Zen meditation is an awareness of one’s thoughts and emotional states. Read on to learn how to perform it and how it can change your life for the better.
The art of Zen Meditation has been discussed and adopted by many Western countries in the past decades. However, few know that the concept of Zen has a history of thousand years in Buddhism and Japanese culture.
The History of Zen
The Japanese concept of Zen has first been initiated by the famous monk Bodhidharma and it was an Indian Buddhist tradition called Dhyāna. In AD 520, Bodhidharma travelled to Nanjing, China, where he brought the main ideas on the Zen meditation. His principle was fundamentally based on the idea that enlightenment can be achieved through meditation or a spiritual experience called sambodhi. In his opinion, all Buddhist literature was ineffective, and the veneration of a divinity was no longer necessary to achieve enlightenment.
After Bodhidharma’s death, between the years 675 and 712, the Indian concept of meditation transforms into Chan, the Chinese version of Dhyana. Unlike other Buddhist sects, it was atheist and refused to recognize Buddha as a god. From China, the Chan Buddhism spread in Korea and Vietnam in the coming centuries.
On the other hand, in Japan, the Chan Buddhism was introduced during the Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1333-1573) ruling period. Surprisingly, the Zen Buddhism represented for the Japanese the moment of synchronization of a religion very little inclined to religiosity. As such, it was welcomed by the high Japanese class and the Samurai warriors who were in ascension during Kamakura.
Additionally, Zen has greatly influenced the Japanese art and increased the development of martial arts.
At the end of the Muromachi period, Zen Buddhism has gained such influence and development that it becomes a state religion. Many Zen temples, called ankoku-ji (which means a place of peace) have been built.
So What Is Zen Meditation?
Zen meditation is an awareness of our thoughts and emotional states. One of the most important principles of Zen is to give without expecting anything in return. Most of the time, people act or say things hoping that their kindness will be rewarded or appreciated. We know that such attitude may often lead to disappointment. The Zen concept teaches us to adopt kindness as part of our nature and not as a forced behaviour.
Secondly, the Zen meditation is an effective spiritual cleanser. We learn to detach from the materialistic society and focus on our inner equilibrium in order to regain the spiritual connection with our soul and the universe or simply rediscover our identity.
This may be done through various practices that I will shortly discuss.
5 Zen Practices You Can Bring to Your Life
1. Change your interior design
Our environment plays a pivotal role in our mental health and spiritual equilibrium. Since we cannot control the outside world, the best we can do is to design the interior of our home in a way that promotes peace.
Therefore, if you have a cluttered house, you should start throwing away or perhaps sell all the objects that you no longer use.
Additionally, pay attention to the colors of your room. Too dull? Or perhaps too bright? Bring some change and remove anything that may limit your personal space.
2. Limit your thoughts
Family, career, payments, goals and so many similar things rule our thinking. It creats chaos in our mind just like on a busy Monday morning in New York.
Therefore, limit your thoughts by distracting your attention with activities that relax you, such as yoga, walks in the park or Zen music.
Now that we mentioned it, why not talk about it? Yoga is a well-known form of creating physical and mental equilibrium. Regardless of the busy schedule you may have, find time during the week for yourself and practice one of the multiple yoga exercises to match your needs. This may be yoga for improved physical mobility, for reducing the stress, for anxiety, for strength or success.
4. Practice Kindness
Zen is all about love and peace. In our run for financial security and personal comfort, we forget about those who may lack support to grow.
This is why, as a Zen practitioner, you must learn to share and help. You should try to become more supportive, understanding, less impatient and less critical with the people around you.
5. Take better care of your body
Long before medicine was developed, our ancestors used to treat anxious and depressed patients with thermal baths. Now, like then, spa treatments can reduce the physical/mental tensions and boost the quality sleep.
5 Benefits of Zen Meditation
Before exploring the benefits of Zen meditation, it is important to remember that we are talking about a spiritual practice and not about an occasional exercise program. Therefore, once we understand and identify ourselves with the Zen concept, it should become part of our lifestyle and thinking pattern.
So, let’s explore the 5 advantages of a Zen lifestyle:
1. It teaches you how to control “the monkey”
Trying to calm your thoughts can trigger the “monkey mind” that constantly seeks solutions to past or future problems. Trying to calm your mind can cause your thinking to get out of hand.
Fortunately, this monkey mind has a limited lifespan. It takes 24 hours of silence for thoughts to slow down. This is why it is essential to seek solitude for a while, away from the daily stressors. Once relaxed, you create an increased emotional and physical consciousness.
2. Improves your emotional state
Just as previously mentioned, solitude is highly recommended for a spiritual cleanse. When we are constantly busy with our daily activities or in contact with people, we unconsciously absorb the external tension. Over time, these accumulated negative energies can highly affect our emotional equilibrium, making us feel stressed, depressed, anxious, impatient or irritable.
This is why moments of solitude (whether in nature or at home) are beneficial and help us re-energize and regain our emotional balance.
3. Recognition of blessings
Since we live in a materialistic society, we may tend to focus more on the objects we can own or the goals we can achieve, forgetting about what we already have. As one learns more about the Zen teachings, it becomes easier to focus on the inner world and on the challenges we have successfully overcome.
4. Improved mobility
Meditation sessions can also help you with physical mobility. The first sessions will be more complicated for many of the beginners, but as the body begins to get used to it, you will feel better.
5. Better Memory
A study published in 2011 in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” found that adults who walked in the park for 40 minutes, three times a week, for one year, exhibited brain growth in the hippocampus area. This is a brain area associated with memory space.
Walking in nature helps the brain to focus and remember things for a longer period of time.
If the concept of Zen is something new to you, we hope that you will find it helpful. If, on the other hand, you already practice it, please share with us and our readers the methods that help you maintain your inner peace.