Buddhist practice differs from other meditative practices due to the absence of unique techniques because some of the lessons are borrowed from Hindu schools of philosophy. Zen meditation, i.e. contemplation, at first seems pretty simple, although it is based on a hundred concepts and therefore requires both practical and theoretical training. In the primary state of your mind, according to the Buddhists, we are not able to concentrate on specific objects and explore deeper layers of consciousness.
What’s The Purpose Of Zen Meditation?
In terms of Buddhist tradition, the main purpose of meditation is to turn your attention within and to look inside yourself. At the same time, the task of a person is to discipline the mind, which can not clearly recognize things and stay focused on a certain object because of emotions or past experience. Only meditation can abstract the consciousness and show how full of superfluous thoughts and illusions our mind is.
Buddhists believe that the modern human mind is impure. It creates an inner illusion, i.e., the ignorance of life. One can overcome such a problem either by gaining wisdom (Prajna) or by understanding the process of achieving Samadhi (the concentrated mind).
It is possible to acquire a concentrated mind only if you have a moral lifestyle, which should definitely include relaxation and observation of the world. Therefore, meditation is so necessary for every person seeking to understand the truth and the Supreme Essence. Relaxation practices reveal our inner nature and develop our intuition.
The concentrated mind is the result of correct meditation based on the ability to analyze and calm your mind.
From a scientific point of view, I can also say that Zen practices contribute to the proper tuning of the human brain. Such meditations can increase the number of alpha waves, which opens up access to the subconscious mind. The stable performance of Buddhist exercises establishes a strong connection between your soul and body, which increases your ability to self-healing. But the main benefit of Zen meditation is, of course, achieving comprehensive peace and a sense of harmony.
Preparation For Zen Meditation
There are three stages of Buddhist meditation:
1. Shruti (study).
It is the understanding of the basics of practice. It is achieved by listening to the senior masters and reading the relevant literature.
2. Vicara (thinking).
It is necessary to discuss the information you get from studying. You should think about new knowledge and figure out how to use it in practice for your life situations.
It is a meditation itself.
Even when the first two stages are mastered, you should keep in mind that Buddhists put forward a number of conditions for each meditator.
A meditator should have a safe and peaceful home, which is not isolated from the social environment but provides hours of contemplation without mental strain.
Also, a meditator must abandon his constant desire for luxury, so beginners should not do anything with an external orientation (shopping, cinema, etc.).
A meditator should use special asanas that are designed to discipline the body during Zen meditation. It is necessary to be able to control your physical shell, then you will be able to control the movements of your mind. The choice of the specific position of the body is individual, but it is necessary to observe important principles:
1. The back should always be straight;
2. Beginners should avoid heavy physical activity during meditation;
3. Beginners should not constrain or compress the breathing.
You can meditate sitting on a pillow with crossed legs or on a solid chair with parallel feet, as well as practice Zen meditation during a leisurely walk. It is also worth paying attention to the position of the hands. You can put the right palm over the left hand, hidden under your clothes. The internal sides of your palms turn up and the thumbs slightly touching. It is also permissible to place the right hand on top palm down, expressing humility. Another option is to keep your hands on the respective knees.
Zen meditation does not imply eye closure because it does not increase the concentration of the mind. You can slightly lower your eyelids, darken the room and look down, capturing the tip of your nose. Keep your mouth closed during meditation. But pay attention to your teeth – do not clench them. Hold your breath slowly through your nose.
Objects Of Zen Meditation
It is very important to find a perfect object for your Zen meditation. Otherwise, the whole practice can go wrong. Buddhists have two categories of the Zen meditation objects:
1. Things that affect the nature of the inner body.
This kind of objects can be attributed to your breath or mind. Meditation on the nature of mind is considered to be the highest goal for many practitioners. As for the concentration on exhalation breaths, it easily holds the mind’s attention at one point, if you synchronize the movement of breathing with movements inside your mind. Sometimes you can concentrate on lifting and lowering your chest in the breathing process.
2. Things that affect the outer shell.
This includes sound objects and objects of specific shapes. In the first case, there is a concentration on some mantra, and in the second — a mental image of something, for example, a light point or a divine silhouette. Many Buddhists use a Buddha portrait or figure for meditation. But you should remember that after making a choice, you can not drastically change the object of your practice.
Try not to indulge yourself when choosing an object. Do not create attachments. If you feel anger, it’s better to create a calming mental picture of the landscapes.
It’s important not to allow yourself to fall asleep during Zen because the nap interferes with clarity and care of consciousness.
Concentration on things should be accompanied by awareness and active power of the mind, otherwise, all energy will dissipate, and will not go in a particular direction. Also, you should keep in mind that, by building a mental image of the object, you should move away from your thoughts and words. Just keep the picture in your mind, that’s all.
Zen meditation is a kind of Buddhist techniques for achieving higher forms of consciousness. It is subject to the General rules of the tradition and thus has its own nuances. The word “Zen” in Sanskrit represents meditation.
If I tried to describe the methodology of Zen meditation in just a few words, I would say: “Sit and do nothing”. This seems a simple statement, but regular classes can cause drowsiness, to withdraw into a dream world, i.e. your mind will try to turn you away from the true purpose of your practice. If you observe some tricks, you can avoid unnecessary thoughts and achieve the desired results faster:
- You can sit anywhere, but the object for your contemplation should not distract or excite you. It is best to look at the trees, sky, walls — any static and unchanging things.
- Don’t look too closely at the objects. The diffused look relaxes a lot more than long-term focus.
- When meditation has already begun, there is no need to change breathing. Let it flow in a natural rhythm.
- Don’t move your body unless it is necessary. Any body movement leads to shifts in your mind because it is based on the same kind of energy.
The correct practice of simple Zen meditation is not accompanied by visions or visual sensations that indicate excess tension. Zen meditation is like taking a shower that cleanses the mind in a state of inner peace and outer equanimity. It is important to note that such meditation is the main goal itself, but not a tool for achieving something.
Zen Meditation On Koan
In some Buddhist schools, it is customary to divide two types of Zen meditation. I’ve already described the standard concentrated awareness. But there is also the second type of Zen meditation – it is a meditation on a koan. Koan is a question or a problem that you can’t solve by logic and simple reasoning. In fact, I’m talking about the practice of going beyond the standard limits of your mind and establishing contact with the enlightened consciousness of a deeper level.
As a rule, the koans deal with certain aspects of the understanding of Buddhism, they are paradoxical. In the process of such meditation, you should not think intellectually. You should be aware of your own ignorance and go in search of the truth within yourself. There are also personal koans — mysteries of everyday life without final decisions. In this case, your task is to change your personality and your point of view on the issue.
When you learn the basic techniques of Zen meditation, you can move on to the synthesis of daily activities and relaxing settings. By simple sitting practice, you can learn to control your emotions and thoughts. But then you need to develop the ability to transfer your calmness into external actions.
Physical work in the garden or in the kitchen is quite convenient to combine with Zen meditation for an hour or even longer.
Equally effective is the practice of Zen meditation while walking, for example, in combination with a walk along the waterfront. For doing this, try to adjust your breathing to the steps, and then gradually increase the exhale by one step. You can combine dynamic meditation with exercise on account of breathing.
I’ve noticed that beginners in Buddhist practices tend to face two kinds of difficulties.
1. The mind gets distracted.
Loss of attention is a protest of your mind, which by nature should be scattered in a variety of thoughts.
2. The mind loses its clarity and energy.
This problem is related to the standing of the mind in the object of concentration. This obstacle is difficult to recognize because it resembles real meditation. When you think that your mind acquires stability, the probability of drowning increases. Immersion of the mind in the object causes a pleasant sensation, but with vigilance fades away. In this state, it is dangerous to continue the practice, because it leads to the development of laziness.
During Zen meditation people go through several stages:
- they feel that they have too many thoughts;
- then they notice long breaks in a thought process;
- and finally, they reduce anxiety and increase concentration.
In order to avoid defects of practice in time, it is necessary to attract the power of remembrance in time, which immediately warns you about the appearance of thoughts, and stay in a vigilant awareness of anxiety.
For getting rid of the distraction you can lower the object of your focus, as well as make the room darker. If you feel that your mind is drowning in the object, it is necessary to do the opposite: to make the lighting of the room brighter and to raise the object higher.
If you perform Zen meditation without blunders, you will reach success in your practice. At first, you will notice changes in your body, as you took control of your vital energy. The feeling of lightness is accompanied by the strongest experience of happiness. Harmony of the mind and the body is the most important result of any Buddhist practices.