If you’ve ever struggled to find a moment of peace and calmness in the hustle and bustle of your daily life and been unable to do so – you know the sheer scale of the chaos. This is exactly where Zen meditation comes in!
Guided Zen meditation is your go-to formula for maintaining your inner calm while managing your life as a social butterfly. It’s your secret to having the much-needed moments of respite and tranquility when everything else in your life seems to go haywire, and you struggle to find the time to breathe.
But what’s so remarkable about Zen meditation?
Aren’t there countless (we have already lost track) different forms of meditation out there?
Well, for starters, Guided Zen meditation is one of the oldest and most practiced forms of meditation in ancient Buddhist tradition. And when we say old, we mean somewhere around 1500 years old.
In this blog post, we will dive deeper into what zazen meditation is, its types, and its benefits. We will also look at research and science-backed evidence to ascertain the importance of the practice. Let’s dive in!
What Is Zazen Meditation?
Zazen is a meditation technique that primarily arises from the Zen Buddhist traditions. It is used to define various forms of sitting meditation. While the official definition varies amongst different schools of thought, Zazen meditation is accepted as a quiet Buddhist meditation practiced in a sitting posture resembling a lotus.
It can be done using various methods, including:
- following the breath (anapanasati),
- mentally repeating a phrase (a mantra), and
- a form of mindfulness where the person is aware of everything that comes to their attention (silent illumination or shikantaza).
Zazen’s practice evolved from Lord Buddha’s teachings in 463 BC. It was finally introduced to the Western world by people from the Himalayas.
In the Western culture, Zazen meditation is deemed synonymous with mindfulness meditation. Both practices are characterized by their ability to help a person detach from their inner turmoil, which is the trigger for stress and anxiety.
What Is The Purpose Of Zen Meditation?
As a primary form of meditation, the main goal of Zazen is to prepare the mind for mindfulness and effortless observing.
Additionally, Zazen aims to help people:
- develop a sense of laser focus without being distracted by multiple unimportant thoughts,
- understand the impermanence of your negative thoughts and not let them overwhelm your mind or cloud your judgment,
- assess and own the impact of your thoughts and actions,
- learn to face your painful and uncomfortable emotions rather than run away from them,
- cultivate inner compassion,
- seek balance in every aspect of life, and
- detach from unhealthy compulsions like toxic relationships, addictions, etc.
Types Of Zazen Meditation Techniques
Zazen is divided into five primary forms, depending on their unique characteristics and advantages. Let’s dive deeper into each of them.
1. Bompu Zen
Bompu, in the literal sense, means ordinary. Thus, Bompu Zen is the most common type of Zazen meditation practice and is meant for anyone. Even untrained individuals or those looking to start meditation for the first time can practice it. It’s basically about achieving mental stability while straying away from distractions and temptations.
The following forms of meditation can be considered Bompu Zen:
- martial arts,
- Taoist longevity practices,
- Noh theatre,
- Zen arts, and
- most forms of modern Western meditation.
2. Gedo Zen
Gedo translates to outside, meaning it covers all meditation practices outside traditional Buddhist customs. It also refers to larger-than-life life experiences and is heavily tied to religious and spiritual references. Instead of Buddhis, Gedo Zen is more connected to Hindu Yoga practices. It also incorporates Christian sitting practices, thereby not fully accepting Zazen but mere components of it.
Godo Zen is used to develop skills and powers that aren’t readily available to a regular person. The final intent is to reach a level of self-awareness and realization that is usually outside of human abilities.
3. Shojo Zen
Shojo literally translates to a small vehicle. The practice is used to move from the state of illusion to ultimate enlightenment. It is called a small vehicle because it’s meant for one person only. It believes that you are responsible for your own journey and inner peace.
This one of the types of Zen meditation techniques is used to process and understand the cause of your suffering. It aims to help you explore your inner conflicts by dissociating yourself from the world.
Therefore, the Shojo Zen meditation technique is for people who believe in dual reality and view themselves as separate from the world.
4. Daijo Zen
The Daizo Zen meditation technique is regarded as the most significant type of Zen meditation. It is the purest of Buddhist meditation techniques and has remained connected to the actual teachings of Lord Buddha.
Unlike Shojo Zen, this one of the types of Zen meditation does not detach you from the rest of the world. It, instead, teaches you that you are an inseparable part of the world. The world affects you in the same way your actions impact everyone and everything around you. This realization leads to greater empathy and compassion. It helps you build better relationships not just with others but yourself.
5. Saijojo Zen
The Saijojo Zen meditation technique is considered one of the most selfless forms of meditation. This is because the purpose of this type of Zen meditation is not to achieve anything or come to a greater realization.
The actual purpose of Saijojo meditation is to bring you closer to the essence of nature. You only focus on your actions and have no expectations from the results. It’s the practice of performing meditation just for the sake of it without a hidden motive.
What Are The Benefits Of Zen Meditation?
Guided Zen meditation offers multiple benefits that have been explored over time by multiple researchers and practitioners.
A case study published by Frontiers in 2022 measured the quality of life of 30 meditation practitioners along with a randomized control group. Various methods, including questionnaires and telomerase enzyme level tests (a marker of aging), were used to assess the quality of life of both groups. At the end of the study, healthy aging and improved quality of life were found in the group of seasoned meditators.
Another 2020 study found several benefits of Zen meditation in emotional processing. As per PLOS One, people who regularly practiced Zazen processed emotions faster and were less susceptible to the adverse effects of negative emotions.
Other potential benefits of Zen meditation include the following:
- reduced stress and anxiety,
- increased focus and concentration,
- increased self-awareness,
- reduction in craving, etc.
How To Actually Do Zen Meditation?
Now that we have ventured into what zen meditation is, its types, and its benefits, it’s time to get to the how of the question. How to do Zen meditation?
Well, for starters, it’s something that you can totally practice from the comfort of your home. So, no fancy meditation retreats are required. Here are a few basics that can help you get started the right way.
1. Set the stage.
- Find the right place. For Zazen, having a quiet place to sit without disturbances is extremely important. Moreover, make sure that the space is not too dark or bright. Ensure that it has optimum temperature conditions.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing.
- Avoid practicing Zazen if you haven’t appropriately rested the previous day or are emotionally exhausted.
- Wash your face to feel refreshed before the practice.
2. Set the right posture.
To practice guided Zen meditation, you need to be sitting in an upright posture. If possible, sit with your back against the wall. This posture gives you proper awareness of your body and surroundings. You can sit in either a full-lotus or half-lotus position. If you can’t sit like that, just sitting on your heels or a chair with your feet firmly on the floor would do.
Most practitioners do not focus on their breaths while practicing guided Zen meditation. Here’s what you can do:
- Take deep breaths one by one and exhale slowly through a small opening of your mouth.
- Once at a calm stage, breathe through your nose at a pace that feels comfortable to you.
- Eventually, stray your focus away from breathing.
4. Here’s what to do with your hands, eyes, and thoughts.
- Keep your vision unfocused, and eyes cast downward.
- Put both your hands on top of each other and open them in a lotus position in front of your belly button. Or, you can simply put the back of your palms on your thighs while sitting in the full-lotus position.
- Keep your thoughts focused on the practice rather than fixating them on an object.
Guided Zazen meditation technique is one of the oldest and most sought-after forms of meditation in Western culture today. It helps people learn more about themselves and the world around them.
We hope this complete guide on Zazen meditation will inspire you to practice your first session right away!
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