Although Zen has its roots in China, its spread to Vietnam, Korea and Japan in a form now usually described as Japanese Zen. It is considered to be a simple and straightforward form of Buddhism, which may be why it has also now become popular in the West.
There are several common elements in Zen meditation:
- Breath observation - The breath can be counted or simply watched, while the attention is brought to the area below the navel.
- Mind observation - The intention is to become aware of the stream of thoughts without engaging with them and allowing them to pass.
- Group practice - Meditation, as well as being a solo practice, may be practiced intensively in group settings, with long periods of meditation interwoven with breaks for rest, meals and sleep.
Zen teachings see the mind as being originally pure in nature. They are non-dualistic and state that the way we live “normally” is under an illusion of dualism. The teachings also emphasize the interconnectedness of body and mind. The body is seen as the vehicle for our self-realization in this life.