Zen Buddhism, zazen meditation, and mindfulness have only gained in popularity in recent years. In our previous post we looked at the history of Zen. In this, we’ll cover some of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
The Difference Between Zen and Mindfulness
While mindfulness and Zen are closely linked, they are nevertheless different things. Mindfulness does, however, have its roots in Zen meditation.
Mindfulness was proposed in the late 1970’s by American Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn as a way to understand, describe, and study some of the effects and practices of Zen, yoga, and other Buddhist traditions. It is a process and method of bringing one’s thoughts to the present moment without judgement, and has measurable effects in the brain, breathing, and nervous system. While it is rooted in the Zen tradition, it’s also helpful to think of mindfulness as a phenomenon in itself.
One reason for this is because of the ‘aim’ of mindfulness. Most forms today have a goal in mind, be that improved happiness in one’s life or simply calming down for a short while. By contrast, zazen meditation purposely avoids any goal or aim. If there is any goal in performing zazen, it is to perform zazen.
Mindfulness is also a way of understanding and analyzing the sometimes murky effects of zazen. It’s said to help greatly in calming and relaxing oneself by providing a ‘reset’ of one’s thoughts. Neurological studies on the effects of mindfulness have also suggested that it can improve creativity, inspiration, and productivity. By separating, clarifying, and sometimes repackaging some of Zen’s concepts and effects, mindfulness has achieved widespread popularity among business leaders, artists, and many others.
The Worldwide Spread of Zen
Nowadays, Zen is familiar to (and practiced by) people all over the world. It can provide a way of thinking about and combining the typically western focus on rationality with the typically eastern focus on imagination.
Accordingly, we might call the deliberately purposeless practice of zazen more eastern, and the practice of mindfulness more western, even if they share the same origin. Mindfulness has also contributed to the spread of Zen as a means for those born outside of Buddhist traditions to understand some of the basic concepts.
The Benefits of Zen and Mindfulness
All human beings will necessarily undergo suffering and conflict within themselves. Zen allows us to face these feelings and move beyond them. Everyone, from artists to businesspeople, can benefit from this ability.
In an era where everything is at our fingertips and we find ourselves on the edge of sensory overload, Zen gives us a way to reconsider our ever-changing desires and think about the life we truly want to lead.
Zen and mindfulness may be different, but they share both the same root and the same destination.
Now you know a little of the theory, why not practice Zen meditation yourself? With Wabunka Experiences, you can experience zazen online from a Buddhist monk, live from a temple in Kyoto.