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A Brief Guide to Zen Meditation for Stress Relief.|stacked stones|monk zen meditation|group meditation|incense-stick|koi-fish|lady in konasana|woman in sunset


Understanding Zen Meditation for Stress Relief

In pop culture, zen is equated with a state of being at peace and/or relaxed. To some, the state of being at peace is considered to be what emanates from being happy, while to others it comes about from their environment, such as a calm and peaceful environment surrounded by relaxing music ultimately being made into a stress-free zone.

However, this modern understanding of zen is a misnomer or at the very least incomplete. Zen is a derivative of the Chinese term, “Chen”, which describes a meditation technique that originated in the Tang Dynasty as far back as the 7th century. However, the term Chen is also a translation of the Indian term, “Dhyana”. With Zen Meditation being an age-old practice, you can appreciate that it is so much more than the typical contemporary definition of zen.

stacked stones

Zen Buddhism is defined as concentration or mediation where one observes the flow of thoughts, therefore obtaining insights into how the mind and even the body functions. It delves into other aspects of living that span beyond being stress-free which is typical of other modern forms of meditation. However, the principles of Zen Meditation are not only practiced while actually meditating. Zen is a way of life where you practice meditation daily, take a concerted effort to understand yourself, and where you take heed of your intuition.

Although there are numerous other aspects that contribute to being in the state of zen, meditation is a huge part. For instance, zen practitioners strive to have a sense of balance, order, simplicity, and harmony in their lives. This means that you also have to combine regular exercising, the right diet, and enough sleep with the activities that you chose to practice.

While modern forms of meditation place a huge emphasis on relaxing, therefore negating stress, Zen Meditation also involves exploring deep-rooted questions that you may have about your life; questions for which there seemingly may be no quick answers for.

monk zen meditation

Advanced zen practitioners can incorporate aspects of spirituality such as prayers or even spiritual riddles. For instance, with the guidance of a Zen Master, it can be possible to overcome rational limitations allowing one to explore their deep-rooted life questions to the core helping to attain a better understanding of their lives. In this regard, instead of seeking superficial answers to your questions, Zen Meditation, when combined with elements of spirituality, can give the practitioner a better understanding of their life.

In simple terms, Zen Meditation for stress relief is about finding your deep self with the end benefit being that you ultimately get to know and accept yourself, which plays a huge role in accepting others. Furthermore, it involves not only being at peace but learning to have a peaceful behavior. To this end, you shun taking drugs or being in a state where you are not conscious of yourself. You shun stealing, killing, lying or any behavior that may disrupt your balance in life, causing yourself, in the end, to live a life without stress.


3 Of The Best Zen Meditations For Stress Relief Techniques

Combining Zen Meditation with elements of spirituality is usually an essential of advanced Zen practitioners. However, there are numerous Zen Meditation techniques that even novices can make use of. These include:

Observing Your Breath

This meditation technique involves channeling your awareness and focus on one single object - typically your breath. You must assume a comfortable posture such as the half-lotus, Burmese, or the Seiza pose. Additionally, you will need to sit on a comfortable surface like a cushion or padded mat. While meditating, you should put more emphasis on the out-breath, which is the most relaxing breath.

You should focus on your breath as much as possible, cutting out all other distractions, including streams of disruptive thoughts. If you find yourself thinking of other things and are not focused specifically on your breathing, simply say, “thinking without judgment”, and attempt to get back to focusing on your breath.

In doing this, you celebrate that you are able to catch these thoughts and get back to meditating. Instead of thinking of yourself as a failure for not focusing on your breath, you not only acknowledge that you have deep-rooted questions, but you also focus back to meditation. Essentially, you enhance your awareness and learn to understand yourself better. It is important to never be hard and judgmental towards yourself as this is your journey towards finding yourself and learning about your true nature. This awareness will extend to everything that you do throughout the day.

Observing Your Mind

This is an advanced form of meditation that is only used when one has mastered the practice of observing their breath. It is also referred to as “just sitting” or “Shikantaza” in Japan. It involves letting your stream of thoughts flow unimpeded, meaning your thoughts flow as they please without judgment and or interference. Effectively, you practice meditation without an object of focus, contents, or anchors.

Group Meditation

This practice is known as “Sesshin” in Japan, and it involves intensive meditation as a group in temples or meditation centers. During a 30 to 60 minutes session, the practitioners use most of their time on sitting meditation, and after, there are brief sessions of walking meditation, and also meal and work breaks that should be done mindfully.

For novices turning to Zen Meditation, you might find it hard to practice this kind of lifestyle. To make it easier on yourself, start with the simplest way to practice Zen Meditation, which is done using the easiest Zen Meditation technique - the observing your breathing technique. To begin, choose a time every day that you know you will be free. Dedicate at least 5 minutes for meditation, and resolve to always meditate at the same time. You can additionally incorporate a soothing zen sound for your mediation and a timer if needed. Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to meditate longer.


How Zen Meditation Achieves Stress Relief

Zen meditation helps achieve stress relief by allowing you to clear your mind. On a daily basis, you are bombarded with constant streams of thoughts, some of which make you anxious and stressed. The various Zen Meditation techniques allow you to bring quietness in your brain, thereby yielding calmness and stress-relief. As you meditate, the freeing feeling of having thoughts wander in and out of the brain without necessarily being chained gives you better contextualizing ability. This will relieve and allow you to handle stress much better.

Zen Meditation allows your body to reduce the amount of stress-related hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline in your blood. This plays a huge role in helping you deal with stress that you face every day, and more importantly, it allows your body to reset back to normal.

lady in konasana

As mentioned above, Zen Meditation is designed to help explore any deep-rooted question in intricate details. This allows us to have an in-depth understanding of our lives and the pressures we are faced with including being able to explore questions faced in our lives that you can develop a better solution for as you understand the core of issues you face.

Moreover, scientific studies have shown that brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to change, is extraordinary. Zen Meditation trains our brains to change and cope for the better when faced with certain situations. As such, by practicing Zen meditation, you increase your brain’s capacity and ability to handle daily pressure. With the increased capacity and ability, you end up with better stress management abilities and lower stress.

The Benefits Of Zen Meditation for Stress Relief

Aside from stress relief, Zen meditation has other benefits that include:

Better Health

Scientific studies have found that Zen Meditation yields healthful changes to your metabolic rate, blood pressure, brain chemistry, respiration, and much more. The work of National Institutes of Health and the work of Dr. Herbert Benson have proven that these healthful changes take place. Additionally, other studies have found that long-term meditators tend to have increased grey matter.

woman in sunset

Lasting Inner Peace And Happiness

Zen Meditation allows us a practitioner to attain a calmer mind. In turn, this allows us to experience life in the present moment and more importantly, appreciate all the gifts granted to us. In the end, zen allows us to enjoy lasting happiness, something that not even material substance can grant us.

Improve Your Awareness

You cannot be aware of yourself or your environment when you have a cluttered mind. Zen Meditation helps you achieve mind-calmness, which enhances your ability to be aware of yourself and your environment.

Improve Creativity

Zen trains the mind to be calm allowing you to be cognizant of your environment and yourself. Moreover, it allows your brain to think unimpeded, thus increasing creativity.

As a way of life, zen can help a practitioner lead a fulfilling life that is more attuned to a peaceful existence. Importantly, in the face of commotion and never-ending life stresses, Zen Meditation is able to help you relax and lead a stress-free life, or at the very least, help you cope with stress.

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