There are a number of relaxation techniques that exist all over the world with their own distinct characteristics. These techniques have their own stories and foundations as they have historical backgrounds which tell of their beginnings and how they came to be.
While some relaxation techniques utilize different methods such as aromatherapy or even the technological advent that has come throughout the years, there are still some relaxation techniques that exist that only use the body and the mind.
Yoga and meditation are the most common practices that don’t require any apparatus or accessory aside from yourself. They only involve the use of concentration and moving your body around. One of those practices is Zen meditation which comes from a long history since its establishment and has now become one of the most well-known and positively received relaxation techniques all over the globe.
What is Zen?
Zen comes from the discipline of the Mahayana Buddhism. This practice originated from China way back in the 6th century and introduced as Chan. And then from China, the practice of Zen slowly spread to the Southern regions reaching Vietnam, to the Northeast regions reaching Korea and then to the Eastern regions reaching Japan.
What the practice of Zen focuses on is the achievement of a state of enlightenment and how one can express his or her own insights in the Buddhist teachings. This is quite familiar as it is also the goal of many natural and historical relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, tai chi and more.
This is why Zen does not focus more on the knowledge of the sutras and the doctrine but it emphasizes more on the understanding of the practice itself through the zazen and interaction which is mostly made effective when done with an experienced teacher.
The Zen teachings include a variety of sources which stems around the practice. They usually come from the Mahayana thought which include the Yogacara, the Tathagatagarbha Sutras, the Huayan, the Madhyamaka and even the Prajnaparamita literature.
The Zen Meditation
The practice of Zen is focused on the meditation or the dhyana. Those who believe in the tradition of Zen hold the principle that through the practice of meditation, the doctrine and the teachings are upheld. These beliefs are often connected with the notions that obscure the uplifting wisdom that is often associated with the nature of the Buddhist belief and nature.
This is considered as discovering oneself again and it goes under terms like introspection or taking a step backwards to find the meaning of one’s self and provide enlightenment when it comes to one’s sense of purpose in life.
Observing how you breathe is essential in the Zen meditation practice. It is often that practitioners take a lotus position, a half lotus position or a cross-sitting position which facilitates a degree of focus and discipline at the same time. It is believed that to regulate one’s mind, one has to be aware on his or her breathing and then counting or putting forth energy in the area located below the navel.
This sense of awareness brings about a level of focus that contributes to the goal of the Zen meditation which is enlightenment. For the comfort of the practitioner, a soft mat or cushion is placed on the floor where one sits on. In other cases, a chair can be used if one is not used to sitting in the lotus or half-lotus positions.
Focusing on one’s mind is a key factor that is essential in the practice of Zen meditation. The practice of meditation which does not rely on objects, anchors or any similar articles is the primary form of the meditative practice that is done by Zen practitioners. During meditation, the practitioner works on achieving the awareness of his or her thoughts, allowing them to appear and then letting them pass on without dwelling on them.
This practice is thought to be philosophical in its own right while others call it to be textual or an experience that is just a unique phenomenon in itself. The justification of this meditative practice can be read in Dogen’s Shobogenzo as the different principles of the Zazen are found as well as the instructions on how to perform the Zazen.
Group meditation is also an accepted practice in the Zen tradition. These group meditations are often done in monasteries where a group of people would gather and initiate meditation. Monks may initiate the intensive group meditation which can last as long as several hours daily.
During this period of intensive meditation and focus, they devote themselves only to the practice of sitting meditation and relinquishing the negative thoughts that they may have. Though it is found that this meditative practice is done for several hours of each day, these may only span about an hour and is already considered as a long period for meditation.
The practitioners then take short breaks to rest for meals, naps or even short periods for work but still maintaining the same state of mind. Even sleep at night is kept to the minimum requirement which last for about 7 hours or even less. The length of intensive group meditation in Zen which can last from one to seven days, is usually taken by a number of students and is practiced in various countries like Japan, Taiwan and even the United States.
These meditations are often held in Zen centers to commemorate the Buddhist beliefs. One article that may be used in Zen meditation is a flat wooden slat which is used to maintain the focus and awareness of the practitioner and also ensuring that he or she stays awake.
The practice of Zen is a historical feat that stems from many years in its foundation. Coming from the Buddhist belief that achieving a sense of inner peace and enlightenment is more important than the materialistic aspect of life, the Zen meditation allows us to focus on our mind and how it correlates with the body. As years go by, the practice Zen just continues to develop.