Daily Zen Meditation
October the 10th is World Mental Health Day and as many of you know a modern localization workplace can be a frantic and quite stressful place.
Deadlines, invoicing, translator queries and difficult clients are only a few of the issues that our project managers deal with daily. If you’re the kind of person that rarely takes time-out to have a peaceful moment, you could be working yourself into an early grave.
Zen meditation is naturally quite relevant to the Word Connection team given our strong Japanese roots.
Calmness of mind
Allowing your body and conscious mind time to become still is proven to have significant health benefits. Organisations are also starting to recognise that stressful environments contribute towards the rise in employee absenteeism.
Here in France, workers won the right to disconnect from work-related activities outside office hours. Yet disconnecting from work doesn’t necessarily mean people are managing stress levels effectively.
Stress is caused by psychological conditioning. Whenever you’re thinking, your brain is firing neurones which send electrical signals around the body.
Subsequently, overusing your brain can cause damage to your health in the long run. And some professionals – let’s use translators and interpreters as a prime example – spend all day using their minds.
Meditation helps you switch off.
The Origins of Zen
It is believed that Zazen meditation, otherwise known as sitting meditation, originally started in China around the 6th Century CE before being integrated into Zen Buddhist traditions of South Korea and Japan.
It is the latter from where Zazen is most influential on the international stage today. Given the work ethic among the Japanese, sitting meditation is ingrained in Japanese culture.
Benefits of meditation
For most people, the aim of meditation is to calm the body, develop peace of mind, and improve physical health.
Furthermore, people who practice Zazen meditation on a regular basis report a number of additional benefits in all aspects of life, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved immune system
- Better restorative sleep
- Lower heart rate
- Enhanced focus and mental performance
- Develop social confidence and self-esteem
- Increases memory retention
Step-by-Step Guide To Zazen Meditation
Zazen meditation involves sitting in a relaxed position. However, sitting cross-legged in meditation is not essential but rather thought to be the best way for seated practice.
In order to meditate well, you need to breathe properly. Sitting in an upright position helps to straighten the spine and keep the diaphragm clear.
If you struggle to sit cross-legged on the floor, you can always use a meditation cushion or pillow to support the base of your spine.
In the west, people generally sit with their hands on their knees, palms facing upwards and the tips of the thumb and forefinger touching.
The correct mudra (hand position) is to rest your hands on your lap with the top of the right hand resting in the palm of the left hand. This is the meditation mudra you find on Buddha statues in Japan.
Normally, most people don’t breathe deeply enough. As a result, insufficient quantities of oxygen get into the body. Given the amount of air pollution in congested cities, the blood cells have to work overtime to clear out the toxic waste.
Oxygen is needed to help rid the body of unwanted toxins. The more air you draw into your lungs, the more effective your immune system is.
Meditation involves breathing deeply, and slowly through the diaphragm which runs from the pit of your stomach into your upper chest and throat.
The first three breaths should be long and drawn out. Breathe in through your nose, and when your lungs are full, keep breathing so your abdomen expands.
Then slowly breathe out through the mouth. When the lungs are empty, continue pushing into the diaphragm until your stomach muscles tighten.
Repeat this diaphragm breathing exercise three times.
You can then relax your breathing to a comfortable rhythm but maintain long, slow breaths.
The purpose of Zazen is to focus on the body and mind so they come into union. The sensations in your body can sometimes tell you more about how you are feeling than the perceptions you have of life that form in your mind.
When you first begin your meditation practice, especially as a newcomer, initially focus your attention on your breathing. This helps centre your mind on your body.
Observe the rise and fall of your stomach. Get a sense for how cold air passes through your nostrils and into your chest before hot air is expelled from your mouth.
Once you are in a meditative state you can turn your attention to your body, mind, events that happened throughout the day, your past or your future.
Clear your Mind
However, the ultimate challenge for meditators is to clear their mind of thoughts. When a thought does enter the mind, let it flow, then let it go. If you allow your thoughts to take over, you are no longer meditating.
The best time to practice Zazen meditation is first thing in the morning, and most importantly, before going to sleep at night.
However, you can also adopt Zazen principles throughout the course of the day. It can also help your mind and body function at optimum levels at work.
So give yourself time to breathe, focus on your body and allow your mind to unburden itself of thoughts. Even if you only take a minute at a time, you will feel better for it.