How to Start Zen Meditation (zazen) for Beginners

Zen meditation


Meditation can be an invaluable way to de-stress. If you’re feeling stressed, experimenting with meditation can help. Zazen is a type of meditation specific to Zen Buddhism. This includes focusing on your breath and being fully present in the moment. To start zen meditation you need a comfortable place and position. Try short sessions where you focus on your breath. Over time, develop a routine that works for you. Meditation can be difficult at first as it takes practice to clear your mind. However, you will eventually find a meditation routine that works for you.

Get in the right position

Create a relaxing place to sit.

It’s important to meditate in a relaxing place free of distractions. Find a spot in your home that is relatively quiet and make it a relaxing environment. That depends heavily on personal preferences. Some people build an altar with objects such as shells, stones, or flowers. Other people like to light candles. Collect items that you find calming to create the right meditation spot for you. Your place will grow all by itself over time, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect right away. If you meditate regularly, you will find out what works for you and what doesn’t.

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Get into a stable position.

The literal translation of zazen is “sitting meditation”. How you sit is very important. The most important thing is that you are comfortable and that your back stays straight. If it requires you to cross your legs or use pillows to support your back, do so. If you’re flexible, you can do half lotus (hankafuza) or lotus (kekkafuza) pose. You assume the half-lotus position by placing your left foot on your right thigh and crossing your right leg under your left thigh. You assume the lotus position by placing each foot on the other thigh. If the positions are painful for you, do not do them as they will only distract you.

Hold your head comfortably.

The position of your head is very important in Zen meditation as it is important that you do not do anything that strains your body. Keep your head in a position that feels natural and doesn’t strain your neck. Ideally, your spine should be in line with your neck. Imagine a straight line running down your spine. Hold your neck so that this line continues up your neck. Tucking your chin in helps align your spine and neck.

Relax your jaw and facial muscles.

Before you start meditating, stop and notice any tightness you feel in your jaw or facial muscles. You might not notice the tightness in your jaw until you focus on it. Relax your jaw and facial muscles before beginning the meditation. If your jaw is very tight, you can gently massage your face with your fingers to loosen the muscles.

Practice the basics

Breathe through your nose.

In Zen meditation, much of the focus is on the breath. It is important that you breathe through your nose. Breathing through the nose creates a cooling and warming sensation as you breathe in and out. This makes it easier to follow the rhythm of your breath during meditation.

Concentrate on your breath.

As you begin to meditate, notice your breath as best you can. Pay attention to the natural on-off rhythm, the sound of your breathing, and the warm and cold feelings the air causes in your lungs. During your meditation sessions, try to be aware of your breathing as much as possible. This may sound simple, but stilling the mind is very difficult. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t concentrate very well on your breath at first. Like anything else, meditation takes practice.

Decide what to do with your eyes.

You can keep your eyes open, half close, or fully close. Some people find it helpful to focus their eyes on a specific point in space. Others prefer to keep their eyes closed. It’s a matter of personal preference. Do with your eyes what feels most natural and soothing to you. You just have to try it out. Change what you’re doing with your eyes when you’re distracted or uncomfortable. For example, if your eyes start to water when you focus on one point, close them. See if that helps you focus on your breath.

Reorient your mind when it wanders.

It’s normal for your mind to wander when you’re sitting in silence. When you start meditating, you will think of other things first. You will think about things you have to do or things that happened earlier in the day. When you notice this, gently bring your thoughts back to your breath. Become one with the natural flow of your breath and the feelings it creates. Counting your breaths can help you focus again.

Start with two minutes of meditation.

Zen meditation requires commitment. If you want to meditate for too long too soon, you may not be able to focus on your breath. Start meditating for just two minutes at a time. As you become more comfortable with the meditation, you can increase the duration.

Develop a routine

Buy a zafu or a small pillow.

A zafu cushion is a cushion specially designed for Zen meditation. If you find that Zen meditation helps you, you can buy a zafu cushion online. It can help you easily get into the right position in any meditation.

Don’t worry too much about perfection.

Beginners sometimes worry that they are bad at meditation. You may find it difficult to clear your mind and focus on your breath. Don’t get frustrated and don’t beat yourself up. It is normal for meditation to seem difficult at first. Don’t be so hard on yourself and keep practicing. The meditation will eventually become easier. Remember that even people who meditate regularly never fully clear their mind. It’s normal to keep having to stop your thoughts and bring them to your breath. Don’t think you’re meditating incorrectly just because you get distracted.

Extend your sessions over time.

Start with short sessions and build up. If you’re comfortable with short meditations, add a few minutes each week. You will eventually be able to meditate longer. There is no one size fits all rule for meditation. You might be able to relax with very long meditation sessions of around 25 minutes. You could also do short sessions of five to ten minutes. Experiment around over time until you find something that is comfortable for you.

Take lessons

It can be helpful to meditate with the help of a teacher. Check the internet to see if you can find Zen meditation classes in your area. Here’s how you could improve your meditation technique so that Zen meditation is more effective for you. If you can’t find a class in your area, look online for guided meditations.


Frank Reid

Frank Reid is Usevoucher Contributing Writer. He covers a wide range of topics, including financial planning, car reviews, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle. He has an extensive journalistic background, where he's written and reported for several newspapers and magazines. Frank lives in New York, and is a native of Texas.