Zen Mindfulness

What is Zen Mindfulness?
And how can it help you cope with stress?

At the end of this page you should have the answers!


Zen mindfulness
can be called various things - Zazen, vipassana, mindfulness meditation...

Zazen is what Zen Buddhists call their meditation practice.

But you don't have to be Buddhist to use this wonderful way of experiencing reality.



Some quick information
...

Mindfulness meditation is different from concentration meditation. There is no particular focus. It is a process of paying attention to your ongoing experience, whatever it may be at the moment. If you have a pain in your knee and that happens to be prominent in your awareness right now, you pay attention to that — not trying to concentrate, but simply noticing it and letting it be there. You don't try to make it different. You don't try to hold onto it. You just notice it as fully as you can, and taking note of what is going through your mind about it.




What I love about this teaching is that you don’t have to be sitting in a lotus position to practice Zen mindfulness...

You can use everyday opportunities to practice...

For example, when you feel uncomfortable about meeting someone, that is an excellent time to practice...

Observe your experience — the person you're meeting, your surroundings, your bodily sensations, the thoughts arising in your mind. Just pay attention without fidgeting or withdrawing. It reduces the stress and is very calming.

How does this reduce stress? Well, fidgeting is not only a by-product of anxiety, but it also produces anxious feelings. When you apply Zen mindfulness to the situation, you feel a calmness that you don't feel when you're fidgeting. Try it. You will notice that when you pay attention, your fidgeting tends to stop.

And, by focusing on your interaction with the person rather than on your worries and fears, the person you're talking to is more likely to enjoy your interaction and your chance of producing a good result is much greater.




Use this method especially when you feel uncomfortable — when you don't want to be there. Deliberately be there. Take a deep breath, relax a little, and open your attention to what's happening — not just outside your body, but inside too. Instead of closing yourself; protecting and tensing to shut out the experience, use Zen mindfulness to let the experience in.

It takes courage and practise but has many practical advantages...

  • Experiencing the moment is relaxing. When you check in on your experience, you might notice that there is a muscle somewhere in your body holding tension unnecessarily. Some muscles you have to use just to sit up or hold your head erect or to do whatever you're doing at the moment, but almost always you'll find you have other muscles contracting for no purpose. And when you check in on your ongoing experience, you'll tend to notice that tension, and automatically relax a little.
  • If you have a problem on your mind, try using zazen on it. Sit in a quiet room and keep your mind on your problem — not trying to think about — just looking at it in your mind's eye. Be with it for a half hour to an hour. You'll be surprised. The problem will begin to unravel.




Here's an interesting experiment...

Researchers had subjects plunge one of their hands into a bucket of ice-cold water and see how long they could keep it there. They gave a third of them this instruction: Focus all your thoughts on the pain. The next third: Distract yourself from the pain by imagining your bedroom at home. The last third: Suppress all thoughts of the pain. All of the three groups managed to keep their hands in the icy water for about two minutes. But the interesting thing is that there was a difference in how quickly the pain went away. It went away quickest for those who had focused their attention on the pain. The pain lingered longest for those who had tried to suppress all thoughts of the pain.Resisting and denying a negative experience creates more suffering than just experiencing it.

Furthermore, aside from any beliefs or systems of philosophy, in the Eastern sense, this single practice (mindfulness) is a Way to become wise, or a Way to Enlightenment.




A Buddhist teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche, wrote,

“There is a story that I remember hearing in my childhood in Tibet, about an old woman who came to the Buddha and asked him how to meditate. He told her to remain mindful, present, and aware of every movement of her hands as she drew water from the well each day, knowing that if she did so, she would soon find herself in that state of alert and spacious calm that is meditation.”

Sure, you can meditate sitting cross-legged, and that's good practice and very calming and healthy. But you can do Zen mindfulness anytime and anywhere, and several times, for a moment or a minute, throughout any given day, without losing time or becoming less productive.




This practice changes your attitude. And when your attitude changes, your experience of life changes, even if the circumstances don’t change.

When you don't know what to think, when you aren’t sure how to act or when you are just plain happy and enjoying the day, come back to Zen mindfulness...

Return to the moment...

Look, listen, breath in, smell the air...

Feel your arms and legs and torso and face...

Just be here and experience...

Make it your home base. And watch your stress dissolve.

Everyday Living Better


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