Basic Zen

by Pam Walatka

The basic idea of Zen is to pay attention to the moment, to be aware of current happenings.

Zen means "sitting meditation" in Japanese. To practice Zen, you sit cross-legged with your buns on a hard pillow, eyes slightly open, and one hand lying open in the other, by your belly, right knuckles over left knuckles, thumbs almost touching.

Focus your mind on some ongoing sensation, such as your sense of the movement of your breathing. Try to keep your attention on your breathing. Do not force a change in your breathing. Do not imagine anything. Do not think about the past or the future. Do not pretend you are somewhere else. Be here now. Count your breaths, if that helps to keep you focused.

Zen is really that simple. You could spend a lifetime practicing it.

Breathing is the classic focus for Zen meditation, but there are many other possibilities. You could focus on your heartbeat, the sounds in the air, or the sensations in your muscles.

You do not have to sit in the classic position to practice Zen; the only requirements are that you are comfortable and your back is straight, to facilitate deep breathing. You do not even have to sit; you could lie down, or practice slow-walking Zen, listening to your footsteps.

You might be wondering what is the difference between mindfulness meditation and Zen meditation. Nothing.

The more time you spend practicing Zen, the more moments you have in your life. In a busy life, many moments fly by without being noticed. The moments that you notice are the moments that you experience.

Nanozen (I made that up) is the awareness of one breath, about one billionth of an average lifespan. It is just one breath. If you are aware of one complete breath, you are practicing nanozen. And you own that moment. You can have a moment of nanozen anywhere, anytime.

Zen is infinite, but doable. All you do is pay attention to the moment. The more you practice, the more moments you have.

See also: Yoga Classes, Zen Golf and Gravity,
Body Democracy.

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