Zen Buddhist meditation is an ancient type of meditation that dates back to the 7th Century Tang Dynasty. It originated from China and then spread quickly to Korea, Japan and other countries in the Far East. The term Zen is a derivative of the Chinese word chan, itself a translation of the Indian term dhyana, which means concentration or meditation.
Zen meditation is a traditional Buddhist practice, which is applicable to both new and seasoned meditators. There are numerous Zen meditation benefits that provide insight into how are minds work. As with other forms of Buddhist meditation, this practice can help people in innumerable ways, including dealing with depression and anxiety issues. While Zen helps to work with a wide array of psychological issues, the true purpose is spiritual, to uncover the innate clarity and workability of our minds.
Zen Meditation Benefits
Zen Buddhist meditation mainly involves observing your flow of thought and developing insight into how your body and mind operate. Unlike many popular and new-age forms of meditation that are channeled towards relaxation and stress relief, Zen meditation delves much deeper than that. It is used to tackle deep-rooted issues such as general life questions that on the surface seem to have no answers. Advanced Zen practice includes working with koans, a type of spiritual riddle that is presented by a Zen meditation master to the student, to help overcome ones rational limitations. This practice is only undertaken with a genuine Zen master and dedicated student. Rather than offering temporary solutions to life’s problems, Zen meditation gets to the very core of issues. It helps deal with the true cause of the unhappiness and dissatisfaction we’ve all experienced, thus bringing about true understanding.
Here are some Zen meditation benefits you should know about:
- Clearing your thought process: our minds are frequently bombarded with a plethora of thoughts every passing minute. This constant trail of thought hinders clarity and consequently affects your decision making. Part of the benefit of different Zen meditation techniques is to bring quietness and stillness to your mind.
- Reducing anxiety and stress: it’s natural to occasionally get stressed up in life. However, when stress and anxiety levels become unbearable, they threaten to ruin your quality of life. Zen meditation techniques are aimed at helping you empty the mind by allowing you to deal properly with intrusive thoughts, neither ignoring them nor becoming fascinated with them. This freeing experience is one of the most rewarding Zen meditation benefits.
- Bringing happiness and lasting inner peace: Trungram Gyalwa PhD, a renowned scholar and meditation master, explains that the true key to happiness isn’t wealth or fame – it lies within us. He also explains that the more you give to others, the more you gain. Zen meditation helps us to achieve a calmer mind, allowing us to appreciate all the little gifts that life throws at us, that are all contained within this present moment. Our personal happiness gradually increase as our concern and compassion for others expands. As a Zen master might say, if you seek such inner peace you won’t be able to find it, but the act of giving up the idea of such a reward in itself creates the possibility for lasting peace. This is truly the spiritual dimension of Zen.
- Improving creativity and awareness: since Zen Buddhism meditation trains the mind to achieve calmness, meditators gradually become more aware of their environment. They also think better and more creatively.
- Enhancing your mental and physical health: apart from improving your mental wellness, one of the major Zen meditation benefits involves boosting physical health. A reduction in stress and reduction further leads to lowered blood pressure levels. Like all genuine forms of meditation, Zen Buddhist meditation is especially beneficial to hypertension patients as well as those with heart diseases.
Top 3 Zen Meditation Techniques
- Observation of the breath
Meditators should assume a comfortable posture such as the Burmese, half-lotus or Seiza pose during this sitting meditation technique. Individuals are encouraged to sit on a padded mat or cushion when meditation, although sitting on a chair is also acceptable. Awareness is channeled towards a certain object of meditation, generally observing your breath.
- Observation of the mind
Here, meditators learn to observe the thoughts flowing through their minds without judgment. They gradually allow their stream of thoughts to arise and fall as they please, without any interference. This Zen Buddhism meditation technique is practiced with no object of meditation, anchors or contents. The Japanese call this practice shikantaza, or “just sitting”. This is an advanced form of meditation that is only used after lengthy practice of observation of the breath.
- Intensive group meditation
Regularly, serious meditators practice rigorous group meditation in meditation centers or temples. The Japanese call this practice sesshin. During this period of intensive meditation, practitioners devote most of their time to sitting meditation. Each session lasts about 30 to 50 minutes, alternated with walking meditation, followed by short breaks and meals. Meals are taken as part of the practice, usually with oryoki bowls. Brief periods of work are also performed mindfully. Today, such Zen meditation techniques are still practiced in Taiwan, Japan and the West.
Clearly, Zen Buddhism meditation is a traditional form of meditation with numerous wholesome benefits for the dedicated practitioner.