A Primer on Zen Meditation

Zen meditation can increase focus and bring relief from the mind-body duality. Buddhists suggest that they affect suffering, alienation, and addiction.

Zazen (also known as Zen) meditation is inspired by Buddhism and, like its offshoot, Western mindfulness meditation, teaches the present moment awareness known to relieve stress.

However, it can go even deeper. Zazen can potentially reveal your true connection with everyone on the planet. This can be an antidote to alienation and prejudice.

In recent years, researchers and participants in the recovery community, including Recovery Dharma Vice President Randall Hall, have recognized the potential of Buddhist-inspired meditation to reduce the effects of craving, addiction, trauma and loneliness.

Zazen or Zen is a form of sitting meditation. It developed from the teachings of the Buddha from 463 BC. and in the 19th century, Himalayan people brought zazen meditation to the West.

In the West, Zen meditation and mindfulness meditation are almost synonymous. These practices can teach you to detach from the swirling thoughts that create stress.

In recent decades, both types of meditation have been used to aid in mental health care and substance abuse interventions.

However, the relationship between Zen meditation and mindfulness meditation can be complicated. Because zazen is understood differently depending on the context.

For example, in a 2002 article, Zen teacher Isshō Fujita says that traditional zazen is not at all the same as meditation.

Zazen, sometimes described as “sitting like a mountain,” is not a technique or tool for achieving anything like calmer thoughts or a meditative state. Instead, it is a complete concentration of body and mind on just sitting and nothing else.

Researchers in 2022 suggest that mindfulness meditation studies could benefit from examining more closely the implications of Buddhist philosophical teachings and moral concepts.

Aside from the positive effects of meditative breathing, there can be benefits to practicing an ethical mindset that focuses on right behavior, disciplined thinking, and wisdom.

purpose of zazen

A primary goal of Zen meditation is to prepare the mind for effortless thinking and observation.

Hall, who practices Buddhist-inspired meditation in Recovery Dharma, notes that the discipline of wise concentration helps practitioners:

  • Develop a purposeful focus instead of getting distracted by unimportant things
  • Remember that everything is temporary
  • understand that our actions have karmic consequences
  • learn to sit with pain instead of reacting to it or escaping it
  • cultivate compassion, awareness and balance
  • awakening from codependent relationships or processing compulsions such as:

There are five types of zen or sitting. From Bombu to Saijojo, they increase in difficulty and engagement.

The five types are:

  • bombo This quiet sitting practice is intended for everyone, including the inexperienced. Meditations you practice through an app or martial arts class could be examples.
  • gedo This Zen is practiced to overcome difficult challenges – like walking barefoot over burning coals. It is not considered Buddhist meditation. (You may not want to practice this alone at home.)
  • shoyo. This is in the Buddhist tradition, but is not the highest form of Zen. When you practice shojo you are focused on your own peace of mind, but you are not enlightened to the understanding that freedom from suffering is linked to freedom from the suffering of others.
  • daijo In this form of Zen you seek enlightenment and awakening to your true nature. But because you still are to attempt To wake up you are not in the highest, effortless form of sitting.
  • Saijojo. This is the highest form of sitting. You know you are sitting in your true nature, one within you and with all.

A Case Study 2022 compared 30 long-term trained meditators with a control group. The study measured quality of life using questionnaires along with tests of telomerase enzyme levels, a marker of aging.

They found higher telomerase levels in the experienced meditators than in the comparison group. This suggests that long-term meditative practice supports healthy aging.

A Study 2020 compared 20 experienced Zen practitioners with a control group before and after meditation to see how meditation might affect both processing and emotional reception of negatively charged words.

Unlike the control group, the Zen practitioners showed faster processing and less emotional response to negatively charged words after meditation.

The study suggests that long-term practice of Zen meditation improves focus and emotional regulation.

Other potential benefits of Zen meditation include:

A 2021 study explores Recovery Dharma as a promising resource for treating substance use disorders and process addictions.

For the study, 209 participants completed an online survey to get an idea of ​​who this mutual aid organization (MHO) or peer-led group attracts and how it might be helpful.

Recovery Dharma is guided by the book Recovery Dharma: How to Use Buddhist Practices and Principles to Heal the Suffering of Addictions.”

Buddhism teaches the four noble truths. The first three seem to address the trauma or pain that is often associated with addiction:

  • Suffering is an inevitable part of life.
  • Desire underlies all suffering.
  • It is possible to awaken from suffering through the eightfold path, which includes:
    • clever understanding
    • smart action
    • wise employment
    • wise mind
    • smart focus

Recovery Dharma meetings typically begin with a 20-minute guided meditation, a unique facet compared to other MHOs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

In the study, participants rated guided meditations as a helpful and widely used feature, second only to the meetings themselves. Participants committed to daily meditation practice.

dr Onawa LaBelle, an assistant professor and senior researcher at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, said in a personal interview that she finds the “integration of meditation” into Recovery Dharma exciting.

Step 11 of Alcohol Anonymous: The Big Book reads, “We have sought, through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him.” But, Onawa notes, people are left to their own devices when it’s about how meditate

LaBelle does not propose Recovery Dharma to other MHOs. In fact, many participants in the program are taking or have taken part in 12-step programs.

she does think that teaching people to meditate and then urging them to commit to practice at home improves their “restoration capital.” In other words, this meditation can be one of the personal and cultural factors that contribute to a person’s recovery.

Additionally, both Onawa and Hall are encouraged that Recovery Dharma appears to be open to:

An introduction to zazen can be found here. The basic characteristics of the practice include the following:

Prepare the stage

Maybe you want:

  • Find a quiet place.
  • Wear loose clothing.
  • Sit on a square mat or pillow with the wall behind you.
  • Cross your legs and, if possible, assume a lotus pose (feet on opposite thighs).


Zazen is effortless. Most practitioners don’t count the breaths. A way of breathing could be:

  • Take a deep breath in once and slowly exhale through a slightly opened mouth to get rid of all the air.
  • Keep breathing through your nose at a rate and depth that feels natural to you.
  • forget your breath

What to do with eyes, hands, thoughts

  • Effortless alertness can be maintained by keeping your eyes partially open, unfocused, and looking down.
  • According to the lotus pose, your right hand could be palm up on your left foot, your left hand palm up on your right palm. Your thumbs can be in front of your belly button.
  • Thoughts can be smooth and focused on the preparation of thought rather than on an object.

Practitioners differ in their commitment and understanding of zazen, the seated meditation that originated in Buddhism.

You may consider trying Zen meditation for stress relief, relaxation, or emotional regulation. Or you can meditate with Dharma, immersing yourself in the Buddhist principles of right living and thinking, and focusing on awakening.

Looking to find a Zen center in your state? You can check here. Interested in Recovery Dharma? More than 200 meetings can be found here.

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