Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and well-being entails having and sustaining a healthy body as well as a peaceful mind.
With the daily struggle for greatness and trying to juggle a social life, you might probably find yourself trapped in a cycle with little room for you.
There comes the significance of meditation. Meditation is a relaxing process that enables you to concentrate on yourself and enjoy the present moment fully.
It is becoming increasingly popular these days. When most people think of meditation, they think of mindfulness. However, meditation is more than just a single practice.
There are numerous meditation postures to try, most of which are simple to achieve.
A perfect zazen posture ought to be comfortable, and you do not need to strain your body to do so. Thus the goal of this article is to discover more about zazen meditation.
What is zazen?
Zazen, also referred to as Zen meditation, is a type of sitting meditation that ultimately helps you to relax, concentrate on the current moment, and link up more deeply with both yourself and the realm around you.
It is a meditative practice designed to provide insight into your real nature of being.
Zazen, as a seated meditation, is at the core of Zen practice. It is indeed the practice of paying attention to experience as it arises, with and as the whole body and mind.
While the mind might well wander off into memories, interpretations of the current moment, and predictions for the future, the body will always be present.
Seated meditation thus takes place with the body assuming an attentive and upright posture.
It is considered an open mind-control practice because it involves the opening of your sensory as well as other senses.
Compared to the other meditation techniques that require you to close your eyes, Zen training only requires you to open them halfway.
Is Zazen a Buddhist meditation, and How Does It Work?
Zazen is a practice that is entrenched in Buddhist meditation. It is this practice that enabled the Buddha to achieve enlightenment 2600 years back.
The core of Zen Buddhism is zazen, which focuses on the precise alignment of the pose, the normal breath flow, as well as the fall and rise of thoughts.
Zazen entails sitting on a spherical meditation cushion (zafu), crossed legs as in the Lotus position, spine upright, hands on thighs, and eyes slightly downward and half open.
You can use a bench, rolled cushion, or chair based on your requirements and circumstances, but ensure that you keep your hands, spine, and head in the recommended position.
Regular zazen practice cultivates a calm mind and a clear spirit, as well as true resilience amid life's many challenges.
The key to zazen is simply sitting upright, with no goals or profit expectations, while focusing on the seated posture.
Zen Meditation Techniques for Beginners
Beginners in Zen training do face a blank wall to reduce distractions. Concentrate your attention on a central point about one meter in front of you.
Posture is critical in zazen. Sit on a zafu - thick round cushion - to make the posture more comfortable and long-lasting. A thick blanket can also be folded. The goal is to raise the hips.
Sit in the half-lotus or full lotus posture. This is done by placing one foot on top of the other thigh and the other underneath it. Draw your knees to the floor, or kneel with a medication cushion between your legs.
When all of these seated positions become too distracting and painful for you, you can simply sit on a bench or chair with your head held high. Maintain as much straightness as possible in your neck and back.
Place the left hand on top of the right hand, palms facing upwards. Make a slight oval by touching the tips of your thumbs to form cosmic mudra.
Try finding a natural breath rhythm. Keep your mouth closed and breathe calmly via your nose. Allow the inhalation to happen naturally while concentrating on outspreading the exhalation.
Thoughts will surely come and go, but do not try to control them. The further you attempt it; the more power they will have over your mind. It will become easier as you practice zazen posture more frequently. Consider your thought to be a haze and allow it to pass through you.
Zen Meditation Positions: Sitting, Kneeling or Standing
1. Full lotus position
The lotus position, in which each foot is placed atop the opposite thigh, has always been the most balanced of all zazen postures.
It is very solid and perfectly symmetrical, but it requires a certain level of hip flexibility, so it may take a bit of time in stretching to complete, and it is not suitable for all body types.
This posture is difficult till you get the ins and outs, which may or not occur depending on your flexibility.
It may feel like a pretzel initially, but meditators and yoga enthusiasts who are quite comfortable with this posture discover that it normally supports their meditation and alignment.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor promotes stability, flexibility, and efficiency, but remember that the most important aspect of zazen is the practice of your mind.
2. Half lotus position
The half lotus is another posture of zazen. The left foot is placed on top of the right thigh in this position, and the right foot is tucked under. With the legs crossed, the base of your spine and your knees would establish an equilateral triangle. These three areas support your body's weight.
As this posture is somewhat asymmetrical, the upper body may need to be compensated to remain perfectly straight. Folks who will use this posture should practice switching which leg they raise.
3. Seiza Position
Kneeling meditation is another option. The seiza pose is a famous zazen meditation posture in which the practitioner kneels on a mat.
You can choose to sit seiza without the use of a pillow by kneeling and resting your buttocks on the upturned feet, which function as an anatomical cushion.
Alternatively, you can use a pillow to take the weight off your ankles. A pillow, cushion, or meditation bench placed under the buttocks supports the spine and relieves pressure on the knees.
The seiza bench can also be used. It takes all of your weight off your feet and aids in keeping your spine straight.
4. Chair position
You may choose to sit on a chair for a variety of reasons, including comfort, sore knees, flexibility, mobility, and more. This posture is relaxing because it puts no strain on the legs or knees.
Sitting up straight in the correct posture instead of leaning on the chair promotes alignment. If it helps, you can place a meditation cushion beneath you on the chair and sit on the forward third of it, as you would on the floor.
If you need to tilt into the back of the chair due to back pain, simply place a cushion between the back of the chair and your back to keep your spine straight and vertical.
All the important posture aspects when you sit on the ground or in seiza are also essential when sitting in a chair.
Another benefit of this sitting position is how you can conveniently spend some time meditating on a park bench, at your desk, or on the subway without drawing undue attention to yourself.
Zen Meditation Position for the Rest of the Body
1. Walking Meditation (Kinhin)
Kinhin trains the mind to focus on every facet of the pose while walking in the breath rhythm with fists closed.
The thumb of the left hand is tucked in, and the thumb base presses on the solar plexus in kinhin. The right hand is on top of the left hand, with the shoulders relaxed. The upper body is in the same position as in zazen, with the lower abdomen and neck relaxed, the gaze lowered, and the chin tucked in.
The big toe of the front leg presses into the floor as the back leg relaxes during a calm and deep exhalation. Inhalation naturally follows exhalation, and the body soothes as a half step forward is taken. Stop and bow when you're done.
2. Burmese position
While sitting, you can adopt a variety of leg positions. The Burmese position is the most basic.
You sit cross-legged with your feet flat on the floor in this posture. Your left foot's heel should be touching the inside of your right thigh, and your right foot's toes should run up the shin softly in front of your left foot.
The knees also should be on the floor, even if it might take some stretching to get the legs to plunge that far. After a while, the muscles will relax and the knees would then drop.
To assist with this, sit at the front third of the zafu, then shift your weight forward slightly. Straighten your spine by shifting your head upwards towards the ceiling and stretching your body – then let the muscles get soft and relax.
There could be a small curve in the lower portion of the back with your buttocks up on the cushion and your stomach trying to push out a little. It requires little effort to maintain the body upright in this position.
Zen Breathing Technique
The breath is an integral part of zazen. It is serene and has a slow, strong, rhythmic pattern. The relatively short inhalation naturally follows the exhalation; no intention or effort is required.
Exhale slowly and smoothly with your mouth slightly open. Exhale from the lower abdomen to oust the air from your lungs. Afterward, close your mouth and breathe normally through your nose.
There is no insistence in zazen on breathing in a specific manner, such as breathing deeply or slowly. Don't interfere with or control your breathing; simply breathe normally.
Your thoughts have a direct impact on your breathing. Staying present by focusing your attention on every breath as it rises or falls. Rather than watching or following your breath, feel it. When your mind wanders, pay very close attention to each breath to refocus it. This slow, calm breath clears mental complexities.
How to Stop Thinking While Sitting in Zazen
Your thoughts will most likely be erratic, moving all over your mind. To calm your mind, use the rhythm of your breath and the stillness of your body.
Be calm and gentle with yourself when trying to quiet or steady your mind. Any force on your part could be met with mind resistance. Permit yourself to be a bystander and allow your thoughts to run their course.
The Posture of Your Teeth During Zazen
Keep your teeth together and put your tongue on the upper part of your mouth. The mind usually stops talking once the teeth are held together.
Even when our lips are still together, if our lower jaw drops, our mouth can easily begin to move and start generating mind chatter. So, while practicing, try to notice whether your teeth are together or not, and what your mind is doing.
Be careful; your teeth should only be touching; they should not be grinding or gripped. Teeth and gums can be damaged if you hold your jaw or clench your teeth tightly.
Keeping Back Straight While Meditating
Instead of leaning forward or slouching to the side, keeping the back centered and straight enables the diaphragm to freely move and the mind to seek stability. An upright spine makes it possible to breathe deeply, easily, and naturally.
When we talk about keeping your back straight, we don't mean forcing your back straight, but rather, allowing your back to find its uprightness.
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Because your focus and needs may change with time, having a variety of zazen options can be beneficial. Begin with the posture that most appeals to you. You can try out different types to see which ones work best for you.
Commit to the practice and keep in mind that zazen will not take you away from reality. Its focus is on the current moment and will assist you in becoming more centered and balanced.
Zen meditation becomes easier with practice as well as your awareness of the present moment. Clear and progressive guidelines are required for effective practice. If possible, find a qualified teacher to aid your practice.