Zazen Practice – The Secret of Zen

January 12, 2020
Zen encompasses a set of beliefs that arose in the 6th century A.D. from the philosophy of the Shakyamuni Buddha. These ideas went from one disciple to another and made it to our era. This transmission of ideas is what people know as the Zen line, usually developed through zazen practice.

Zazen practice didn’t reach Western culture until the beginning of the 20th century. It entered this society through our appreciation of martial arts and Japanese-style gardens.

What exactly is zazen practice?

The foundation of zazen practice is meditation in the lotus posture, with the legs crossed, the back straight, and the arms resting on the lap. Through this practice, you can achieve a great change in your spirit so that you can merge with the entire universe.

A woman meditating on top of a mountain.

Although many people believe that this philosophy is somewhat insane, Eastern societies have followed the precepts of zazen for many centuries. It gave rise to innumerable customs in different villages. Not only that but Buddhism also sprouted from it. This creed makes use of the foundations of zazen to develop a whole philosophy of life. One that centers on meditation and an extrasensory connection with the universe and other forms of life.

Thus, Buddhism is, in essence, a belief that stems from zazen and puts its ideas into practice. Eastern societies already believed that there were seven Buddhas before Shakyamuni Buddha, the creator of this philosophy. This would mean that the practice of zazen is transcendental.

Zazen practice steps

You could follow this interesting philosophy, which will also provide you with many of the benefits you could achieve through traditional meditation. But consider the following points before you do so.

1. The meditation posture

Posture is one of the most important elements in zazen practice. Masters advise that you sit on a comfortable round pillow. Next, cross your legs in the lotus position, or simply rest the soles of your feet on the opposite thigh (if you find the lotus posture uncomfortable).

Your back should be completely straight, with your head up and facing forward. You must also let your hands rest on your lap with your palms facing up and with your thumbs touching their ends.

Finally, relax your shoulders and place the tip of your tongue on your palate. Then, fix your gaze somewhere on the floor, approximately a yard from you. Do so without looking at anything in particular. With this position, you’ll achieve both physical and mental balance as you’ll be able to practice meditation comfortably.

2. The importance of breathing

Once you adopt the correct posture to meditate, you’ll have to focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out deeply and slowly so that your lungs gradually fill with air. Then, repeat.

A man breathing deeply.

3. Thoughts during meditation

The last part you must take into account will be the work that you’ll perform specifically on your mental plane. Pay attention to your thoughts. In this sense, masters advise that you try to clear your minds. You must free it from all kinds of thoughts, plans, or concerns. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should block them, but simply let them flow without focusing your attention on any thought in particular.

To achieve this, you must focus on your breathing. Breathing, thus, becomes a way of anchoring yourself to the present while increasing your body awareness. All while making an effort to stay in the posture described above.

As you can see, zazen practice is fairly simple and only requires a little physical and repetitive effort. This is precisely why zazen resembles life itself. Effort and repetition will allow you to achieve good personal development and adequate progress in pursuing any goal. Thus, you’ll be able to apply its philosophy both in the personal and professional aspects of your daily life.

  • Kasamatsu, A. y Hirai, T. (1966). An electroencephalographic study on the zen meditation (Zazen), Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. Volumen 20
  • Suzuki y Fromm, E. (1964). Budismo zen y psicoanálisis. Fondo de cultura económica, México.