Zen Meditation Technique – Practice & Hidded Secret – Free Guided Meditation

Buddha Doing Zen MeditationThe Practice of Zen Meditation – Zazen

The first meditation we will explore in the Free Online Guided Meditation Techniques E-Book is the famous Zen Meditation Technique, also called Zazen or Breath Meditation.  At the end of the meditation script I will reveal the real secret behind this most profound meditation technique.

1

Background of Zen Meditation Technique (Zazen):

This was the meditation technique of Lord Buddha – I should have to say no more in order to motivate you to try this meditation. It is one of the most widely used meditations in the world and is the heart of Zen Buddhist teachings.  If one was to make a short list of the best meditation techniques, Zazen would most certainly make the top 10 list.

Tools required for Zen Meditation Technique (Zazen):

  • Zafu (traditional Zen Buddhist meditation cushion), Smile Cushion or other firm meditation cushion.  I purchased mine from zafu.net. I also purchased a zabuton (meditation mat) from them, a zabuton though is optional.
  • Loose comfortable clothing.
  • An alarm clock, stop watch or other time device.

Benefits of Zen Meditation Technique (Zazen):

Primary Benefits: 

  • Builds Concentration and Focus.
  • Self Knowledge – both, the workings of little self (ego) and awareness of the Big Self (True Divine Nature).
  • Calmness
  • Compassion
  • Spontaneous Joy

Secondary Benefits: 

  • Improves health and wellbeing.
  • Increases willpower and builds character.
  • Bestows psychic powers.

Cautions for Practicing Zen Meditation Technique (Zazen):

There are very few cautions with regard to Zazen practice, but the one I would like to point out has to do with emotional storms. 

There can be periods of time, either during a single sitting or spanning across several weeks, when emotions you may have suppressed rise up to the surface and force you to deal with them.  During these turbulent times, don’t exacerbate the issue by chewing on the emotion laden thoughts that come up.  Traumatizing yourself in this way has no value.  Instead, sit with the emotions and related thoughts without resistance, then let them go and return your awareness to your breath. 

This emotional cleansing is due to the visibility of the subconscious mind once the conscious mind is quieted by the meditation.  In the short term, this can be a difficult time to go though, but in the long term its a necessary and healthy cleansing that will promote greater peace, depth, joy and clarity in your life. 

Basic Zen Meditation Technique:

  • Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable cross legged position.  If using a zafu or similar meditation cushion, sit on the forward third of the cushion.  The objective is for your hips to be raised above your knees and to form a three point base with your knees and buttocks touching the floor/cushion (leave a comment below if want to use a chair or meditation bench and would like me to explain those details).
  • Set your alarm or other time device for 20 minutes.
  • Now elongate your spine upwards and to align it with the back of your head, subtly bring your chin back and in like a soldier at attention.  There will be a slight inward arch in your lower back.
  • Now rock gently from side to side in big arcs, making them smaller and smaller till you drift to a stop.  You should find yourself perpendicular to the floor with no tension or pull from either side.
  • Have your eyes half open with an unfocused gaze on the floor in front of you.  You should be looking down at a 45 degree angle about 2 to 3 feet in front of you.  You may also close your eyes if you prefer.
  • Bring your hands to your lap and place them in the cosmic mudra.  To do this rest your right hand on your lap, then rest your left hand on top of it and have your fingers overlap.  Now bring the thumb tips together thus forming an oval frame.
  • Close your mouth, swallow your saliva creating a slight vacuum and place your tongue against the roof of your mouth.  After this point there should be absolutely no more movement of the body.  No fidgeting, scratching, shifting – nothing – be like you are frozen in time.
  • Take 5 deep, slow breaths though the nose.  This will oxygenate your blood and relax you.
  • Now bring you attention to your breath without trying to manipulate it further in any way, just become aware of its flow.  Spend a few minutes just observing it intimately till it starts to become regular and relaxed.
  • At this point begin counting your breath.  Count an inhalation as one, then the exhalation as 2 and continue to count your breaths until you reach 10.  At which point return to 1 with the next inhalation.  If at any point you get caught in a mental story line and loose your count, gently, without passing any judgment, return to 1 and start over.  That’s it, continue for the duration of the meditation.

Intermediate Zen Meditation Technique:

Follow all the steps for the Basic Zen Meditation Technique, except for the last step a complete inhalation and exhalation cycle should be counted as 1.  So you will do 10 full cycles of inhalation and exhalation before returning to 1.  You can also increase the time to 30 – 40 minutes.

Advanced Zen Meditation Technique:

Follow all the steps for the Basic Zen Meditation Technique, except for the last step instead of counting the breaths, just “be the breath”.  Don’t try to jump to this step too soon, first build your concentration and focus.  You can also increase the time to 1 hour.

Hints and Tips for Zazen:

  • Do some stretching or Yoga before sitting in zazen.  It will help your body adjust better.
  • Be regular, the benefits of this meditation are vast, but they take time to manifest.
  • Some good internet resources and books on zen meditation and zen teachings are listed below…
    • Charlotte Joko Beck’s Ordinary Mind Zen School and her book Everyday Zen: Love & Work
    • Zen Mountain Monastery – Mountain and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism
    • Shunryu Suzuki’s San Francisco Zen Center and his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Secret of Zazen:

The secret of zazen does not lie in the awareness of the inhalation or the exhalation.  It lies in the gap in between these breaths.  It lies when the breath is spontaneously suspended.  It is in this gap where the mysteries of the Universe are hidden.  This gap and the gap between 2 thoughts are best friends, and in this silence between 2 thoughts the absolute is revealed.  Don’t try to force this pause, just continue with your zazen, it will come about naturally.

More Internet Resources for Zen Meditation

Zen and Zazen Information

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194 replies
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  1. Beginner
    Beginner says:

    I think I have a lot of attention deficit. I am a doctor and am feeling that I need to fix this ASAP. So far, I have been succesful but, the more successful I become the more acutely I face this issue and it is effecting my self esteem. I also dont pay attention to others talking, I think I am caught up with myself or something of that sort. If you could please please help me with this. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hi Emily,

    1- When the Eyes are Still – the Mind is Still: Here is an article on this very topic. Meditation Technique to Control the Mind.

    Also, yes eventually the numbers are abandoned. If you feel they are a bother, you try without them as well.

    2. Try to focus on the components of the breath (temperature, texture, depth – this will absorb the mind into the moment, and help you leave the breath alone from a control perspective).

    3. Yes the gap is the ultimate object of contemplation.

    4. Inversions, stomach pumping and heat generating pranayamas should be avoided.

    Glad you are enjoying the website.

    All Good Wishes,
    Anmol

    Reply
  3. Robin
    Robin says:

    Dominique, I practice often with the soles of my bare feet put together. Doing so, I prevent pain. And the meditation works quite as well. In my opinion, I join left and right side of my body, like they are joined in my brain.

    Reply
  4. Dominique
    Dominique says:

    Hello, I really want to try this meditation but i find it very hard to sit in a cross-legged position. Whenever i try to sit cross-legged it pains my right leg and also my right leg won’t go down properly. Do you have any advice?

    Reply
  5. Emily
    Emily says:

    Dear Anmol,

    Absolute respect and thanks for this site. It has been so wonderful to discover as I live in Thailand and study yoga and meditation in Thai language…..(I’m far from fluent!)

    I have started one of your Kundalini yoga courses and have a few questions, if you would be so kind:

    1. re: Zen. I find the counting corruptive to my concentration, like it keeps the process of time in my mind, or perhaps makes more of a flurry of mental activity than needs to be there. I had a more successful meditation today when i put all my concentration on the tip of my nose and the direction of my eyes.
    (successful meditation for me has been concentrated around the eyes – a stare – and this creating pressure or a feeling of energy around the sinus area. i have no idea if this is a good idea. Ive thought in the past that Thai monks seem uncomfortable with the idea of ‘looking’ inside meditation.)
    -is it advisable to abandon numbers?

    2. I have been struggling with observing breath. At first I tried consciously not to control it and this led to the feeling that i couldnt breath and couldnt get enough oxygen. Then it occurred to me that in trying not to control it, I was exerting a will to stop it instead. I can never stop being conscious of wanting to ‘step back from the breath’.
    -do you have any words about keeping the mind away from the breath?

    3. ‘the gap between the breaths’ – is this a suitable object of contemplation when meditating? I get a physical rush from observing this (a rush at every gap)

    4. another question thats a little off-topic… what activities should i avoid when menstruating? i have heard some pranayamas are unsuitable.

    Thank you so much

    Namaste ][

    Emily

    Reply
  6. C.E.F.
    C.E.F. says:

    Ah yes, Zazen is a keeper. Ive been doing it for a week and ive aquired some of the same benefits as the sck pranayama from it. It truly transforms you. Since ive started ive noticed an improvement on my lung capacity and i think clearly as if there are no flaws in my thoughts. Also ive noticed a calm strength to my aura and physical body after doing this meditation along with an amazing ability to naturally be focused and concentrated. Really, im just reaching out to others telling them to make it a daily practice and watch how it transforms you. And last but not least, does anyone else feel the same way? Someone give som feed back please..1 LOVE

    Reply
  7. Nimesh Agarwal
    Nimesh Agarwal says:

    Hi Anmol,
    Interesting video. I am doing Zen meditation from few months but because of my continuous back pain I loose my concentration every time, specially when I sit in the posture for mediation and straight my back bone to 90 degree after few min pain starts and even after try to ignore the pain finally I loose the practice. Please suggest me any posture where I can sit and do this for more time.

    Warm Rgds
    Nimesh

    Reply
  8. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hi NB,

    Great to hear you are enjoying and benefiting from the website and are going to establish a steady meditation practice. Thanks also for sharing your thoughts with us. They are indeed very insightful.

    Best,
    Anmol

    Reply
  9. NB
    NB says:

    Dear Anmol,
    Thank you so much for creating this website and making this vital information available. The timing is critical as more instruction is needed at a faster rate.

    Awareness is presenting of the spaces between thoughts and actions in daily life when there is typically only the reaction of the mind body impulses. Capturing those moments has become an enlightenment. I am not advanced in meditation, admittedly doing more reading than practice and have been on my own humble path. I look forward to utilizing your website to help discipline this being to a scheduled time each day for mediation.

    Happy to be on the path.

    Thank you again

    Reply
  10. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hi Anthony,

    2 times a day 20 minutes is the magic number I believe. It’s what I used to do when I started Zazen and that was he best thing I ever did :-).

    Best,
    Anmol

    Reply
  11. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hi Ed,

    So good to have your input here. I think you already know how much I appreciate your willingness to share your insights and help others.

    Thanks again.

    Best,
    Anmol

    Reply
  12. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hi Roy,

    Yes, you can certainly sit on a chair, you can also do meditation lying down on your back (use cushions under knees for comfort if it helps).

    I have done the above quite a bit, and still meditate on my back before sleep each night.

    One more note. Don’t strongly believe your scoliosis will not go away. Do some gentle yoga and you never know. The mind is not to be underestimated.

    Let me know how it goes.

    Best,
    Anmol

    Reply
  13. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Dear Tira,

    Sorry for the delay, I currently have over 500 emails/comments to respond to, so it does take some time :-).

    Kundalini awakening is certainly not uncommon in meditation. There are some article on that in the website (Kundalini Yoga vs. Zen Meditation; Kundalini Awakening Symptoms).

    First thing is please do not worry. Anxiety and fear are self created. Many would be thrilled to have your experience and moreover, nothing you have said indicates that anything bad has happened.

    Generally the sense of space and largeness is awareness of one’s infinite nature (and your description is very very close to that). The movements and feelings you are experiencing are indeed energy moving within you. Enhanced senses is a blessing of meditation and kundalini as well.

    Raising your hands, with the strong fear of a serpent above, while kundalini is coursing though you can create electric events within. Also, the seeing of serpents is very common during kundalini (see the second article I referenced above). Don’t fear them or Kundalini as Ed has pointed out. They are the symbol of spiritual evolution.

    If you feel a little disconcerted right now, take a break from meditation and enjoy time in prayers for a while. It will give you calmness and courage.

    Let me know how it goes.

    Best,
    Anmol

    Reply
  14. roy
    roy says:

    Hi Anmol,

    Scoliosis prevents me from sitting erect; the pain is immediate and severe. The curvature of my spine is not likely to go away and neither is the pain it causes. Is long-term chair sitting possible?

    Reply
  15. ed
    ed says:

    Tira,

    I am sure that Anmol didn’t ignore your post…I am certain that he has a lot posts to reply to and is simply haven’t gotten to your question.

    I hope my comments would help though.

    first of all, there is no need to fear Kundalini. it is described as a serpent not because it’s an actual snake that crawls inside your spine…it is described as a serpent because the energy is a whirling undulating energy that rises in a spiral motion up your spine.

    when you say it bit you, I don’t really understand what that means. can you be more specific on what you felt?

    kundalini may cause some pain if you have any blockage at any point along your sushuma and it will take time for kundalini to clear up that blockage (I’ve been having pain on my neck for the past two months but it’s a normal reaction).

    kundalini is also known as the holy spirit. do not fear it since there is nothing to fear from the holy spirit. it may, however, ask for you to be more focus on spirituality and prepare your body for its rise. Anmol’s chakra balancing meditation can help a great deal.

    I’m sure Anmol can give you better advice but there is such a great deal of information that Anmol has on this website that it would be beneficial for you to go through them and you just might find your questions answered already by Anmol’s past articles.

    again, my advice is to not fear kundalini, it is also known as the holy spirit. it exist in everyone and is never harmful for anyone unless you abuse it (use it for bad things or actions).

    good luck and god bless!

    Reply
  16. Tira
    Tira says:

    Dear Anmol,

    I really thought you would reply to me, but now that I saw you didn’t reply I’m quite confused honestly. So Anmol could you be so kind to reply on my comment. Cause I really need some help here…

    Namaste,

    Tira

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] So try always to keep the right posture, not only when you practice zazen (Zen Meditation Technique), but in all your activities.  Take the right posture when you are driving your car, and when you are reading.  If you read in a slumped position, you cannot stay awake long.  Try.  You will discover how important it is to keep the right posture.  This is the true teaching.  The teaching which is written on paper is not the true teaching.  Written teaching is a kind of food for the brain.  Of course it is necessary to take some food for the brain, but it is more important to be yourself by practicing the right way of life. […]

  2. […] Zen Meditation for Treating Stress & Anxiety Disorder […]

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