How to Practice Zen Meditation

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Meditation is a technique used far and wide to help a person become more aware of themselves and their surroundings, and how to create a healthier perception of the world.

Meditation can be used to better understand and channel your thoughts and emotions so that you don’t get so overwhelmed by life. 

Plenty of people swear by meditation, and there are a few different types of meditation that you can practice.

One popular method is called zen meditation, which is incredibly simple yet effective. Zen meditation focuses on your posture and spirituality. Practicers have said that zen meditation has helped them cope with depression and anxiety. 

Below we’ll be taking a look into how you can practice zen meditation for yourself at home.

The 8 Steps to Zen

Now let’s take a look into how you’d go about practicing zen meditation. Remember that you might not get it correct the first time, but practice makes progress! 

Step One: Your Surroundings

You’ll need a quiet place to practice your meditation, so make sure that you choose a room with no distractions or noise.

While you won’t want the room to be too bright, make sure that it isn’t completely dark either. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature. 

Step Two: Learning The Postures

The full lotus or half-lotus position is preferred when practicing zen; however, it is possible to kneel or sit on a chair if you’re not comfortable with the former positions. Zen meditation is typically done while sitting on a zafu (a rounded cushion). The zafu should be thick enough so that your knees are touching the floor. 

The full lotus position is where you sit on your zafu and place both feet on top of the opposite thigh. This can be quite challenging for beginners; however, so you might prefer the half-lotus position, to begin with. This is where only one foot is placed on the opposite thigh. You will get more used to these positions as you continue your practice. 

Step Three: Knowing What to do With Your Eyes

Contrary to popular belief, your eyes are traditionally kept open during zen meditation. This ensures that you won’t get tired or begin thinking of other things while trying to meditate. Many people suggest that you sit facing a plain wall so that you won’t become distracted by other people or objects around your home. 

Position yourself around one meter in front of your wall and look towards the bottom of the wall. This will rest your eyes in a half-open position which is ideal for concentration. Remain in this position throughout your practice.  

Step Four: Working Your Body

Your head and neck should be completely straight and aligned with your spine. Your head should be pushed towards the sky while your knees are rooting firmly into the ground. This might feel a little strange to start with, but make sure that you don’t strain your body too much. 

You should find the balance between the correct posture and a relaxed state. Don’t focus so much on pushing your head to the sky that you’re straining every muscle in your back. Keep your mouth closed but also relaxed, so no clenching your teeth. 

Put your hands in your lap, with the left hand on top of the right so that both of your palms are facing up. Touch the tips of your thumbs together to make an oval shape. Rest your wrists on your thighs with the edge of your hands touching your stomach. 

This hand position is called the Cosmic Mudra and is used as an indicator of your meditation. If the oval shape becomes distorted throughout your practice it can be a sign that you’re thinking about other things or doing something wrong. Noticing the distorted oval can help you to amend the issue. 

Step Five: Focus on Your Breathing

Breathing is perhaps the most important factor of zen meditation, and it’s very simple to do as long as your posture is correct.

Simply breathe only through the nose and keep your mouth closed at all times. Your breathing should be quiet and natural. If you’re relaxed, your breathing will be long and rhythmic. People have likened zen breathing to the roar of a lion. 

Step Six: Controlling Your Mindset

Along with your breathing, you must also keep your mindset correct during your zen meditation. Your mindset will be mainly focused on your posture and breathing so much so that you won’t have any time to focus on anything else. 

While doing so, it’s normal to have different thoughts and emotions running through your head. Don’t interact with them and let them come and go in their own time. As you continue to practice zen meditation, you’ll find that these interruptions are less frequent. 

Step Seven: Begin Your Zazen

Now that you know more about how to practice zen meditation, let’s walk you through traditional practice. You will position yourself on your zafu around one meter from a plain wall so that there are no distractions around you. Sit in either the lotus or half-lotus position with your knees planted on the floor. 

Close your hards into fists and place both on your knees. Balance your body to ensure that you’re completely stable and work on steadying your breathing into long, soft roars. Once you’re stable and ready to begin, place your palms together in front of your chest and bow slightly as a sign of respect for Buddha. This is called gassho. 

Now put your hands in the Cosmic Mudra position and begin pushing up towards the sky and down towards the floor. You should remain in zen meditation for around 15 to 20 minutes for beginners, and you can work your way up to longer. 

Step Eight: Completing Zazen

Once you’re ready to finish your zen practice, do gassho once more to show your respect.

Now you can slowly stand up and re-enter reality. It’s advisable to remain silent for a few more minutes after leaving your practice to take in the session and understand your thoughts and feelings. 

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