How to Practice Zen at Home
The practice of Zen meditation — also known as Zazen — is not about thinking or achieving some kind of a desired result. Instead, Zen meditation is the simple art and science of paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. It’s about learning to notice sounds, smells, sensations, and other people through the cloud of everyday life.
The goal of Zen meditation is developing insight into the nature of body and mind.
We are going to discuss what Zen meditation is, the benefits of using it, and how to practice Zen at home and at work.
What is Zen Meditation
The word “Zen” is synonymous with meditation. Meditation is undeniably powerful. Webster’s Dictionary defines Zen as a state of calm attentiveness guided by intuition. There are several types of meditation. Zen is only one of them. It got its start in Buddhism. It is now used to help regulate attention span and connect with the inner self.
Being Zen is the practice of not thinking and allowing peace to come over you. It is similar to the practice of mindfulness. The main difference between the practice of Zen meditation and mindful meditation is focus. Zen meditation promotes allowing thoughts to flow through the mind without judgement, while mindfulness meditation promotes focusing on a single object or thought.
To understand how to practice Zen at home and appreciate the practice, a brief overview of it’s history is helpful.
The History of Zen Meditation
Wall art found in caves in India dating as far back as 5,000 BC portray religious believers meditating. In 600 BC, Buddhism was born by a man called Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) who was a prince, spiritual teacher, meditator and philosopher. It is reported that he abandoned his royal life to seek enlightenment. Thereafter, other religions in Asia likewise developed meditation as a key component of their teachings and practices.
In the 8th century BC, Zen Buddhism expanded to China, Korea, Japan (Zen meditation), and Vietnam. The term Zen (or chán in Chinese) derives from the Chinese word for meditation. As spiritual practices and meditation expanded globally, Zen meditation became a popular practice in Western Culture in the 19th century.
The Benefits of Zen Meditation
Zen is a feeling of simplification and peace. Practicing Zen meditation daily has proven to be beneficial for all different kinds of people. From CEOs to the average Joe, there are hundreds of stories online about the improvements a few minutes of meditation a day can make.
People who practice Zen meditation have reported the following benefits:
- Stress Relief
- Better sleep
- Increased emotional awareness
- Better able to cope with depression and anxiety
- Mood improvement
In Taiwan, meditation is even used to help drug abuse treatment. Meditation apparently helps connect the body to the nervous system and slows the heart and breathing.
The Practice of Minimalism and Zen
The minimalist lifestyle trend is a relatively new concept, but the idea of minimalism is not.
Zen priests and artists started the practice in Japan through the use of Zen gardens. The minimalist lifestyle takes the Zen garden idea of beauty in simplification. It removes the idea that you need belongings to make you happy.
Minimalism and Zen coincide especially when learning how to practice Zen at home. You need to simplify your mind to practice Zen meditation. Minimalism is the practice of simplifying your life and home from clutter to free your mind.
Ways to Practice Zen at Home
Anyone can meditate. You do not have to become a Buddhist or follow special rules to slow down in life and take a few minutes to observe your thoughts.
A general misconception about meditation is that you should have no thoughts. In actuality, the practice is about listening to your thoughts as they go by without actively engaging in them.
Here are a few ways to practice Zen at home:
- Take a few minutes a day to sit calmly in an actively engaged seated position and listen to your breathing (10-30 minutes)
- Simplify your home using minimalism
- Create a Zen area to enjoy when you need it
You can implement one idea or more when learning how to practice Zen at home. The key is that you take the time to relax and focus your mind.
Creating a Zen Home
Learning how to practice Zen at home is important to prepare your home. Below are some home improvements you can make to feel more Zen.
Zen meditation requires your mind to be focused inward, not on your external self. Your home lighting can help remove external distractions so you can focus inward. Using soft natural lighting will improve your practice. The harsh white lights common in most homes will only create a distraction when you are getting started.
Lighting installation can be done in a single area of your home that is considered a Zen practice space, or you can install softer lights throughout the house.
The use of candles is also common in meditation practice. If a new light or new bulbs are not something you are ready for you can find a dark space and use candles.
Many who practice the art of Zen meditation have trouble in the beginning. Learning to quiet your mind is hard work. Your space can affect your ability to concentrate. Getting a painter to come in and paint your walks a simple or earthy color can help you better connect with nature and yourself. The practice of minimalism often uses the theme of soft colors and natural wood. Connecting you to the ideals of nature.
Minimalism started with the Zen garden. Using the outdoors to practice meditation and simplicity in life can greatly improve your ability to connect with yourself. The great outdoors is a relaxing place. The sounds of birds or the ocean can improve your practice.
To create your outdoor space you can add greenery by contacting arborists or landscape designers. Water also helps create a calm feeling outdoors contacting a swimming pool construction company can help you build a natural-looking water feature.
Home decor is an important step when learning how to practice Zen at home. Your home should allow you to feel stress-free and happy when looking at it. If your home is cluttered or dirty it can often make it more difficult to focus on your meditation.
Being Zen means simplifying your mind. Having hardwood flooring keeps your home cleaner and lowers the possibility of having stains on the floor. Use a floor covering like a carpet or a mat to give you a special meditation area. There are many unique locally owned shops with great flooring and decor options to get you started on the perfect Zen space.
In the Buddhist culture, natural woods and light natural colors are used to create a cohesive space that melds with the outdoors.
Scents are commonly used in meditation and relaxation to help clear your mind. Common scents used for relaxation are:
- Lavender for calming
- Sage for cleansing
- Peppermint for mental focus
Aromatherapy has been used for over 3500 years. Essential oils have only been around since the early 1800s and were started by French perfume makers. There is no scientific evidence that essential oils or scent improves your body medically. There is also no evidence that scents will improve your meditation medically. What scents can do is give you something to focus on as you meditate and clear your mind.
The use of blue lights and constant interruptions hinders your ability to allow your mind to wander. This kind of constant interruption will also prevent you from relaxing. Take the time to turn off your electronics. There is a sense of being free when turning your devices off completely while you practice Zen meditation. Don’t be afraid to take 10 minutes to yourself without the fear of being interrupted. You can put your device on mute or vibrate but keep it away from your meditation practice area.
Ways to Practice Zen Daily
Learning how to practice Zen at home you will need to make small daily changes to add Zen into your life.
Here are some Zen practice tips you can try to implement daily.
- Simplify your tasks at home, try doing one thing at a time
- Complete your task in its entirety
- Slow down your tasks
- Focus on one big task a day
- Practice minimalism in your home
- Make time for 10 to 30 minutes of meditation a day
Taking time to accomplish tasks and slowing down your movements will allow your mind to wander. The world has become fast-paced. It is often frowned upon to slow down. Slowing down your life will help you improve your ability to relax and breathe deeper.
How to Practice Zen at Work
Learning how to practice Zen at home is a great way to improve your mind and the stressors of life. The modern workplace, however, is not a friendly place for those who enjoy and value the practice of Zen.
Zen is very important to maintain mental health as an employee. The Zen practice has a positive effect on productivity and creativity, which helps you solve problems. The principles of Zen offer a simple way to achieve productivity and success at work.
Many people have heard about Zen, but few know how to apply it in the working world. How can you achieve Zen at work?
Creating Zen at Your Desk
A desk is a place you accomplish most of your tasks. There are a few great ways to create Zen at your desk including:
- Keep your desk clean and organized
- Keep your desk clear of clutter
- Keep your computer desktop clear of clutter
- Bring in live plants
- Use natural light if possible
Make a space, or ensure you have an office chair that allows you to take the time to meditate (or breathe) while at your desk. You do not need to complete a full meditation practice while at the office. A simple breathing exercise will help you keep yourself relaxed and improve stress responses.
Keeping Calm at Work
The best way to keep calm at work is to use your breathing. The University of Michigan Health offers stress management breathing exercises to help you keep your cool.
- Get comfortable
- Put a hand on your tummy and the other on your chest
- Breath in through your nose
- Only move your belly not your chest
- Breath out through your mouth allowing your hand to move
- Do it 3 – 10 times
This is similar to Zen breathing. The focus is on clearing your mind of your thoughts. Focus on your breathing and allow stress and emotions to leave with the air you breathe out.
Using Zen to Improve Your Work
The idea of using Zen to improve your work output seems as simple as adding meditation and creating a Zen desk. There is more to Zen at work than these simple additions.
The goal of Zen is simplification.
Use this idea to simplify the work you do each day. Here are a few tips to improve your work output using Zen ideas:
- Write down your daily, weekly, and yearly goals (make sure they are crystal clear and achievable)
- Simplify your day, you can use a to-do list or write down your most important task for the day
- Give your co-workers the benefit of the doubt, not everyone is out to get you, forgive them and work with them to improve your goals together
Allowing yourself to get clear on the tasks you need to accomplish will help you simplify your work life.
The art of practicing Zen at home comes down to the way your home looks and feels. Simplifying your life and creating a calm space to live in will help improve your ability to become Zen.
While you don’t need to remodel your entire home to make it Zen, you can use some tips like minimalism, lighting, and decor to improve how you view your space and how you feel in it.
There is no right way when learning how to practice Zen at home. The idea is to improve yourself every day and get closer to an open, simplified, and forgiving mindset. Allow yourself the time to learn and grow from the practice of Zen meditation.