Stressed out? Escape the Hectic World with Zazen
In Zen Buddhism, zazen refers to sitting meditation. The disciple is instructed to sit in a quiet room, breathing regularly and freely, with legs completely or partially crossed, spine and head erect, hands folded one palm above the other, and eyes open, according to the zazen guidelines. All wants, attachments, and judgements should be put on hold, as should logical, analytic thinking, leaving the mind in a condition of relaxed attention.
Dogen, a 13th-century Zen teacher and founder of the Soto sect in Japan, was the most prominent proponent of zazen. He saw zazen as not only a means of achieving enlightenment, but also as enlightenment in and of itself, if correctly practiced. Dogen, also known as Joyo Daishi or Kigen Dogen, was a famous Japanese Buddhist who introduced Zen to Japan in the shape of the St school (Chinese: Ts'ao-tung) during the Kamakura era (1192–1333). He was a unique individual who blended contemplative practice with intellectual inquiry. Dogen was orphaned at the age of seven after being born into a family of court aristocracy. He was ordained a monk at the age of 13 and studied the sacred texts of Buddhism on Mount Hiei, the center of Tendai Buddhism, but his spiritual desires were not entirely satisfied. He studied Zen meditation in China between 1223 and 1227 and attained enlightenment under the Zen teacher Ju-ching. He returned to Japan and stayed at different temples, working to spread Zen practice. He spent the remaining years of his life at Eihei Temple, which he established on a hill near modern-day Fukui. Fukan zazen gi (1227; “General Teachings for the Promotion of Zazen”), his first written work, offers a basic introduction to Zen practice. He also published a number of additional educational publications. Shbgenz (1231–53; “Treasury of the True Dharma Eye”), his most famous work, is a 95-chapter exposition of Buddhist teachings produced over a period of more than 20 years. Dogen taught shikan taza, or "just zazen," which refers to the Zen practice of cross-legged (lotus) meditation. He emphasized the connection between practice and enlightenment.
Zen meditation, commonly known as Zazen, is a Buddhist-inspired meditation practice. Zen meditation aims to control one's attention. It's frequently referred to as a technique for "thinking about not thinking." During Zen meditation, people generally sit in the lotus position—or sit with their legs crossed—and focus their attention within. While some practitioners claim that this phase is completed by counting breaths (usually from one to ten), others claim that it is not.
The Zen meditation practice of zazen, which literally means "simply sitting," is at its core. The instructions are straightforward, but the execution is deceptively complex. Zazen, which may be done on a cushion, a bench, or a chair, encourages intense quiet and insight. Put away the intellectual habit of pursuing words and phrases, and learn to take the backward step that sheds the light inside, as Zen Master Dogen advises. We allow the breath to lead us back to the direct experience of the present moment by letting go of conceptual distractions in the mind. If we notice continual change, each moment of zazen is new, and each student follows their own organic path throughout time. The correct notation is "zazen," since "za" refers to the "location" where you sit and "zazen" refers to the "action" of sitting. This article utilizes the well-known notation "zazen" for convenience.
Unlike many meditation techniques, the goal of zazen is to explore what is most real in this moment rather than to achieve any particular state of mind. We learn to know the mind's regular action in the production of experience directly in zazen, and we open up to our inherent brilliant alert clear reflecting nature. Zazen is direct and uncomplicated, yet radical in its acceptance of circumstances and perceptive knowledge. All of Buddhism's teachings, including the nature of pain, the end of suffering, and the key to leading an ethical life, are examined directly via practice. If you're new to the practice, it's best to seek out continuous advice from a teacher or group who can help you change your posture and provide direction on typical issues like pain and discomfort, strong emotion, obsessive thoughts, and drowsiness. Taking up zazen requires nothing more than a feeling of curiosity and a human existence - you can't go wrong!
In Japanese, zazen literally translates to "sitting meditation." It is a Zen Buddhist meditation technique and religious practice. Understanding the nature of existence is at the heart of Zazen. The goal of zazen is to sit in silence and suspend any judgemental thoughts. This approach allows ideas, words, pictures, and thoughts to pass by without being distracted by them. Zazen meditation is traditionally done in a zendo, or communal meditation hall. A Zazen practitioner must bow before the seat and his fellow practitioners at the start and conclusion of the meditation in the Japanese meditation practice. Zazen may be alternated with kinhin or the walking meditation.
Zen meditation is referred described as an "open-monitoring meditation" because it makes use of monitoring skills. These monitoring skills are turned into reflexive awareness, which is characterized by a broad range of attention and a lack of concentration on a single item. Zen meditation and mindfulness are similar in that they both focus on the present moment. Mindfulness, on the other hand, concentrates on a single thing, but Zen meditation entails a broad awareness. Unlike loving kindness and compassion meditation, which focuses on building compassion, or mantra meditation, which entails reciting a mantra, Zen meditation entails a greater awareness of one's own bodily and self-referential processes. Zen meditation practitioners try to broaden their intentional scope to include the flow of perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and subjective awareness.
Most other kinds of meditation encourage you to close your eyes, while Zen meditation encourages you to keep your eyes semi-open.1 Zen meditation also involves dismissing any thoughts that arise in the mind and essentially thinking about nothing. They eventually learn to control their thoughts and may even be able to access their subconscious brains. The objective is frequently to become more conscious of preconceived beliefs and increase self-awareness.
There are five health benefits of practicing Zazen Meditation
- Cognitive functioning and moods.
- Reduction of stress and anxiety.
Burnout from job and other stresses of daily life can lead to stress and anxiety. These two are linked to the development of depression and may result in chronic heart disease and even diabetes. Internal awareness obtained via Zazen helps to lower the density of grey matter in the brain, which is linked to stress and anxiety.
- Increase psychomotor response.
Weakness in our psychomotor alertness might occur as a result of tiredness and lack of sleep. As a result, hand-eye and whole body coordination may suffer from time to time. Every day, practicing zazen meditation clears our minds of stresses that might negatively impact our psychomotor response. Mindfulness also enables us to organize our memories and thoughts, reducing the development of sleeping problems.
- Gives resilience in pain.
According to MRIs, those who practice Zazen have a higher pain tolerance than those who do not. In fact, studies show that doing Zazen on a daily basis is far superior to morphine in terms of pain tolerance. Concentration makes this possible. When there is a focus on pain, naturally produced morphine acts faster. This indicates that the person is capable of delivering morphine to the painful location. The initial impact of Zazen's concentration on attention and focus is pain resistance.
- Improves emotional intelligence
Improved emotional intelligence means that as individuals, we will be better able to make smart decisions even while under duress. This also implies that, even when we're angry, we'll be better able to formulate suitable phrases. We will also benefit from increased attention, even on mundane and tedious activities. These are made feasible through Zazen meditation's breathing techniques and mantra recitation.
Scientists have been studying the effects of meditation on the mind and body for years. Zen meditation practice and its effects on the brain have piqued people's attention. In a 2008 study, researchers compared 12 persons who had been practicing Zen meditation for more than three years with 12 people who had never done so. Everyone in the research had their brains scanned and was instructed to concentrate on their breathing. On occasion, students were asked to tell the difference between a real word and a nonsensical word on a computer screen. Then they were told to concentrate on their breathing once more.
In Taiwan, Zen meditation is commonly utilized in drug misuse treatment programs because it lowers heart rate and breathing while also increasing autonomic nervous system function. Zen meditation, in fact, has an effect on brain-heart connections, according to the authors of a 2018 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Zen practitioners, according to the writers, devote their practice to revealing the spiritual heart within the organ heart. “Through years of Zen meditation practice, practitioners' brain processes are completely transformed into a so-called detached brain governed by the spiritual heart,” they write. Individuals in recovery from drug usage may also have issues with their autonomic nervous system, which is in charge of controlling body activities that are not consciously directed, such as breathing, heartbeat, and digestion.
Zazen meditation, once learned, has the potential to enhance our health. In our hectic daily lives, zazen meditation provides a little bit of bliss. Furthermore, practicing Zazen will provide us with not just peace of mind but also long-term health advantages that we will enjoy for the rest of our lives. After being stopped, the participants who practiced Zen meditation on a regular basis were able to return to their breathing significantly faster than the novices.
Three Charms of Zazen
- The ability to alter your posture is the first benefit of Zazen. People who spend a lot of time sitting and working tend to have terrible posture; therefore it's a good idea to start with Zazen.
- The second is to quiet your thoughts by relaxing your breathing. Sitting Zen may make a good effect in the thoughts of individuals who don't normally have time to relax.
- The third benefit of Zazen is that by gazing back at oneself with a peaceful mind, you may hope to remove your worry and problems. Many people may experience difficulties in their relationships and at work. Zazen is advised for those who wish to confront themselves carefully, for example, "I don't know what to do with my problems" or "Is it alright for me to stay as I am?"
Basic Zazen method
There are a variety of ways to learn more about Zen meditation, including audio programs, internet videos, online learning programs, and books. You might also be able to find a Zen meditation class where you can learn from a teacher. There are also a number of meditation retreats available, ranging in length from a weekend to a month or more.
- Place the pillow under your buttocks after folding it in half.
- Place your right foot on your left thigh (half-lotus position / lotus position). If possible, place your left leg on your right thigh (lotus position / lotus position).
- With your palm facing up, place your right hand on your foot. After then, place your left hand on it.
Assemble the legal seal / hokkaijoin by softly touching the points of both hands' thumbs.
Alternatively, wrap your right hand in your left hand to form a knot (hematoma).
* You may construct your hands in a variety of ways; choose the one that is most convenient for you..
- Pull your chin in to keep your head from tilting back and forth and left to right.Then, to keep the focus stable, move the body back and forth and left and right. First, correct your posture, then your breathing.
How to Change Your Breathing > By repeated abdominal breathing, you may modify your breathing.
Gradually adapt to calm breathing by exhaling deeply inhaled air.
When you take a deep breath, you don't have to inhale as much. It is critical to exhale gently, silently, and deeply.
- Adjust your thinking after your posture and breathing are in order.
How to Change Your Mind
Begin by counting the "number of breaths" (anapanasati, or "view of breaths").
Take one breath, then silently count one, two, and three in your heart. When you reach 10, begin counting backwards from one.
When I do zazen, I become perplexed and unable to remain neutral. It's critical to keep the "view of breathing" and make adjustments to the body, breathing, and mind.
We tend to think of the body, breath, and mind as separate entities, but in zazen, we begin to realize how they are all part of the same whole. In zazen, we begin by focusing on our body's position, developing an alert and relaxed posture. Because the body and mind are one, our posture has an immediate impact on our breathing and mental state. A steady, calm, and awakened posture aids in the development of a stable, relaxed, and awakened mind. The sitting Buddha stance is the most efficient zazen posture. It is advised that you sit on the floor since it is more grounded and provides a sturdier basis. We utilize a zafu, which is a tiny pillow that elevates the pelvis and hips just enough for the knees to contact the ground. This will provide a natural, grounded, and solid tripod foundation.
While sat cross-legged, you can choose a variety of various leg positions. The Burmese posture, in which the legs are crossed and both feet are flat on the floor, is the first and most basic. The knees should also be on the floor, but it may take some stretching to get the legs to that position. The muscles will relax up and the knees will begin to drop after a time. Sit on the front third of the zafu and transfer your weight forward a little to make this happen. Get your spines straight by visualizing the top of your head pushing upward to the sky and stretching your body that way—then just let the muscles become limp and rest. There may be a small curvature in the bottom part of the back with the buttocks up on the zafu and your stomach pushing out a bit. It takes relatively little effort to maintain the body upright in this position.
Half Lotus Position
Another posture is the half lotus, which involves placing the left foot up onto the right thigh and tucking the right leg beneath. Because this stance is slightly asymmetrical, the upper body must occasionally adjust in order to maintain exact straightness. It's a good idea for those who utilize this position to alternate which leg they raise up.
Full Lotus Position
The complete lotus, in which each foot is propped up on the opposite leg, is by far the most stable of all the positions. This is absolutely symmetrical and very sturdy, but it demands a lot of hip flexibility, so it may take some time and stretching to complete, and it is not suitable for all body types. The benefits of sitting cross-legged on the floor are stability and efficiency, but remember that the most essential aspect of zazen is the practice of your mind.
There's also the seiza position to consider. You may sit seiza without a pillow by kneeling and resting your buttocks on the raised feet, which act as an anatomical cushion. You may also use a cushion to take the pressure off your ankles. The seiza bench is a third option for seating seiza. It helps to maintain your spine straight by taking the weight off your feet.
Finally, sitting in a chair is OK. Keep your feet level on the floor to help ground your body in this pose. If it helps, you can place a cushion, or zafu, beneath you on the chair and sit on the forward third of it, just like you would on the floor. It's ideal to sit forward in the chair to support your spine; if you need to lean towards the back of the chair due to back difficulties, consider placing a zafu between your small back and the back of the chair to maintain your spine straight and vertical. When sitting on a chair, all of the characteristics of posture that are necessary when sat on the floor or in seiza are just as vital.
Flow of Zazenkai/Zazen experience
There are a variety of ways to learn more about Zen meditation, including audio programs, internet videos, online learning programs, and books. You might also be able to find a Zen meditation class where you can learn from a teacher. There are also a number of meditation retreats available, ranging in length from a weekend to a month or more. Tourists in China who wish to study the practice at a Buddhist temple go to Zen meditation retreats in particular. So, depending on your interests, requirements, and money, you may choose a program that will teach you Zen meditation practices in a variety of ways.
What does zazen meditation and zazen experience entail, and where can you practice zazen? The material will vary based on the temple and timetable, but to get a sense of the general flow.
(Flow on the day of Zazen example)
5:00 pm – Reception at the temple, preparation of changing clothes, etc.
5:30 pm – Antan (Antan/ sitting in your own zazen place), zazen (notes, explanations, etc.)
6:00 pm – Zazen
6:30 pm – Proposal (lecture)
7:00 pm – Zazen
8:00 pm – Dissolution
Zazen Manners and Clothes
＊ Prepare clothing that is simple to move in during zazen, such as athletic attire.
＊ Let's double-check whether there's a place to change clothes just in case.
＊ Eating and drinking should be done ahead of time and in sufficient quantities so that you can focus on zazen.
＊ Furthermore, many temples do not support languages other than Japanese, so be cautious while visiting with international visitors.
Place where you can experience zazen
Many activities are available in temples of Buddhist groups that primarily practice zazen (Rinzai sect, Soto sect, Obaku sect). If the temple offers a beginner's course, it will gently instruct you, so even novices may relax.
What to bring
＊ Generally, all you need to pack are easy-to-move-in clothing (a change of clothes and a towel are recommended).
＊ Depending on the topic of the meditation session, writing utensils may be necessary.
There are zazen meditation sessions with lectures on topics such as sutra copying, but they mostly provide you with tools. However, just in case, be sure to double-check the essential things on the zazen meditation's website before you go.
＊ First, check the website to determine whether a reservation is required.
＊ It is customary to contact them by phone or through an application form if you need to make a reservation.
＊ Contact them on the day of the event if you don't need to make a reservation.
Estimated entry fee
It varies on the content, but many appear to be free up to 2,000 yen for zazen alone. After the event, you may receive vegetarian meals for around 10,000 yen or a private zazen party for two days and one night for around 20,000 yen. Of course, money is a consideration, but the most essential thing is to choose a zazen experience/zazen meditation that matches "what sort of experience you want to have." To make the experience more meaningful, double-check the information before making a decision.
The Buddha's enlightenment is symbolized by Zazen. As a result, it has been passed down down the generations. As a result, its continued existence is critical. It is not as straightforward as a traditional Zen practice, yet it is the skill of meditation nevertheless. Zen students sit firmly in a cross-legged stance with their entire body straight up. They are so magnificent and silent right now that they resemble a mountain, similar to the Buddha's stance. Zazen can be translated as "sitting like the Buddha" and "becoming the Buddha." At the same time, it makes no attempt to prevent or initiate any ideas, nor does it attempt to establish a pure version of any information. Simply sit in Zazen and maintain proper posture throughout the body. In general, it is a very basic and straightforward procedure. It does, however, include a fundamental philosophy that orients the energy of Zen students to a broader environment.