Zen Meditation – Guide to Beginning Meditation
This guide covers the essentials of Zen meditation. You will learn the practical steps to help quiet the mind to achieve deep concentration.
Even though the article is called meditation for beginners, the steps described are practiced by meditators at all levels. When you become proficient at meditation you will be able to reach calm focused states of mind effortlessly.
Please keep in mind that the most important points are actually very simple, just observe the mind and breath. There is more detail in this article simply so you will understand the subtler points of meditation. If you would rather have just the essentials then please feel free to watch the video below and dive right in to your meditation. If you would like a more detailed explanation then please read on after the video.
In Zen meditation a certain amount of awareness is placed on posture. Stability in the body will create stability in the mind. When I meditate I like to sit in a cross-legged posture on two pillows. I situate the pillows so that my back will remain straight throughout the meditation. If you are flexible then you may want to try the full or half-lotus position so that there is as little movement as possible. One of the most stable ways to meditate is to do so on a zafu or zabuton. If you plan to practice regularly then it may benefit you to get one, but it’s not entirely necessary.
Regardless of what position you choose be wary of tension. You may notice that certain muscles exert effort to balance the position you’re in. If this happens then you need to ease the tension and relax those muscles. To find a more balanced posture you may want to rock back and forth slightly, find your center, and settle in.
Keep in mind that tension in the body will create mental chatter. Scan your body for tension build up if you feel your mind constantly wandering.
Position your head so that it’s naturally at an attentive position without straining the neck. Tuck your chin so that the spine is in alignment up through your neck. Imagine an energy beam extended from the ceiling going through the top of your head to the base of your spine. Your body will feel more relaxed in this position as you adjust to it.
You can choose to meditate with your eyes focused on a single point, or closed and relaxed. I find that if I focus on a single point, that I can become distracted by my eyes watering up, or by noticing something else in the room. Meditating with the eyes open can be useful if you find that your imagination takes flight or your mind wanders with closed eyes. Whichever you choose, try to be aware of any eye movement, and muscle tension. If you do not relax your eyes properly, they will still produce micro-movements. By being aware of the muscles surrounding the eyes and allowing them to relax, we can bring ourselves deeper into pure stillness.
Relaxing the jaw and facial muscles is a good way to release tension. Unless you are keenly aware of it, you may not notice how much tension resides in the jaw. The jaw muscles are some of the strongest in the body, and are frequently used throughout the day. You may want to give yourself a nice facial massage by rubbing your jaw muscles in a circular motion with your fingers. If you have TMJ or frequent headaches due to tension then you will find that these exercises may help. I highly recommend stretching the jaw muscles on a regular basis. For meditation purposes, the jaw should be held lightly enough so that you are able to push your tongue out without using much pressure.
Putting a slight smile on the face will relax your facial muscles and improve your mood. Give it a try.
It’s suggested that the mouth remains closed and you only use nasal breathing when meditating. There are many benefits to nasal breathing – such as filtering and warming the air we inhale. In meditation it helps to notice how the cool air feels as it moves through the passageways as you inhale. When exhaling you can notice the warm flow and relaxing feeling of the breath moving outwards.
The tactile sensations and movement of the breath should be your main focus in Zen meditation. You may want to focus on the rushing sounds the air makes as it moves through your body. Whatever sensations you are more aware of remember to focus on them to avoid getting caught up in mental chatter.
If you would like to understand one of the most relaxing ways to breath during meditation (or any other time really) then please view this article on breathing techniques.
Please understand that all of these guidelines are simply a way to understand more about Zen meditation. You truly must do what works best for you. So if all of these tips are distracting you, then just forget about them. Do what feels right. Focus on the breath, try to relax, and just observe the mind without becoming caught up in it.
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