Zen Meditation for Beginners: Zazen Guide

You may already have heard the word “Zen”. However, there are actually few explanations and guides about Zen and the way to practice “Zazen”, which is one of the principle of Buddhism.

That’s why you will find below a guide to introduce you to Zen through the method “Zazen”, which has received much attention in recent years.

What is Zen(禅)

Zen began almost 2,500 years ago when Buddha achieved enlightenment through Zen meditation in India. Zen came to Japan, from China, during the Kamakura period, the time of samurai. The Kamakura period started from the 11th century and ended middle of 14th century. Samurai practiced Zen to keep their mind calm and clear while they fought in war. After that, various Japanese cultures such as: Nō Theater, Japanese tea ceremony, Japanese gardening, and even some foods called Kaiseki Ryorui were influenced by Zen. Today, Japan's culture has roots in Zen. Zen was born in India, grown in China, and blossomed in Japan, afterwards spreading across the world. For example, in the world of business Steve Jobs and Google, in the NBA Phil Jackson, in MLB Ichiro Suzuki have been influenced by Zen. 

Zen is about finding yourself (to know who you really are), as well as finding truth. Not worshiping others, but believing in yourself, knowing “who you really are”, being yourself, living in your own way. That is the goal of Zen. In order to live the way we want, we practice Zen. By practicing Zazen and learning the words of Zen, you can take your life into your own hands in a stress-free way. Recently, Mindfulness is all the craze for elite business men all over the word. Mindfulness is about living in this moment right now, right here. Mindfulness also originates from Zen.

How to Zazen


When we practice Zazen, please remember these words. “Maintaining posture, controlling breath, keeping your mind calm”. First of all we have to prepare our bodies, adjusting our posture, and then our breathing. When we have the correct posture and breathing, then we correct our mind. These 3 things are important in Zazen meditation.


First, let's start with good posture. Fold a Zabuton cushion in half, have a seat on that, then stretch your legs out in front of you. Then, cross your leg by putting your left foot on your right leg. If this is too hard, it is ok to sit comfortably. Stretch your back. Imagine as if your head is being pulled up by a string from the sky, while pushing your chest forward.


Next are your hands. First, put the back of your left hand on the palm of your right hand. Make sure to place your right and left thumb face-to-face without touching. Then, place your hands right below your navel. It is ok to rest your hands on your thighs. Finally, imagine placing your mind in your rounded hands.


Next are your eyes. Do not completely close your eyes. Relax your face and eyes, letting your eyes close halfway. Let your gaze fall diagonally in front of you. Try to relax.


The final step is breathing. Exhale from your mouth completely. Then, inhale from your nose. Let's do this 3 times. After you have done this 3 times, close your eyes and try breathing normally. Keep focusing on your breathing during Zazen meditation. If you start thinking of something besides your breathing, do not react to it. Rather, observe whatever came to your mind. If you start thinking “I have to do this and that”, let it pass by just observing whatever came to mind.

Let's try Zazen!

How was this guide of Zazen? If you are busy with work, feeling tired or stressed, the practice of zazen can make you feel relaxed and better. Anywhere, everywhere, zazen is a good way to experience Japanese culture, and we highly recommend you to do it at least once a day!

If you are interested in Zen Sayings, feel free to check out this article!

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Koki Miyashita

Author & Editor