Zen Meditation

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Zen Meditation Mean?

Zen meditation is a meditative discipline, which is the most important practice in Zen Buddhism. It can be literally translated as “sitting meditation,” and in Western interpretations, zazen is often described simply as zen meditation or sitting meditation.

However, there are actually a wide range of different meanings and methods of zazen, depending on the school and tradition, not all of which are aligned with a contemporary interpretation of meditation. The most general definition is that it is a discipline in which the yogi intends to gain insight into the nature of their existence. The aim is to experience the true nature of the mind and existence.


Yogapedia Explains Zen Meditation

Zen meditation is traditionally practiced in the full lotus or the half lotus position, supported by a thick round cushion called a zafu to elevate the hips and allow the knees to touch the floor. It is also possible to practice sitting on a chair or kneeling in seiza. The body should be upright and well-balanced, neither too tense or too relaxed.

For zen meditation, the eyes are often kept open to help the yogi stay awake and alert. However, the eyes are only softly open with no focused gaze. Sometimes the yogi will face a wall to avoid distraction. The hands are held in a mudra known as the cosmic mudra, with the left hand supported in the right and the tips of the thumbs touching.

The breathing in zen meditation is usually through the nose with calm, slow breaths and an emphasis on the exhalation. The mind is then calmed through deep concentration on breathing and the body position.

One method of learning zazen is to correct the posture first, then regulate the breath, then then mind, then integrate all the stages as into a holistic body-mind experience.

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