Getting Started On Zen Meditation

by Donia Varghese
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You don’t really need to run off to the Himalayas or be able to levitate in order to achieve Zen. The beauty of meditation is that it can be done anywhere – while sitting in your car, on a plane or even in the shower.

Getting Started On Zen Meditation - Fresh Print Magazine

Zen meditation helps relieve stress and discover the inner you (image courtesy:

Zen meditation is the technique of allowing your mind and body to reach a calm, reflective state of mind. It is also a great way to stay focused, peaceful and attain a deeper understanding of who you really are.

The word Zen is a modification of the Chinese word Chan and the Sanskrit word Dhyana which essentially means ‘to observe’.  An average human being is said to have close to 70,000 thoughts each day (talk about being stressed!) and since our minds are always so busy, it helps to shut down for a few minutes and think of nothing in particular. Although meditation may seem complex, it really isn’t. Here are some tips to get started:

Set the Mood: Look for a quiet, uncluttered and comfortable spot where you can meditate without any interference from either your pets or your roommate. You can decorate your space with aromatic candles or incense sticks if you wish. If you have a sudden urge to meditate in the car, play some relaxation music to help inspire you.

There is also no shame in using guided meditation (,, or the other such free meditation websites) once in a while. In case you choose the bathroom, throw some rose petals in the tub for that extra effect.  If you decide to meditate in your room, you don’t need a fancy zafu cushion to get the right posture; a pillow will work just as good. The basic idea is to have fun and not make meditation seem like a chore.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard: If you’re new to meditation, the temptation to tame your mind will be great. Instead of feeling peace and serenity, you may end up having thoughts about a pending assignment that’s due soon or about what you’re going to have for lunch. Beating yourself up about not being able to stay focused only acts as a barrier to the healing process. Instead of resisting them, treat your thoughts like guests who come and go. In time, you will find it easier to focus on the here and now rather than worry over things that will happen in say 36 hours or even 10 minutes from the present time.

SEE ALSO: What You Should Know About Hot Yoga

Start Small: For a beginner, meditating for 2 hours straight can seem quite boring. If it’s a habit you want to stick to, just devote 2 minutes of your time every day. That doesn’t seem so bad does it? If you’re up to it, you can even stretch meditation time to 5 minutes.

Getting Started On Zen Meditation - Fresh Print Magazine

Zen meditation mudra (image courtesy:

First Comes Comfort: When you’re meditating, the last thing you want is a leg cramp. Although the full lotus position helps you feel grounded and is considered one of the main meditation poses by Zen practitioners, it is not for everyone. It would be hard to think of anything else if your legs feel like they are on pins and needles. So unless you plan on being a Zen master, it’s alright to meditate while sitting in a comfy chair.

You can still perform the mudra (position of your fingers) by placing your right hand on top of the left with the thumbs touching. This helps aid meditation as well as rests the hands. It also helps to sit straight and keep the tip of your tongue pressed against the palate so as to help reduce excess salivation. The main point to note is that your mind can’t be comfortable if your body isn’t.

Ten Breaths: The very essence of Zen meditation is to focus on your breathing and taking 100 full breaths is something people keep talking about all the time.  For those who can do it, congratulations! For those who find themselves feeling tired at the very thought of taking 100 deep breaths, you’re not alone.  So once again, take baby steps and start with 10 deep breaths. This can also a quick fix relaxation exercise right before an exam.

For those of you who would like to practice with the experts,  the Toronto Zen Buddhist Temple offers public meditation services every Sunday morning and afternoon. They have a lovely meditation area and plenty of tea for everyone before service starts.

Happy meditation!

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