The 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.
Free Zazen Meditation Video
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):
- Builds Concentration and Focus.
- Self Knowledge – both, the workings of little self (ego) and awareness of the Big Self (True Divine Nature).
- Spontaneous Joy
- 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…
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