Zazen meditation simply exists between and around our thoughts, and is more a lack of process than anything. Zen’s overriding principal is to obtain a harmony of the mind, while not holding to tightly and not wandering too much, not to strict, yet not too indulgent. It is in essence an application of the Buddha’s middle path for the mind.
Begin by finding a comfortable seated position in which you can remain up right, this could be on the edge of a bed, on a chair, cross legged on the floor, or any other arrangement in which you neither slump or gain support for your spine.
If this is not possible for you, lay as comfortably as possible with a straight back.
If you are seated mentally draw yourself upward as if pulled from the crown of the head, as you do this, systematically relax the rest of your body, making any minor shifts you need to feel comfortable.
Take a deep breath in through the nose, breathing into your belly and as you breathe out, OUT BREATH SOUND relax your shoulders and neck, imagining any tension melting away, do this also for your arms, your legs and your face.
Although there are many nuances to this technique, a straight spine and observation of the breath are the core concepts that will guide all actions from this point.
In this simplified pure form of meditation, the aim is to exist in the gap between thoughts, through observation of the breath.
This time away from our thoughts has a multitude of benefits. Some of which you may perceive immediately by providing a sense of relaxation, and others will grow with your practice.
Meditation primarily is a way of entering into a state of heightened awareness, and zazen’s approach to achieving this state is to keep a sense of alertness while maintaining a straight spine.
This alertness will ultimately help still the waters of the mind and provide a sense of clarity and calm.
To begin take several deep breaths, and again straighten your spine while relaxing the rest of your body.
Scan for any areas of tension, and relive them through conscious relaxation as you gently breathe out.
As you gradually lessen the control of your breath, you’re aiming to observe the breath as you breathe in through the nostrils, feel the cool breeze of your in breaths and the gentle warm flow of your out breaths, the breath is the tool to support you in relinquishing your attachment to thoughts.
Now observe the breath for a couple of minutes, if you find your mind wandering gently draw it back to observation of the breath. You will find yourself having to do this fairly often. Beware of this and be gentle with your mind, treat your thoughts with indifference and gentleness as you withdraw your attention. They have occupied your mind for some time and will not simply disappear at your command.
So gently steer your attention away from any thoughts, never pulling or pushing, this will simply create more thoughts.
Observe your breath for the next few minutes.
If you find yourself distracted either by your own thoughts, it may help by counting the breaths from 1 to 10. And repeating the cycle until your focus strengthens.
We are nearing the end of this simple and short instruction, gently test the waters of your mind, what do you feel.
Zazen is the observation of the self, in this journey sitting meditation will guide tremendous introspection, for now sense the awareness and perhaps the clarity of your mind.
As you end, observe any feelings or emotions that may have arisen, do you feel relaxed or perhaps you’re anxious. Do you feel contentment or maybe you feel exited.
All of these feelings are defiantly going to come up in your practice, learn to appreciate them and absorb them, the introspection gained in these moments can lead to moments of great self-discovery.
When you are comfortable begin this mediation alone without this guide, as you extend your practice your experience will deepen and you will begin to sense a growing stillness that pervades beyond your sittings.
Be gentle and try not to cling to tight, trying too hard to let go can create competition within your mind. In your mediation practice you cannot win and you cannot lose, every practice will bring you closer to harmony with your mind.
You want to practice this at least a few minutes every day for best results. What matters most is doing it consistently on a regular schedule, and this is the primary meditation technique of Zen. The other major technique is walking meditation, called Kinhin.
The Zen monks do Zen walking meditation in between Zazen sessions, and that’s to anchor the meditative awareness into daily life.
If you would like to go even deeper with your meditation journey, I offer a guided version of the zazen meditation and a walking meditation instructional audio, plus a guided combination of zazen and Kinhin walking meditations. Follow the links for more details.
And remember the more you practice the deeper your sense of stillness will grow and the longer the effects will last.
If you want to understand more on mindfulness and the practice Zen then follow the mindfulness, Zazen Posture an act of impeccability, Understanding Zen through the tale of the Samurai and the Tea Master and Samadhi a 3 Step Process links.
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