it easy to follow the rhythm of your breathing as you meditate.[5]

    Focus on the breath. As you begin meditating, notice your breath as much as possible. Pay attention to the natural in and out rhythm, the sound of your breathing, and the warm and cold sensations provided by air passing through your lungs. Strive to be as aware as possible of your breathing for the duration of your meditation sessions.[6]
        This may sound simple enough, but it's very difficult to quiet the mind. Do not be discouraged if you struggle to focus on your breath at first. Meditation, like anything else, takes practice.

    Decide what to do with your eyes. You can keep your eyes open, or half closed, or you can shut them completely. Some people find it helpful to focus their eyes on a single point in the room. Others prefer their eyes to be shut. This is a matter of personal preference. Decide what to do with your eyes based on what feels most natural and soothing for you.[7]
        This will take some trial and error. Change what you're doing with your eyes if you become distracted or uncomfortable. For example, if your eyes start to water when you're focusing on a single point in the room, close your eyes. See if this helps you better concentrate on your breath.

    Redirect your mind when it wanders. It's natural for your mind to wander when you're sitting in silence. When you first start meditating, you will find yourself thinking about other things. You'll start thinking about errands you need to run or things that occurred earlier in the day. When you feel this happening, gently redirect your thinking to your breathing. Tune in to the natural ebb and flow of your breaths and the sensations they create.[8]
        It can help to count your breaths to regain focus.

    Start off with two minutes of meditation. Zen meditation takes some effort. If you try to meditate for too long too soon, you may find yourself unable to focus on your breathing. Start off with only two minutes of meditation at time. As you feel more comfortable meditating, you can increase that number.[9]

Part 3
Easing into a Routine

    Invest in a zafu or small pillow. A zafu pillow is a pillow specifically designed for Zen meditation. If you find Zen meditation is helpful for you, you can purchase a zafu pillow online. This can help you easily get into the right position each time you meditate.[10]

    Do not worry about perfection right away. Beginners sometimes worry they're bad at meditation. You may find it difficult to clear your mind and focus on your breathing. Do not get frustrated and beat yourself up. It's very normal for meditation to be somewhat difficult at first. Cut yourself some slack and keep practicing. Eventually, meditating will become easier.
        Keep in mind, even people who meditate regularly never completely clear their minds. It's normal to have to stop and redirect your thinking to your breathing once in awhile. Do not feel like getting distracted means you're meditating incorrectly.

    Increase your sessions with time. Start off with small sessions and build up. After you're comfortable meditating in short spurts, start adding on a few more minutes each week. Eventually, you'll be able to meditate for longer periods.
        There is no one size fits all rule for meditation. You may find very long meditation sessions, such as 25 minute sessions, help you relax. However, you may also find brief five to 10 minute sessions are sufficient. Experiment with different time frames until you find something you're comfortable with.

    Take classes. It can be helpful to meditate with the assistance of an instructor. Check online to see if you can find Zen meditation classes in your area. This can help you improve your meditation technique so Zen meditation is more effective for you.
        If you can't find a class in your area, look for guided routines online.


    If you are feeling too much pain or discomfort in a position, don't sit through it. Get up and try a different position, even if you're in the middle of meditating.

In this 10 minute video, Gudo Nishijima, an 80+ year old Japanese Zen teacher describes how to practice zazen.

Community Q&A

    With Zen mediation, will I experience stillness, in which my mind will not wander anymore?

    Your mind will always naturally wander during meditation, even when you become very experienced. It is not so important to keep your mind from initially wandering; what matters more is being able to catch yourself and regain your focus.

    Where can I go to experience Zen Buddhism?

    Some major cities have Zen Centers. Check your local listings for such places, and visit them to see what they have to offer. Otherwise, it is perfectly fine to sit alone and meditate anywhere you find your mind can be most clear.

    Is it okay to lean back against a wall while meditating?

    Yes. But try to sit with your back straight. If a cushion on the floor is too difficult, then you can use a chair. It helps the mind to settle and keep awake and clear, and helps the breathing (which should be through the stomach in a relaxed manner). Leaning against a wall contracts the body, making the mind tend to become more heavy and cluttered.

    Will Zen Meditation help someone who's in prison?

    TM is used in some prisons to help prisoners cope with being behind bars, so Zen Meditation could do the same.

    I live in a hostel. How is it possible to meditate in a such crowded and noisy place?

    Get yourself some noise-cancelling headphones. Either wear them silently or play some zen type music or nature sounds like the sea through them. Close your eyes, and put an eye mask on, and focus on your breathing. You will hear nothing outside you and you will see nothing and you will be set to meditate.

    Can I lie down in a bed and meditate?

    Yes, but you are more likely to fall asleep.

    Is it okay to play Zen music?

    It's not required, but there is no "rule" against it. The point of meditation is to clear the mind of distracting thoughts -- if music helps you to do so there is no harm in it.

    Where can I find Zen type music?

    You don't necessarily need music for Zen meditation, but you can find playlists online if you google something like "Music for meditating."

    How long and how many times should I do this? Should it be done on an empty stomach?

    How often one meditates is based on preference, though at least once a day for any length of time is preferable. Eating before or after is fine so long as it doesn't interfere with your meditation.

    How can I stop my mind from chattering after reaching the thoughtless condition?

    Although it is said that you want to reach a thoughtless condition, it is much more a kind of peaceful serenity that appears after many hours of constant practice. But thoughts will continue to appear as it is the nature of mind to produce them. It's more important to get to know one's own being - and one's reactions, understanding what one's feelings are through reconnecting with the breath and getting more space in the mind.


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