Zazen is a 2500 year old zen meditation technique. It gained significance in china then japan, India and later on in western countries. Now it is practiced worldwide.
Unlike meditation, Zazen does not need you to concentrate on a thought. It primarily means letting go of every idea and pre-conceived notion.
According to Zen master Dogen, Zazen is to empty the mind completely of every thought. Put simply, it is to experience ‘nothingness’-no expectation and no desire, good or bad.
The vital aspects of Zazen meditation are body posture and breath awareness. Focus on posture and breath aligns all are senses together, including the mind. This practice gradually makes the practitioner more grounded and in touch with reality.
Zazen Meditation Technique
How to sit
There are 4 ways of sitting in zazen meditation depending upon your flexibility and body state. Use a soft small cushion(zafu) to sit on. Sit in an upright, alert position.
Full lotus position– Sit with your legs crossed and rest the feet on opposite thighs. This position can be quite hard if your pelvic muscles are not flexible. But do not worry as there are other positions you can practice Zazen in.
Half lotus position– Place only one foot on the opposite thigh and tuck the other one under opposite leg.
Burmese position-This a simpler position, cross and rest both your ankles on the floor, shift slightly forward on the cushion and keep your spine straight forming a tripod like position.
Seiza position– Bend the legs with knees forward and hips resting on heels with spine erect.
keep your right palm under the left palm near your navel facing upwards (technically 3 inches below the naval as it is the center of your body) . The thumbs should touch but not in a forceful way. (Refer the pic in Burmese position)
You can also keep a very small pillow under your hands so they don’t slouch.
You can also sit on a bench or chair but do not lean backwards and keep the feet firmly planted on the floor with back straight.
Whatever sitting position you choose always keep the spine erect, chin slightly tucked in so that the head aligns with the back. Keep the shoulders blade open without any tension there.
With practice you will find a stable centered yet comfortable position so don’t worry about perfection right away.
Eyes are not closed in Zazen meditation practice neither are they wide open. A lower or soft gaze is preferable.
keep your lips gently closed. Place your tongue touching the front-upper teeth of your mouth. Release the tension in your jaws.
After becoming comfortable in your sitting position. Start focusing on the breath. Do not breathe deeply or loudly, just count the natural inhalation and exhalation from 1-10. Feel the warm air sensations and your lower belly move while breathing.
Concentration on breath brings the awareness to your senses which is vital to Zazen meditation technique.
- The mind will wander and thoughts will arise between the counts which is quite natural. Gently bring back your awareness on the breathing pattern.
- Begin with 2-5 minutes daily. Increase your time gradually to 20-30 minutes.
- Focus on breathing and be aware of the thoughts passing by without engaging with them. Letting go of thoughts will improve with daily consistent practice.
- If possible consult a meditation teacher to help you out with correct posture and technique. But Zazen can be mastered with consistency and self practice as well.
Zazen meditation draws your attention towards the physical and spiritual center of the body and aligns all your senses together including the mind. Consequentially the mind becomes aware of the present moment and accepts reality without judgement and bias.
The Zazen practitioner becomes grounded and calm with time.
A calm mind leads to better sleep, reduced stress and other physical benefits.
In Conclusion-Zazen meditation is a straight-forward zen meditation technique that is not attached to any desire. The only pre-requisite is a correct posture and focus on breath. Erect sitting position can be practiced any time of the day for overall long term health benefits.
For daily practices to live life in Zen mode, you can read my post on how to have a monk mindset
Related posts– How to practice Heartfulness meditation and its benefits
Source and credits–https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/zen-meditation-technique/