What is Zen meditation?
Zen Meditation originated in China in the 7th century, in the Tang Dynasty and spread to Korea, Japan and other parts of Asia. Zen refers to focusing and concentrating on a central point within meditation and in Indian philosophy, it is known as “dhyana”.
This ancient Buddhist practice has found its way into modern practice due to its simplicity as well as its usefulness in helping us understand the nature of mind and helping us in experiencing an awakening. However, there are plenty of practical benefits, such as a Zen practice that can fit into a busy routine. This helps us to cope with a lot of issues arising with the materialistic world like stress, depression, anxiety and even helping us attuning to the core issues behind trauma.
Zen meditation can be very relaxing, while also serving a deeper purpose i.e. to help us let go of thoughts, patterns, and issues that we hold within us- each of which affects us emotionally, and interferes with our natural way of being (or our soul nature).
Zen is a way of looking at our karmic issues and life challenges with a deeper insight into its functioning and understanding the true reasons behind them, or how our response to these external situations affects the way we experience them. The aim of Zen is to reach the Buddha state, connecting with our heart centre and gaining deeper awareness over the underlying causes that result in repeating of similar patterns within our actions and choices. It helps us to foster compassion, insight, and the ability to search for interconnectedness within all life forms and processes.
The Zazen or sitting meditation is a basic practice followed across different traditions of Zen. Zazen is the practice of sitting upright and focusing on the rhythmic patterns of breath, originating from the belly. Zen can be practiced with partially open eyes, and this is different from other forms of meditation where eyes are closed and the practitioner focuses on the achievement of a goal. This form of meditation is different, in the way that Zen does not focus of any specific goal, instead, it allows awareness to be developed as a means of paying attention to our thoughts and our breath.
Who Is It For?
Due to the universality of the Zen practice, it can be helpful for a variety of practitioners. It has a variety of health benefits and encompasses a wide range of differences within its fold.
i) For someone dealing with issues like stress and depression.
Zen practice can be easily fitted into a busy work routine as it can start with a simple Zazen, focusing on the breath and observing the thoughts. It can also contain focusing your mind on a central point in order to develop better focus and concentration, and shifting the attention of the mind from thought patterns and issues that can cause stress or anxiety. Zen has a lot of practical applications like learning to sharpen one’s focus and be able to organize and prioritize in life. This not only helps in combating stress but even develops our creativity. Thus, helping us to not only cope with problems in a better way but even fostering creativity to be able to understand how to really go about it.
ii) For a serious seeker wanting to further their spiritual practice and awaken their consciousness
A lot of Zen practices involve koan or spiritual riddles that are passed on from a dedicated Zen master to a focused disciple who can devote a longer period of time into his study and practice. The koans help the seeker to move beyond the limitations of the rational mind and going deeper into understanding the way the mind works and how we react emotionally to the situations presented to us.
iii) For people who are already practicing some kind of sport
Though it seems very unlikely to suggest a practice like Zen to someone who’s practicing a sport and is very active, Zen can infact be very helpful in a variety of ways as it helps in not only building concentration but even in building good immunity.
A good immunity prevents us from falling sick easily and helps us feel more energetic. A lesser known fact about Zen practice is that it helps in integrating the heart and brain centre as well, and in reducing sensitivity to pain. It helps in blood circulation and lowering the heart rate as, and also lowers down the body’s rate of respiration, slowing down the ageing process.
Madhulika Mitra is a fantasy connoisseur, a realm creatrix, a shadow-seeker, and a cosmic cardslinger.