Zen meditation or Zazen originated through Buddhism in India thousands of years ago and was introduced to Japan through China about a thousand years ago.
The idea of Zen meditation is to harmonise your body, mind and breath. Zen meditation emphasises your understanding and experience of this connection, leading to a deeper feeling of relaxation when you rest your attention on your breathing.
1. Ensure you’re in an environment where you won’t be disturbed and turn off any potential distractions.
2. Take time to find an upright sitting posture. In Zen, posture is considered an important aspect of the meditation. You could sit cross-legged on the floor, on a cushion or on a chair, with your back straight and away from the back of the chair. Place your left hand, palm up, in the palm of your right hand. Let your thumbs lightly touch. Allow your chin to be slightly ‘tucked in’ so the back of your neck isn’t straining. Loosen any tension in your shoulders or abdomen. You tongue can lightly touch your upper jaw and your back teeth gently together. Let your eyes be half open and focus on a point on the floor about a metre in front of you.
3. Begin by completely breathing out from your mouth, keeping your lower abdomen relaxed. Then breathe in through your nose, first filling your chest area and then your abdomen. Breathe in this way for a few breaths if that feels okay for you. Then keep your mouth closed and breathe in and out through your nose, allowing your breaths to be long and smooth.
4. To help focus your attention, you can count your breaths until you get to ten. You can count each time you have an inbreath, or each time you have an outbreath. Once you reach ten, start again at 1.
5. When your time is up, open your eyes fully and have a little stretch before returning to your daily activities.
After you’ve established yourself in breath counting, you can try being aware of your breathing without counting. Simply be present with your breathing without any desire for a particular outcome. The idea is simply to be with your experience from moment to moment. If you want to learn other Zen techniques, seek out a teacher.
If the posture feels very uncomfortable, just sit in a way that works for you.