Zen meditation is a meditation technique that is deeply rooted in Buddhist psychology. The goal is to regulate attention and is a practice that revolves around “thinking about not thinking.” It involves sitting in a lotus position with your legs crossed and focusing your attention inwards. Some experts suggest that it consists of counting breaths from 1 to 10. Others suggest that there isn’t any counting involved.
What Happens During Zen Meditation?
Open-monitoring meditation is the main form of mediation used in Zen Meditation. The meditation revolves around transforming the monitoring skills into a state of reflexive awareness with a broad scope of attention. Zen meditation is focused on the mind’s presence and involves increased awareness of the ongoing physical and self-referential process. It attempts to expand the attentional scope to incorporate the flow of perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and subjective understanding.
Over time, you’ll learn the technique of keeping your mind from wandering and will be able to tap into the power of your unconscious mind. During the process, you need to keep your eyes in a semi-open state that is different from other forms of meditation. The goal is to dismiss all the thoughts in your head and think about nothing. The goal is to become aware of the preconceived notions and gain self-insight.
Benefits of Meditation
Research suggests that zen meditation has various physical-spiritual, social, cognitive, and emotional benefits. Moreover, it is a great stress reliever. Hence, a lot of people turn towards it. Different forms of meditation will impact your brain in a slightly different manner. However, the overall effects are almost similar.
Impact on the Brain
In a study done in 2008, researchers compared how zen meditation impacted the brain. They reached 12 people who practiced Zen meditation for three years, with 12 of those novices who didn’t practice the meditation ever. Each participant received a brain scan while focusing on their breathing. Afterward, they had to try to distinguish the natural world from an imaginary world on the computer screen. Then, they concentrated on breathing again. The authors concluded that meditation enhanced the capacity to stay focused, limited distractions, and improved the attention span.
Access to the Unconscious
Zen meditation allows practitioners to improve their minds. A conscious mind can focus on one thing at a time: a grocery list or a book. As per experts, your conscious mind is vast, and researchers believe that learning to tap into your unconscious mind can open your brain’s capability.
Unconscious minds possess the ability to foster great creativity, accomplish goals, and have improved relationships. A study conducted in 2012 showed that individuals who practiced Zen meditation could access their unconscious minds effectively. The majority of participants in this study had experience with zen meditation.
One group meditated for 20 minutes, while the other relaxed for the same time. All the participants sat in a cubicle with a computer. They had to link three words that appeared on the screen along with an associated comment. Then, they had to type the answer as quickly as possible. The individuals who meditated before the test completed the task more effectively and demonstrated better success accessing their unconscious minds.
In another study group, students had to meditate for 20 minutes while the control group relaxed. All the volunteers were asked 20 questions with three to four correct answers. Before the screening began, a potential solution flashed on the screen for nearly 16 milliseconds. The meditation group gave 6.8 answers that matched the subliminal. On the other hand, the control group only reached an average of 4.9 words.
Hence, researchers concluded that meditators could access their minds better than non-meditators. They further added that Zen meditation gives better insight into the brain’s background. Zen meditation helps you understand your feelings in a better manner and enable you to make better decisions. You can also know how the environment influences you, which can significantly impact your life.
Drug Abuse Treatment
Zen meditation is also a drug abuse treatment program in certain parts of the world. It is supposed to slow down the heart rate and respiration along with improving the function of the autonomous nervous system. The authors of a 2018 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that zen meditation will impact your brain-heart interactions. According to the authors, zen practitioners devote their practice to disclosing the spiritual heart inside the organ. They added:
Through years of Zen meditation practice, practitioners have their brain functions reformed into a so-called detached brain dominated by the spiritual heart.
When done regularly, a 20-minute Zen meditation session significantly improves patients’ autonomous nervous system function. Not only that, but it also dramatically improves an individual’s mood, which helps prevent drug usage. In addition to other treatments, zen meditation will enhance the efficacy of the brain, which will help patients successfully go through detox and recovery.
Practicing Zen Meditation
Not every individual can learn the same way. Some individuals can learn while others prefer to learn from a good old book. Similarly, some prefer to learn from an instructor. Based on what suits you, you can select a choice of medium for yourself. You can find plenty of audio, videos, tutorials, training programs, and books on the subject. You can also find plenty of meditation retreats.
Is Zen Meditation Right for You?
Regarding meditation, there is no one size fits all approach. You have to figure out which one will suit you best. Research shows that Zen meditation is not suitable for everyone and is certainly not a favorite. The key to reaping the benefits is to be consistent with Zen meditation. You have to try it to see whether it works for you or not. It is important to explore different meditation types to find the one that will work best for you.