What the hell is Zen?

Short answer: Breathe in and out a few times while focusing on the space beween the colon and the 'B'

Long answer:
Technically, Zen is a sect of the Buddist religion that believes the answer to everything is nothing. But here I will pass down my personal understanding of zen in an attempt to help you understand a component of my life and give you the knowledge needed incorporate zen into your own life if you so desire.

Finding zen is finding a pure state of existence, an existence away from bothersome thoughts and emotions. At first, this seems impossible. The modern human brain is always in motion, moving from one thing to another. You consciously focus on something for a period of time and then focus on something else; at the same time thoughts and memories appear from nowhere along with emotions which guide action. We become bored, frustrated, angry. Sometimes life seems like an endless pit of dispair, chaos, confusion, pain, suffering, restlessness. The answer to all of this lies not in stopping the emotions and thoughts, but embracing them so closely that they seem an integral part of our existence and as a result, pass like wind over a blade of grass on a summer day.

The following paragraphs will guide you into this 'wind over grass' state of existence, but first I should warn you. In following these steps you may find yourself lost, or confused for a few days. Finding zen takes you back to an animalistic state. Over your years living in this world you have build up many defensive measures in order to exist, when you break these walls down you will find yourself in a very new place. You must be prepared for this dramatic change before you start.

There are many methods to achieving zen. Sitting meditation is the most basic and easiest to grasp.

First, place a cusion on the floor and sit on it. Then cross your legs in a way that feels comfortable. Stretch your back as straight as you can, be mindful of your orientation; your nose, chest and navel should appear aligned if you were looking at yourself from the front. Next, create a circle by laying four fingers on one hand over four fingers of your other hand, with palms facing you, then join your thumbs together to create the circle. Place this circle in your lap against your body with palms facing up. Now, with your back still straight, tilt your head down at about a 45 degree angle. Rest your eyes, allow them to close partially while focusing on a part of an object; for example, the edge of a table, focus your eyes on a small specific part of anything. Now, breathe deeply in and out. Gently begin to breathe in with your stomach and out with your stomach, you should not be moving up when you breathe, just outwards. Take very deep breaths in and out, it should take you a full 5 seconds or more to breathe in, and 5 seconds to breathe out. Now, begin counting each exhale, for the 5 seconds out you should be saying ooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeeee in your mind. Count up to 10 and then start at 1 again. Keep doing this. You should notice your thoughts now, trying to take you away from your counting, but just focus on the breathing and the numbers. Allow yourself to think about anything, but just let it pass over you, don't force yourself to think. Concentrate your entire being on the point you are looking at, your breath and your numbers.

After doing this for a while you will notice you loose the customary feeling of your body. It will feel like you are floating or perhaps you will feel your internal organs working, blood moving through your veins. Everything will feel very still outside of you.

After a few weeks/months or years of this you will begin to realize that you do not need to count anymore. You can just sit there and experience true nothing, this is zen. You will feel the true power of your body and realize your existance in a new way.

You will probably find that when you get up you will have a sense of stillness and peace, emotions will become easier to control. Simple things like lifting a cup can take on new meanings. You can put yourself into your hands, you can fully experience every second of it. It took me many years to get to this state, of course it still takes work, its not fully integrated into my being yet, its more like a vacation I can take when I need to.

I learned about this stuff from a very good book: "Zen Training by Katsuki Sekida". He goes a lot deeper into the things I covered above and even if your aren't really intrested in Zen, its still a good read. He has a very down-to-earth writing style.