Through Zen meditation (Zazen) we can fully concentrate on the moment and reduce stress. With this instruction, you will learn how to use this technique!
What is Zen meditation?
Even though they are usually very similar, there are different forms of meditation. Zen meditation (also called zazen) is perhaps the most classical and well-known variant. In zazen you sit with your eyes closed in a quiet environment, trying to stay in the moment and observe feelings and thoughts objectively. Zen meditation thrives on the realization that you don’t always have to understand everything, but that it can also be enough just to observe. Calm, deep breathing supports this.
Zen Buddhism: The teaching of nothing?
Zen meditation already existed in the sixth century and comes from the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. However, the meditation itself is not really the focus of attention – zazen is rather an attitude that can be applied to the whole life. The objective observation of the moment helps to let go and simply be. This is why Zen masters of Buddhism answer the question of what “Zen” actually is, with “Nothing”. Because even if thoughts or feelings often arise during Zen meditation, it is not at all about understanding them. One merely accepts them and then lets them move on.
Can anyone learn Zen meditation?
In fact, anyone can learn to meditate. But you should have some patience and give it time – especially top-heavy people will find it difficult to stay concentrated for more than a few minutes at first. Because our mind is trained so that it wants to understand things. For example, when we think that you have to go shopping, it takes a lot of practice to accept this thought and then let it go again – instead of making a shopping list. This will be exhausting for most beginners, but it’s worth it.
What are the advantages of Zen meditation?
We all know stress – but when it becomes a permanent condition, it can have serious health consequences. For example, the risk of burnout or depression increases. Similar to breathing techniques or relaxation exercises, Zen meditation is a good way to reduce stress and tension and is often recommended by doctors and therapists. Zen meditation can also have these other advantages:
- Calm, deep breathing supplies the body with optimal oxygen – this improves blood circulation
- Relaxation sets in
- Headaches are relieved
- Sleep disturbances subside
- Inner tension is released
- Tensions loosen
- Blood pressure is lowered
- The release of stress hormones decreases
- Pulse calms down
- Indefinite pain is relieved
- Self-healing processes in the body are stimulated
- General risk of illness is reduced
- The immune system is strengthened
- Fears subside
- Positive thinking is made easier
Zen meditation can also help to reduce the symptoms of chronic diseases. But even if you are not ill, it is worthwhile to meditate – because Zen meditation is a good tool to prevent diseases.
Zen meditation: The timing is crucial
The important thing is to really take time for meditation and not to keep pushing Zen in through other everyday appointments. It helps to make it clear that you are consciously taking this time for yourself: To push aside the stress of everyday life, as a me-time for your own health. Many people find it helpful to enter this time in their calendar as a fixed daily date. In the morning, directly after getting up, meditation can help to prepare for the day, while in the evening it helps to get down and prepare for the night’s rest.
It is better to practice a little every day than to overdo it directly just once a week. Beginners can start with ten to twenty minutes a day, but often the concentration doesn’t last much longer at first anyway.
What do I need to meditate?
Once you have chosen a suitable time, you can start practicing zazen immediately. Theoretically, you don’t need anything except your own body and a quiet environment. However, since you have to sit still for a long time, a meditation cushion can help, especially for beginners.
Instructions: How Zen meditation works in practice
Here follows a step by step guide to Zen meditation:
- Select a sitting position: In fact, the correct sitting position is crucial for successful meditation in Zen, because a good posture puts the body into the peace and quiet it needs. Beginners will initially focus heavily on the correct posture – which is perfectly fine so that at some point it can be adopted without thinking about it and held for a long time. The following positions are suitable for Zen:
- Heel position (Seiza): A traditional sitting posture in Japan, which can also be done with the help of a meditation bench with a cushion to keep the spine straight.
- Chair position: If you have joint problems, you can also sit on a chair for meditation. To do this, you sit on the front edge of the chair, ignoring the backrest; the body should hold itself upright. The feet are completely on the floor and the legs are parallel to each other.
- Burmese position: Here one usually supports the buttocks on a meditation cushion and does not sit on the legs, but bends them and pulls them in front of each other to the body without them crossing each other.
- Half Lotus position (Hanka-Fuza): In the half-lotus seat, the legs are drawn to the body only slightly crossed.
- Lotus position (Kekka-Fuza): The classic meditation seat is only suitable if you are already supple and well stretched. The legs are crossed, pulled tight and the feet are placed on the opposite thigh.
The following applies to all positions for Zen: the posture is upright, the spine is made as long as possible, and the shoulders are pulled back slightly. The chin is lowered minimally and the hands are placed in the lap so that the thumbs are slightly touching. It is best to close your eyes and stay relaxed from face to belly.
- Use breathing exercises: Deep and calm breathing brings the body and mind to the calm needed for meditation. Count after each exhalation and before each inhalation: One (inhale, exhale), two (inhale, exhale), three and so on up to five, then start again. Thoughts that arise during this process are briefly perceived and then released, the concentration moves back to breathing. The touch of the thumbs helps here: if the thought threatens to stay, the thumbs are slightly pressed together and form a mountain; if the thought is released, the touch of the thumbs is loosened and the thumbs form a valley.
- Concentration downwards: Your own concentration in Zen meditation should be in the lower part of the body because it is assumed that energies tend to rise when meditating. This could be noticeable, for example, by a gentle tingling sensation on the back. This is a sign that body and mind now form a unity.
Slowly emerge: It is important not to end the meditation jerkily at the end, but to emerge from it slowly. Special meditation apps with a gentle wake-up sound, for example, can help here. When this sounds, you slowly feel your way through your body from head to toe and move it slightly to raise your blood pressure and warm up your limbs. Only then do you carefully stretch your legs and leave your meditation seat.
Those who devote themselves to Zen meditation every day will feel physically and mentally calmer and more balanced after a short time.
Further tips for Zen meditation
In addition to the right time and place, there are also other tips that can help you succeed in Zen meditation in the long run. These include:
- Comfortable clothing: It is quite difficult to relax your mind if your clothes are tweaked somewhere. Comfortable clothing is therefore a must for meditation.
- Do not give up: Even if your leg suddenly becomes numb or your scalp itches: The corresponding “problem” is perceived and accepted in Zen meditation, but meditation should not be interrupted to change the state.
- Use helpers: A meditation clock, a gong or a singing bowl are the more traditional meditation utensils if you don’t want to use a “new” app. Candles or incense sticks can also support meditation.
- Use positive room energy: It doesn’t help if the room in which you want to meditate is quiet, but you don’t feel comfortable in it. A peaceful, quiet place that radiates positive energy is better suited for meditation. This can be outside in the garden or in your own bedroom, the main thing is that you can relax.
If you take these tips into account, you have a much higher chance of permanently doing Zen meditation and profiting from its positive effects.