Have you come across times in life when it becomes nearly impossible to be peaceful and happy? Do you think that it is impossible to cultivate inner peace and a sense of fulfillment in today’s world?
If you have answered “yes” for above questions, then you are like me. It is true that we live in a stressful and hectic world, however this does not mean that you can never attain inner peace or experience a sense of joy / fulfillment.
There is a saying: Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. So no matter where you live, what you are going through in life, it is your responsibility to create peace. This sounds difficult – Right? How can I create peace, when I am myself having a hard time in life.
The answer lies in following a regular practice of Zazen Meditation. Have you come across this before? Probably not… I am guessing you have heard the term Zen – Right?.
In the West, Zen Meditation is also know as Zazen Meditation. Zen is a branch of Buddhism that focuses mainly on meditation and teaches you ways to infuse peace and calm into your routine life. In this post you will find answers to following questions:
- What is Zen?
- Why to practice Zen? ( Five Awesome Benefits)
- How to practice Zazen Meditation? (Five Simple Steps)
What is so unique about ‘Zen’?
The word ‘Zen’ comes from the Sanskrit word dhyana (which means concentration or meditative absorption). This was translated into ch’an in Chinese and later into Zen in Japanese.
The unique thing which I like about Zen is it does not require you to study sacred texts, worship deities or perform any religious ritual, instead, it lays emphasis on the practice of meditation and experiencing the world as it truly is at the moment.
Zen further states that you can achieve peace by understanding yourself, this is exactly what Buddha did many years ago. He went on meditative state to understand his true self and it is only then he attained inner peace.
So in simple words, Zen is an attitude you adapt, to know yourself completely and live in the moment. When you start to live in this manner, you start to distance yourself from everything that does not matter to you and instead focus solely on improving your life by doing meaningful things.
If you are wondering how to adopt this attitude – The answer is Zazen Meditation. We will look at this meditation practice towards the end of this post, now let us address the following question.
How will ‘Zen Attitude’ impact you? (5 Awesome Benefits)
Having a Zen attitude revolves around the practice of observation. The key is to observe what is happening in our body and mind at each moment. If you can master the art of mere observation, then you can make tremendous improvement in your life. If you are wondering how to master the art of observation, then the secret lies in daily practice of Zen Meditation. Before we see the steps for Zen meditation, first lets look at the incredible benefits of adopting the Zen practice / attitude.
1. It teaches you how to take control of your “Monkey Mind”
This is by far the best thing that has happened to me after practicing Zen. I now know how to tame my monkey mind. Whenever I feel mentally exhausted with too many thoughts. I repeat the words “Pause” three times (I say this out loud at times) and then repeat the words “Observe” three times.
As I say the word “Pause” I bring my attention to my breathing and as I say the word “Observe” I simply notice the thoughts in my mind. As I observe my thoughts like a spectator, I can immediately sense a slowdown of thoughts in my mind. This simple activity of “Pause” & “Observe” has helped me assess how my mind operates in various activities and circumstances of life. You can try this right now – It will take a minute, to silence your monkey mind.
2. It improves your mood
Moodiness is a big part of the human condition, it maybe difficult to remain happy and positive all the time. I personally go through a lot of mood swings during the day due to various reasons, however practice of meditation has helped me deal with these mood swings.
Practice of Zen helps you to identify a bad mood as it begins and prepares you to address it, rather than allowing it to dampen your whole day. It is like clearing the mental fog, understanding the real reason behind mood swings and then taking appropriate action to deal with it.
3. It makes you more productive and smart
The effect of practicing Zen, particularly meditation, has had an astounding impact on productivity. There are studies which clearly show that meditation increases our ability to concentrate. Such a skill is important in today’s age where a mass of electronic gadgets constantly distract us and affect our productivity.
Is your mind a hostage of stress, tension and anxiety? Meditation makes you free from your own negative emotions and gives you space to think more rationally. This in turn improves a sense of alertness. As your capacity to concentrate and think clearly gets better, you will automatically make smart decisions, which will help you and others.
4. It improves your relationship
The primary reason for a rift in a relationship can happen due to insufficient communication due to minute misunderstandings that transforms into something big over time. The practice of Zen helps you observe and reflect on the cause of the problem. This helps to develop a deeper understanding of the reasons for the problem itself and consequently we are able to understand others at a far deeper level. This in turn will lead to change in our behavior (the manner in which we respond to conflicts) which will ensure that our relationships don’t get derailed again.
5. It Improves your health and physical appearance
In addition to our mental health, the practice of Zen has the ability to improve your physical appearance. When you are stressed and worried, the body produces significant chemical substances that tend to weaken healthy cells. It even affects our immunity and affects our body in many undesirable ways. As we get stressed and worried, we tend to seek temporary relief via smoking, drinking or eating highly processed foods, which further leads to lifestyle diseases.
There are numerous studies, which have found that meditation reduces stress and thereby reverses all the ill effects of negative emotions on our body. There is enough evidence that meditation may slow down the process of aging.
How to practice Zen Meditation
Zazen means ‘seated meditation’. This meditation practice places a lot of importance on the body posture while meditation. It is a practice of looking at your life, being aware of one’s true feelings and as you start knowing who you are, you start detaching yourself from meaningless things in life. Here are four simple steps to practice Zazen or Zen meditation.
Step 1: Find a quiet place to meditate
In order to reap the benefits of meditation, it is important you find a peaceful place to meditate. Ensure that you are free from all distractions (like electronic devices) and can take few minutes to fully focus on your meditation practice.
You may get a Zafu, which is round, soft pillow designed specifically for meditating with your back straight. Make sure your back does not slouch. Whenever you meditate wear loose comfortable clothes, so that you feel light and relaxed.
Step 2: Choose a pose
When it comes to practicing Zazen experts recommend you adopt one of the following meditation poses. If you find any of the poses uncomfortable then sit in whichever pose you are comfortable.
a) Half Lotus
In this pose, you place your right foot on your left thigh or left foot on your right thigh. The other leg needs to be beneath the opposite leg.
b) Full Lotus
In this pose, you place each foot on the opposite thigh. If you are a beginner, then full lotus pose can be quite challenging so I would recommend you start with half lotus and gradually shift to full lotus.
c) Burmese Pose
In this pose, the heel of your left foot should be touching the inside of your right thigh while the right foot should lie gently in front of your left foot. Ensure your ankles do not lie over each other.
d) Seiza Pose
In this pose, you kneel completely on the floor and keep your hips rested on your ankles.
Step 3: Become aware of your breath
As you become comfortable with your posture, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath and stay with it. As your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. You may want to count your breath, so that you are able to focus on your breath.
If you are meditating for the first time, then I strongly recommend doing this for 5 minutes to start with, you can gradually increase your time to 10, 15 minutes over time. Instead of silencing your thoughts, let them enter and leave your mind. Do not get tangled in your thoughts, Simply notice them….as your meditation practice becomes regular you will realize your thought patterns, you will understand that you are not your thoughts and you will be able to distance yourself from thoughts that in turn leads to reduction of suffering.
Step 4: Adopt a nonjudgmental attitude
As you become consistent with your meditation practice, adopt a non-judgmental attitude towards life. Instead of labeling a thought as negative or positive, just let it be as it is. You will notice, this new way of thinking helps you stay calm and patient.
Nonjudgmental does not mean having an attitude of “I am not affected by anything”. In fact, it is becoming aware when the brain automatically starts to judge a person or situation. We need to pause and get some understanding about the judgment – I am being too harsh on myself or Is there a different perspective to this?
This approach makes us more alive and brings back the power of exercising choice at every moment of our life. That’s it, now it your turn to practice Zen meditation and incorporate Zen attitude into your daily life and experience life to its fullest.
Step 5: Repeat & Review
“Consistency” – Is a key word when it comes to reaping benefits from a daily meditation practice. I strongly recommend you to follow this meditation practice and stick with it for at least one month for 5 minutes daily. Thereafter, reflect on how you feel. If you notice any positive change then I am quite sure that you will make meditation a part of your daily routine.
Feel free to practice Zen meditation and let me know in comments how you feel after the practice, if there are queries, post them in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.