Zen is technically a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism that emphasizes the value of meditation and intuition. But today Zen has become synonymous with peace and relaxation. Nowadays to be ‘Zen’ means to be ‘chill’, to be able to enter a state of calm even when chaos surrounds you.
But how do you go from your hectic life, being reactive to your circumstances, and totally stressed, to a calm peaceful state? How can you live in the present moment, increase your inner clarity, and find that sense of balance in your life?
Research shows that meditation can improve your life in many ways:
- Reduced stress
- Improved concentration
- Encouragement of a healthy lifestyle
- Increased self-awareness
- Heightened levels of happiness
- Slowed aging process
- Healthier immune system
- Improved cardiovascular health
How to Get Started?
It helps at first to find a quiet space and to get into a comfortable position. Start small, 5-10 minutes. Set a timer so you don’t get distracted by clock watching. Be easy on yourself if your mind wanders or you fail. This is a practice and it takes practice.
There are many different types of meditation techniques, so one is bound to resonate with you. Here are a few for you to try:
This is great for beginners. All you have to do is listen to either a trained practitioner, teacher, or a recording. Often it includes relaxing music. Then you follow their instructions. This type of meditation directs the imagination to help you relax your mind and body.
Visual Imagery Meditation
Visual Imagery meditation is where the meditator visualizes calming imagery. You focus on things you find relaxing, like nature scenes or puppies. Guided meditations often employ this technique.
Pranayama or Breathing Techniques
There are many different pranayama techniques that you can use during meditation. One of the easiest to learn is taking deep, relaxing, abdominal breaths.
Breathe in and out through your nose.
Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, then taking a deep breath in, feel your belly rise. As you exhale, feel your belly recede. Your chest should remain relatively still. As you become more proficient in this technique, relax your hands.
You can also pare this breathing technique with other forms of meditation to illicit the relaxation response.
One Pointed Meditation
This is the most common and classic type of meditation. In one pointed meditation you focus on a particular focal point as an anchor to settle your mind.
You can focus on the breath, a mantra or a sound, an object like a picture or a candle flame…you catch the drift.
The rule with this technique is not to get frustrated or annoyed with yourself when your mind wanders. Just shrug it off and go back to focusing.
Walking meditation proves that you don’t have to be still to get the benefits of mediation.
An easy way to do walking meditation is to find a short pathway and simply walk back and forth. Keep your eyes cast down without looking at anything in particular. Let your attention settle into the body, notice the movement of your legs. Be aware of the pressure and sensations in your feet as they make contact with the ground. Feel your weight shift from one foot to another.
Certain beats stimulates your brainwaves to resonate in sync with that particular beat. Quiet, calm music triggers the relaxation response.
Pick a piece of music you enjoy and that you find relaxing. Then focus your attention on different parts of the song. Either listen to a particular instrument, melody, beat, or how they all bend into the music.
During mindfulness meditation you simply observe your wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each as it arises.
For thousands of years people have used meditation to move beyond stressful thoughts and emotional upheavals into the peace and clarity of present moment. So why not join them and give meditation a try.
If you would like to get more, download the ‘Awaken Find Your Zen’ guide!