Thursday, October 4, 2007

Zazen, Shavasana, or the Do-Nothing Meditation for the Mind

In high school, I had an English teacher who had a keen interest in Eastern philosophy. She introduced me to the Zen Buddhist concept of zazen, seated meditation, or as she described it, "do-nothing". In yoga, after a busy practice, one might end in shavasana, or "corpse pose." Both have at their heart the idea of allowing the body to rest, so that the mind might also quiet. Thoughts might enter one's mind--not to be analysed as good or bad--but to be observed with curious detatchment.

In my years of therapeutic collaboration, I have learned many ways of doing zazen from others. One client who has had difficulties with "perfectionism" for most of his life did zazen by lying in his bed, closing his eyes, putting on his headphones, and listening to sacred music or chanting. Some others say they practice zazen by silent prayer, or repeating a particular sacred verse or mantra. Other people I know use restorative yoga poses to help quiet their minds.

I have also found that for those (like me) who find it difficult to be physically still, it is possible to achieve zazen of the mind through kinesthetic activity. I know I have known periods of mental zazen while weeding, walking, running, swimming, cleaning, or doing yoga. I know plenty of knitters out there who would testify to the mental benefits of its simple repeated action.

I offer this idea of mental zazen as a counter-balance to anxiety's desire to "busy" the mind with its endless "chatter." Ask yourself, when do I get a break from thinking? When does thinking turn into "over-thinking"? How can I be more at peace with my thoughts? How can I resist the urge to re-live the past or to anticipate the future? What would it be like to simply observe my thoughts, such as the way an anthropologist might view a foreign culture? What "thinking space" can I open up that is currently occupied by anxiety, worry, perfectionism, or "should-isms"? If anxiety took up less "thought space", what might take its place?

Making time for zazen is not easy, I know--especially for all you parents out there! I hope to hear from readers about even more ways of practicing zazen, its benefits, and how it can become a regular and welcome practice in one's life.

4 comments:

mars said...

Well, zazen, as I've read about, is a relief for cravings, too. Some people in the U.S.A. and around the globe are practising it to ger rid of drug/alcohol/etc addiction with very good results.And, to prove it scientifically, there are good researches online, made by neurologysts, psicologists and so forth. It's really worth reading them. Just........google!

mars said...

Well, zazen, as I've read about, is a relief for cravings, too. Some people in the U.S.A. and around the globe are practising it to ger rid of drug/alcohol/etc addiction with very good results.And, to prove it scientifically, there are good researches online, made by neurologysts, psicologists and so forth. It's really worth reading them. Just........google!

Satya said...

Good work you are doing.
Chetan Upadhyaya, India
CCY(Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla)
N.D.,D.Y.(Arogya Mandir, Gorakhpur)
satyfoundation2000@gmail.com

Satya said...

Good work you are doing.
Chetan Upadhyaya, India
CCY(Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla)
N.D.,Y.D.(Arogya Mandir, Gorakhpur)
satyfoundation2000@gmail.com