A great form of Meditation.
Zen practices consist of a form of meditation. Buddha meaning roughly is (one who is awake) or (enlightened one).
You do not have to be a Buddhist or practice Buddhism to reap the benefits of zen practices through thoughts and belief structures.
Belief principles contain ideas that everything is subject to change and that suffering and discontentment are the result of attachment to circumstances and things which, by their nature, are impermanent. By ridding oneself of these attachments, including attachment to the false notion of self or "I", one can be free of suffering.
The teachings of the Buddha have, to this day, been passed down from teacher to student. Around 475 A.D. one of these teachers,
Bodhidharma, traveled from India to China and introduced the teachings of the Buddha there. In China Buddhism mingled with Taoism. The result of this mingling was the Ch'an School of Buddhism. Around 1200 A.D. Ch'an Buddhism spread from China to Japan where it is called (at least in translation) Zen Buddhism. Zen practices also began to establish a notable presence in North America and Europe after this time.
The meaning of Words in the Zen Practices
Ultimately the awakening to our fundamental enlightened mind, is beyond descriptions possible in words. Zen Masters use words only to coax, prod, push, or drag a person to enlightenment, both as an experience and a way of life. Zen Practices have little use for words which don't precipitate or point to, Awakening.
One of the central points of Zen is intuitive understanding. As a result, words and sentences have no fixed meaning, and logic is often irrelevant. Words have meaning only in relation to who is using them, who they are talking to, and what situation they are used in. Zen leads us to the highest attainment we can ever achieve which is called enlightenment, or, union with the Ultimate, or return to God. This thought focus trains us to be aware of each present moment and to be simple, direct and effective in our actions.
Zazen or Zen meditation is the study of the self. In the practice of Zazen you bring together the body, mind and breath as one. The method used t experience this meditation is below.
Zen Practices Positioning of the Body
The mouth is kept closed. The tongue is pressed lightly against the upper palate. And the eyes are kept lowered. This is to keep automatic bodily responses to a minimum such as swallowing, blinking and prevent visual disturbances. Relax your muscles
Wearing non-restrictive clothing is a standard requirement for any meditation since you must be comfortable as well as lessen any pressures that tight clothing may place on your body that prevent free circulation of blood throughout.
You may kneel or sit in a chair using proper posture for a positive air flow so that your breathing is not restricted in any way or you may use the traditional pyramid structure that you often see of the seated Buddha.
When sitting on the floor you may use a zafu or small pillow positioned on top of a Zaniku which is a larger rectangular flat pillow that cushions the knees and allows for positioning and balance. Other positions you may want to use are the half lotus which is one leg crossed over so that the bottom of the foot is resting on the upper part of your leg and face up in the cross legged position or the full lotus where both legs are crossed over so that the bottom of the feet are resting on the upper part of your legs and face up in the cross legged position.
Zen Practices Hand Positioning
The Power of Concentration called ‘joriki’
Cosmic Mudra - With both palms upward bring your hands towards your body until the fingertips are touching, slide one hand under the other until your two thumbs meet at the tips. You should have formed an oval hole between your thumbs and the palm of your hand. In this position you can relax the hands in your lap which places them in front of what is called your hara. The hara is the spiritual center of the body which originates about two inches below your navel.
Focus your thoughts on your breath and your hara. The goal of Zen meditation is to bring together your body, mind and breath as one. Keeping this goal in mind you may want to picture the slow sway of a willow tree in the breeze and connect the slowly blowing limbs of the tree with your breathing.
Breathe in slowly through your nose and exhale slowly in the same manner. Your mind may want to wander to other interrupting thoughts, don’t let this discourage you but simply bring your thoughts back to your breathing. With each exhale begin to count your breaths to maintain your thought focus. Each time you have an interrupting thought emerge gently push it aside and start counting from one again.
In continuing this effort you are training your mind to react to your wishes and you are forming control over your thoughts with the power of concentration or ‘joriki’. To know when you have mastered this you will notice that you can count from one to ten a few times without the interruption of any thoughts. Once this training is complete you can stop the counting and control your mind by only focusing on your breath throughout your meditation. To develop strong concentration you should stay with this step for an extended period of time until it is fully mastered.
The mind will relax while your respiration and heart rate will slow down in this meditation. The breaths may drop to only a few breaths a minute. When maintaining this form of mind control and relaxation your mind is unbound from useless thoughts, opinions and judgments that weigh heavy in our minds and sicken our bodies with negative feelings and views of the world and our surroundings. In possessing this freedom we are more aware and at one with ourselves and the importance of inner peace and harmony. Some refer to this as Nirvana the highest state of consciousness, in which the soul is freed from all desires and attachments. Your mind is at rest and your breath is deep, easy, and effortless.
To learn more about zen practices you may want to look into the books below which are very helpful to the beginner in obtaining additional knowledge on Zen.
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guided imagery meditation
meditation exercise you can use with Zen Practices