Zazen and the Art of Quieting Your Mind

Meditation has been getting a lot of attention lately, including by successful people who swear by its efficacy. Not wanting to limit myself to my current level of knowledge, I decided to give this a try about 3 years ago.

My first thoughts went to Japan because that is where I was first introduced to the concept. In aikido practice, we would often do a type of “zazen,” or seated meditation (Wikipedia). When I lived in Kyoto, I was fascinated with my class on meditation, as well as the ability to walk over to any temple and sit facing their sacred rock gardens while doing a little bit of contemplating. I had even experimented with walking meditation all along the busy Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

These days, I hear a lot about the benefits of meditation, including from sources such as the Mayo Clinic. Stress reduction, slowing down time, greater happiness… I needed to check this out!

The funny thing is that I probably am the last person who would consider doing this. To me, every minute is important, and I never thought I could squeeze in 10-15 minutes of sitting in silence.

So what possessed me to try it? Well, I was having difficulty falling asleep at night so I thought it might help my mind to settle down. Also, the pre-Ikigai Connections me knew that I had this business dream inside of me, and I just needed to organize my thoughts.

What did I do? I tried the Calm app every day for over a year, and it helped me instill this as a habit. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, and I sometimes silently (or not so silently) complained about having to do it. But once I got started and had a running streak going, I was inspired to keep going on a daily basis so I wouldn’t break the streak. And then, before I knew it, it became something that I wanted to do. Currently, I meditate at least 5 days a week, and sometimes even twice a day. I don’t use Calm anymore, but that is mostly because there are too many podcasts with different kinds of meditation styles that I like to experiment with.

Disclaimer: There are many ways to meditate with many schools of thought. Some schools have rules, some don’t. There could be a religious aspect to it, too, if you wanted it. I personally have barely begun to scratch the surface of what this world entails!

“And what happened?” you may be asking… Well, I’ve learned to really appreciate it. I find that sitting down to mediate for 5-10 minutes truly helps me focus on my work. If I’m really tired during the day, meditating helps me more than a nap does. Also, I often meditate at night to get me to fall asleep.

It took me a while to get to a place of enjoying it, and the benefits aren’t necessarily earth-shattering, but – to me – I feel that this is a habit I will continue for many, many years. Driving during rush hour, for example, is a very different story now. I am less angry when someone cuts me off. (I’m still angry, don’t get me wrong – it just doesn’t last as long and I find myself breathing my way through it.) I feel like a calmer person who can handle stress in a better way. I see that it’s a kind of recharge, and it helps slow down my racing mind to get focused and calm down.

Photo by Masaaki Komori on

4 thoughts on “Zazen and the Art of Quieting Your Mind”

  1. Thank you for this beautiful share, Kasia. Love it.
    In the book “A tale for the time being” I was introduced to the Zazen method. Tried it for a while and lost it again.

  2. Like atoz8, I also first heard the term Zazen through Ruth Ozeki’s fiction “A Tale for the Time Being.” 5-10 minutes of meditation (collecting my thoughts, honing in on things which were stressing me out and asking myself questions to get to the bottom of my thought process) also really helped me in Japan during stressful classes.

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