What is Zen meditation or zazen meditation?
Zen meditation, also called Zazen meditation is a meditation technique that leads to greater awareness, mental clarity and concentration.
The Zen meditation , also known as Zazen, is a meditation technique that leads to a greater awareness, mental clarity and concentration.
When we practice Zen meditation, our attention is completely focused inwards , a kind of reflective self – awareness that gives us numerous beneficial effects, both on our body and on our psyche.
So let’s see in detail what Zen meditation is , how to meditate, what positions to take and all the benefits of this form of meditation.
What is Zen meditation
The Zen meditation is a very ancient practice. It originated in China in the 7th century and soon spread to other areas as well, such as Korea and Japan.
The term Zen derives from the Sanskrit dhyana, which means meditation or concentration, and then changes to Ch’an in the Chinese language and finally becomes Zen in Japanese, a term that then spread along with the practice of this meditation.
Unlike other types of meditation , Zen meditation does not focus on a specific object, image or sound, but is focused on achieving a state of introspective reflective awareness and this happens by completely clearing the mind and trying to get to get in touch with our unconscious mind.
Those who practice Zen meditation want to increase their awareness, their stream of consciousness, the perceptions and emotions they feel. The eyes often remain open or semi-open, instead of being closed as when practicing other forms of meditation.
The practice of Zen meditation offers countless benefits, such as those related to increasing one’s awareness, which also helps to solve problems related to anxiety and depression. Through Zen meditation, it is therefore possible to understand how our mind works in order to bring a profound clarity within ourselves.
Zen meditation: how to meditate?
If you have decided that you want to try Zen meditation , you must know that this practice is absolutely for everyone and has no contraindications. So here’s how to practice it.
First, create a small sacred corner to meditate on. It can be a part of your home, in the garden, in the midst of nature: the important thing is that it is a space in which you are deeply at ease and away from any distraction.
Wear comfortable and slightly loose clothing so that you don’t obstruct blood circulation or the rise and fall of your body as you breathe.
Once you are ready, sit on the floor, in a chair or on a meditation cushion. Keep your back straight, with your center of gravity well aligned, so as not to crush your chest and keep your diaphragm free to move.
Keep your body muscles deeply relaxed and lower your chin slightly to direct your gaze to the floor in front of you. Bring your hands in dhyana mudra and place them on your feet or thighs.
Now start breathing regularly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed. If you are cold or do not breathe well through the nostrils, then you can also breathe through the mouth without problems. Keep the tongue lightly pressed to the upper palate.
Throughout your zazen meditation practice, it is your breath that you need to focus on . Your breath is your life flow. Let it flow freely, flow out and into you, listen to it deeply. Keep breathing, trying to keep your mind as free of all thoughts as possible.
Keep meditating for as long as you feel the need.
The positions of Zen meditation
There are several postures you can take while practicing Zen meditation. The best known are undoubtedly the lotus position or the half lotus position. We will talk about it in more detail a little later.
Traditionally, for this type of meditation we sit on a particular cushion called zafu which is placed under a mat called zabuton , in order to maintain a comfortable and relaxed position.
Alternatively, if the position seems really too uncomfortable to you , you can also use a chair even if I personally recommend that you meditate on zafu. While it may seem like an unnatural position at first, with practice you will discover how relaxing this position is and helps you maintain proper alignment and all the concentration you need.
The important thing is to always keep your back straight but relaxed , trying not to lean towards one side or the other.
There are several positions you can take when practicing Zen meditation. The most famous are:
- Padmasana , the lotus position
- Ardha Padmasana , the half lotus posture
- Burmese position
- Location seiza
- Sitting on the chair.
Let’s take a closer look at them.
Padmasana , or the lotus position, is undoubtedly one of the most used positions during zazen meditation. It is one of the most stable and most effective positions, where the body is firm and perfectly balanced.
To practice the lotus position, sit on the mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your right leg and place your foot on your left thigh, near the hip. Now slowly bend your left leg as well and bring your foot to where your right thigh joins your body.
Now close your eyes and immerse yourself in meditation.
Half lotus position
If you feel that you are still not flexible enough for the lotus position, then you can try Ardha Padmasana , also called the half lotus position. Unlike Padmasana, in Ardha Padmasana only one foot is placed on the opposite thigh, while the other foot remains on the ground.
If you opt for this position, I recommend that you alternate your feet each time.
The Burmese position is what we assume when we sit with our legs crossed, in which both feet remain on the floor. Ideally, your knees are also resting on the ground and you only need a little practice to get there.
However, remember to always keep your back straight and try to correct yourself if you feel that your body weight is pushing you forward or to the side.
The seiza position derives its name from the Japanese 正 座, which means “to sit correctly”. It is the traditional Japanese position in which we remain kneeling on the floor with the buttocks resting on the heels. An alternative can be to use a seiza bench.
On the chair
Finally, during the practice of Zen meditation it can also be optimal to sit on a chair, keeping the body well stretched, relaxed and with the back perfectly straight and aligned.
Again, you can also use a meditation cushion, just like you would on the floor.
The benefits of Zen meditation
As with all types of meditation, the guided meditation on mindfulness meditation , Zen meditation also gives numerous psychological and physical benefits.
In fact, meditation has the power to profoundly change our mind, giving us a profound state of well-being. Also, Zen meditation:
- calm and clear the mind
- free from stress and anxiety
- increases our awareness
- opens the mind
- improves breathing and blood circulation
- increases concentration
- increases our resilience and our problem solving skills
- it helps you to access your unconscious
- stimulates creativity and intellect
- develops critical thinking
- improves the sleep-wake cycle
- eliminates sleep disturbances, such as insomnia
- it helps to access details that most people miss
- helps to better control and manage emotions
- lowers blood pressure
- improves the immune system
- prevents the appearance of neurodegenerative diseases.
The Zen meditation, or meditation zazen , is one of the most profound meditation practices and perhaps the one that also brings major psychophysical benefits.
This type of meditation is not – at least apparently – difficult even if you will need a lot of perseverance and practice to be able to reach your inner self and get a deep awareness.