Zen for Beginners 

How to Meditate

To meditate, sit quietly and don't think. It's as simple as that. However, when we try to do that, our minds start to wander. One way of controlling the mind is by repeating a short phrase or mantra in your head. For example, you can use the mantra from the Heart Sutra: "Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodi, svaha." If you find this too complicated, just concentrate on your breath. Think "breathe in" as you breathe in and "breathe out" as you breathe out. When your thoughts start to wander, just say "thinking" in your mind and go back to your mantra or breath. Breathe naturally but deeply; just let the breath flow in and out. Sit on a cushion with both legs crossed in front of you, or sit on a chair, with both feet on the ground. Leave your hands resting on your legs or knees. Keep your back straight and your body still. Don't fidget, just let it be. As you begin a meditation practice, try to sit for about 20 minutes a day.

Meditation is called practice because it is just that, as when you practice the guitar or go to soccer practice. You don't become Jerry Garcia or Pelé overnight. Meditation can take a lifetime to develop, but you will soon begin to notice benefits. You will worry less, be calmer in stressful moments, and become more open to the world. It's like walking in a dark forest, where the trees are stray thoughts. Soon you start to see small glades open, then wider clearings; if you stay on the path you will begin to discover open vistas of clear thought.

The word Zen is derived from the ancient Sanskrit term dhyana, which means meditation. In English, meditation usually means thinking about something, but when we talk about meditation in an Eastern context it does not mean to think, it means to let the mind be. Zen has come to be associated with poetry, art, philosophy, and music, but the core of Zen has always been the practice of meditation.

There are many types of meditation methods from different countries of Asia. If you want to continue your practice, you should find a Zen master, or a teacher from another Buddhist lineage, or a meditation instructor to help you. As with soccer, you need a coach to guide you, but, unlike soccer, there is no goal. Zen is just being completely present in the moment. What could be easier?

Zen for Beginners | Top