Zen Meditation: Insight Into The Unconscious

8 min read
Published on 09 November, 2021

Maintaining wellness and a healthy lifestyle isn't just about having a healthy body but also having a peaceful mind. With the constant struggle for success and juggling a social life, you find yourself stuck in a loop with hardly any remaining room for you.

Therein lies the value of meditation. Nowadays, meditation has become quite popular. Mental health awareness is as important as physical health. As the world struggles with the pandemic and stress, mental health is more important than ever. It helps you to relax and is an effective stress buster.

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

Often, when you hear about mediation, you think of mindfulness. Yet, meditation encompasses much more than a single practice. There are different forms of meditation, and the purpose of this article is to explore more about zen meditation.

What is Zen meditation?

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Zazen, commonly known as Zen meditation, is a practice that is rooted in Buddhist meditation. It is the goal of Zen meditation to regulate your attention and let go of all negative thoughts. The practice consists of acknowledging reality as it is and being aware of everything worldly as being temporary.

Letting go of your thoughts is the main purpose of zen meditation.

Zazen as a seated meditation is the very heart of Zen meditation practice. Zen is known as the mediation school of Buddhism. It is the study of self, access to one's state of unconsciousness.

Thus, it is often referred to as the practice that involves thinking about not thinking.

Concentration is the heart of zen meditation.

Zen meditation is considered as an open mind-control as it involves opening of your sensory and other senses. Unlike other meditation techniques involving the shutting of eyes, zen training involves only semi-opening your eyes.

Zen Buddhism is the blend of Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Taison. Originating in China, it became popular in western nations by the mid-20th century. It was originally named "Chan Buddhism, " but Japan gave it the name "ZEN."

The four principles of Zen meditation

The core of Zen Buddhism is based on these four tenets from Bodhidharma's writings:

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People who follow zen Buddhism strongly are called monks. They spend their time meditating while sitting on a floor in a lotus position.

The different types of Zen meditation

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It may surprise you to learn that there are several different types of Zen meditation. They all have their unique characteristics, each with its advantages.

1. Bompu Zen

Bompu originally means ordinary. Thus bompu Zen is a regular meditation practice that is more or less like any other mindfulness practice. People of any age group can practice it.

It is basically about achieving mental and physical wellness. It teaches you to calm your mind and resist any temptation, attachments. It helps you cultivate your personality and strength of character to face any difficulty with ease.

2. Gedo Zen

Gedo means outside, and it refers to traditions outside Buddhist practices and the normal experiences of life. Unlike Buddhism, Gedo Zen relates to Hindu yoga, Confucian sitting practices, and Christian contemplation practices. It is more connected to religion and the philosophy of life.

The goal of Gedo Zen practice is to achieve an altered state of consciousness or develop skills or powers you aren't normally capable of.

Suggested read : Japa Meditation-An Awakening of your Transcendental Energy.

3. Shojo Zen

Shojo means a small vehicle. It is used in the teaching of moving on from a state of illusion to enlightenment. It is practiced for self-exploration and believes that only you are responsible for your peace of mind.

Shojo Zen masters or practitioners believe in the dual nature of reality and see themselves as separate beings from the whole. It allows you to endure suffering and confusion by exploring the world around you through direct experience.

4. Daijo Zen

Daijo Zen is known as the great practice which was taught by buddha. It allows you to understand that you affect everyone else and that everyone affects you. It's about learning greater intimacy and compassion.

It teaches you to break free from any limitations and illusions of the world and completely understand reality. It aims to focus on the nature of self and is a religion of enlightenment.

Suggested Read : Sound Healing: A New Way To Wellness At Workplace.

5. Saijojo Zen

Saijojo Zen is the greatest vehicle in Zen practice as it doesn't aim to focus on achieving or realizing anything. It aims to bring you back to your true essence.
The goal of Saijojo zen practice is achieving enlightenment through dedicated practice.

The sleepiness when you first start meditating is normal. After all, our bodies are programmed to recognize that quiet time with our eyes closed usually means we want to go to bed.

Benefits of a Zen meditation session

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"The busier we are, the more we can benefit from stillness and mindfulness. But it doesn't have to take forever."

Zen meditation offers a lot of benefits, just like other kinds of meditation. Although not much research has been done on the difference between meditation and zen meditation, it is found that the benefits of both are somewhere similar or even more.

Some of the benefits of practicing Zen meditation are -

1. Improved focus

2. Improved sleep quality

3. Improved concentration

4. More peaceful mindset and inner peace

5. Helps in drug/substance abuse treatment

6. Improved intuition

7. The movement towards enlightenment and oneness

8. Improved insight

In Taiwan, Zen meditation techniques are sometimes used in drug addiction treatment. Zen improves the autonomic nervous system while simultaneously reducing heart rate and respiration. In turn, this helps with addictions.

Thus, in addition to many other benefits of zen meditation, there's one more which distinguishes it from the rest. According to 2018 research, it is observed that people who practice zen meditation daily can access their unconscious mind.

Since an unconscious mind is vast, thus it helps to foster greater creativity and help people become more aware of what they need to do to reach their goals.

Brain scan reveals that zen meditation can help free the mind of distractions which could be beneficial for ADD, ADHD, anxiety, and other mental health complications.

How to practice Zen meditation

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In Zazen or Zen meditation practice, body, mind, and breath are seen as one inseparable reality than a separate one. More focus is given to the position of our body resulting in an awakened and relaxed state of mind.

Practicing these techniques consistently can help your experience of mediation profoundly. With each practice session, one is more in terms with their reality, transforming your heart, mind, and life.

Zen meditation involves different types of sitting postures, each with its own advantages

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1. Burmese position

The first and the simplest position is the Burmese position.

  • In this posture, you sit cross-legged, and your feet are resting flat on the floor.

  • The heel of your left foot should be touching the inside of your right thigh, while the toes of your right foot should run up the shin gently in front of your left foot.

  • The knees should also rest on the floor, and your muscles will loosen up, shifting your head upwards towards the ceiling.

  • It is your choice whether to place your hands atop your thighs or on the inside of your lap.

A zafu is a special cushion for meditating, which rests on the ground to make the floor more spongy and embracing.

2. Half lotus position

The second position is the half-lotus position.

  • In this position the left foot is placed on the top of the right thigh, and the right leg is tucked under.

  • Since this position is slightly asymmetrical, there's a possibility of compensating the upper body to keep it straight.

3. Full lotus position

The lotus position is the most stable position of Zen meditation.

  • In this position each leg is placed on top of the other.

  • It may be symmetrical and solid, but it still demands a lot of hip flexibility.

  • Mind practice is one of the main goals of zen meditation, which also focuses on stability and flexibility.

4. Seize position

  • In the seize position, you sit on your buttock with both feet upfront with touch the buttock.

  • Or you can use a pillow to keep the weight off your ankles.

  • Another way of sitting seiza is to use the seiza bench.

  • It supports all the weight off your feet and helps to keep your spine straight.

you can use cushions or pillows to keep the weight off your ankles.

5. Chair position

The last and most loved position of zen meditation is the chair position.

  • You can finally sit on a chair and keep your feet flat on the ground in this position.

  • If it helps, you can use a zafu beneath or on the chair and sit on a forward third.

  • It helps to keep your spine in a straight posture.

Thus, all the important aspects of this posture, whether seated floor or in seiza, are just as important when sitting in a chair.

Zen meditation techniques beyond the traditional ones

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There are three traditional Zen meditation techniques, in addition to the traditional positions. They can be performed both seated and standing or even better doing some leisure activities.

In this article , three of those are mentioned below -

1. Kinhin ( Zen walking meditation )

Zen walking meditation is a bit different from other walking meditations. It focuses the mind on the movement of walking while keeping your fists closed.

It is performed by applying the concept of mindfulness to it. When you do it, it increases your mind-body connection, heightens your mindfulness, and boosts your mental state.

Practicing Zen walking meditation barefoot gives a better experience.

2. Zen gardening

Zen gardening is a therapeutic method of meditation that could be the best one for those who love horticulture and to indulge in nature.

Keeping track of your movement with mindfulness can be a great stress reliever.

3. Koan

Zen Buddhist schools meditate on Koans. The purpose of these riddles or puzzles is not to be solved but to open the mind.

For example, Zen Koans often ask, "What was your original face before your mother and father were born?"

These koans further help you to contemplate.

How do you breathe in a Zen meditation session?

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In Zen meditation, the breathing process is most critical. The breathing is done mainly through your nose.

But to get it right, you'll need to focus on your sitting posture.Then breathe in through your nose quietly with your mouth closed.

Your breath should be relaxed and never forced. Inhalation should be calm and long. But the main focus is on exhalation.

Suggested read : 13 Mindfulness Meditation Exercises To Improve Your Employees Well-being.

Summing it up

In conclusion, we can say to sustain your meditation over time; you must enjoy it.The paradox of Zen, meditation, and mindfulness is Western society's obsession with getting it right when the whole point of mindfulness, Zen, and meditation is that 'right' and 'wrong' are meaningless. That life is just 'as it is.

This article is written by Neha Yasmin who is a content marketer at Vantage Circle. A selenophile with a penchant for discovering great meals and drinks. Is a self-proclaimed binge racer with a knack for cooking in her spare time. For queries, reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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