How Can Zen Meditation Help My Sobriety?

Zen Buddhism is a lean, non-doctrinal approach to meditation. It doesn’t rely on scripture, ritual, or sacramental practices to become spiritual af. This practice trusts the personal experiences of the practitioner, and is passed on to others through an intimate training/relationship, similar to how a 12-step sponsor passes experience, strength, and hope. According to Zen founder Bodhidharma, Zen is a…


A special transmission outside the scriptures.
No dependency on words and letters.
Pointing directly to the human mind.
Seeing into one’s nature and attaining Buddhahood.


How do you do it: 

Zazen (坐禅) means “seated Zen”, or “seated meditation”, in Japanese. The practice finds its roots in Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an), which traces back to Bodhidharma (6th century CE, India). Today, Zen Buddhism is comprised of many different practices, philosophies, schools, and traditions; however, the core remains relatively consistent. 

This meditation practice is generally done while seated on the floor over a mat and cushion. Traditionally it was done in lotus or half-lotus position, but this isn’t a requirement. Other ways a person can sit is: 

  • Burmese Position: Legs are crossed and both feet rest flat on the floor. The knees should also rest on the floor.

  • Seiza Position: kneeling, with your buttocks resting on the upturned feet which form an anatomical cushion. You can also use a pillow to keep the weight off your ankles. If this is difficult, you can use a seiza benchto take ALL the weigh off your feet or ankles.

  • Chair Position: Keep your feet flat on the floor. Sit at the edge of the chair with your back straight. If you need assistance you can use a cushion, or zafu, placing it on the back of your chair and under your feet.  


Back and Breath

  • Loosen up anything that is tight around the waist. Wear loose and non-binding clothing 

  • When you sit, keep the back straight and centered, 

  • Allow the diaphragm to move freely. 

  • Breathe deep, easy, and natural, but do not manipulate your breathing patterns 



The hands are folded in mudra. hand gestures during meditation that carry specific goals of channeling your body’s energy flow. Although there are hundreds of mudras to pick from, many Zen practitioners prefer the Cosmic Mudra. According to The Conscious Life’s Mudras: Meditation In Your Hands, the “cosmic mudra helps to bring your attention inward and is useful when you are trying to increase self-awareness…To adopt this mudra, use your dominant hand to cradle the other hand, with both palms facing up. Tips of your thumbs should be touching each other, forming a compressed oval shape together with your palms.”

Method 1: Focused Breathing

  • Press tongue on the upper palate of the mouth. 

  • Keep the mouth closed as you breathe through the nose.

  • Focus all your attention on the movement of the breath going in and out through the nose. 

  • Count each breath in your mind. 

    • Each time you inhale you count one number, starting with 1, and then move forward to 2, 3, 4, etc. When you arrive to 10, you resume back to 1, and repeat the process. 

      • Note: If you get sidetracked, and mind wanders, gracefully bring back your focus to the number 1 and resume from there.


Method 2: Shikantaza (“just sitting”)

  • Press your tongue on the upper palate of the mouth. 

  • Keep the mouth closed as you breathe through the nose.

  • Focus all your attention on the present moment.

    • Become aware of what passes through your mind.

    • Do not dwell on anything in particular, just focus on your thoughts in the moment. 

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