Unlock the Power of Zen Meditation to Enrich Your Life

This is a guest post for Powered by Intuition by Alexis Bonari.

Spiritual Beginnings

Pagan meditation

I have to admit, I’ve never been a real spiritual person. Sure I grew up going to church, and not just going to church but going every Sunday. I was an altar girl, and active in the church youth group, and I always enjoyed those community aspects.

The problem was, that deep down inside I never really believed all of it, upon learning who the pope was I immediately rejected the idea that any single one person was closer to God than anybody else. I guess I just wasn’t cut out for Catholicism, and in my teenage years I set it aside and forgot about spirituality altogether.

The Early Submarine Years

Years later I had an epiphany, and like a lot of people who have epiphanies I had been going through a bit of a rough time. I was in the military, serving on board a submarine. The first year hadn’t seemed too bad to me, kind of like camping out I thought. But after that it started to get to me. The lack of things we normally take for granted like sunshine and fresh air were a commodity I no longer had access to, and the malignant atmosphere in the boat forced me to seek some kind of refuge.

Reconnecting With Spirituality

In our off-time we didn’t have many places to go, there was no lounge or any other rooms to get comfy and play board games, cards, or something like that. So I found a little niche among some switchboard equipment and spent my time sitting there on the cold steel floor, surrounded by machinery gray equipment humming with the sound of electricity.

I sat there and I began to do something I hadn’t done in years – read books. I didn’t really know a whole lot about books, nor did I even have a particular subject I was interested in, I would simply just pick up any books that sounded good to me. While there are more than just a couple of them that still stand out to me, perhaps the one that had the largest impact on my thinking was The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Discovering Meditation

Although I had heard people talk about meditation before, albeit briefly, I was completely oblivious to what it was or its connection to spirituality. Honestly, upon my first read through The Tibetan Book of the Dead I was pretty much just completely confused by the work.

It would take me a number of years, and talking to others before I really understood how learning about enlightenment could apply to my waking life, but it eventually did. What’s more important was the process it took me to get there, I began to read other more basic texts and a couple of them along the way discussed Zen meditation.

I decided to give it a try. I hunkered down in my little hiding hole and began sitting in a half-lotus position, concentrating on purging my mind of all thoughts. It was difficult at first, and it seemed like I could never get my brain to shut off.

The Breakthrough at Bluff Point

I finally had a breakthrough while jogging along the New England coast. It was a nice little jog that I liked to take periodically during our time in port, out along a reed lined sound to the coast and back. That day I looked at the black boulders along that North Atlantic Sea and decided to sit down on one and have a meditation session before heading back.

As I looked out over that gray water which at the horizon seemed to diffuse into the grayness of the sky above, and I began to lose all sense of myself in the singular sense. It was in that moment that I had that first clarity of mind, and afterward I came to understand the power of Zen.

Taking this underway with me, I was able to reproduce this peaceful state and find some respite from all the awfulness. It gave me the fortitude to complete my duty honorably and to this day helps to provide me with a peaceful perspective. It keeps me grounded when I’m faced with the seemingly innumerable sources of pain and stress that stem from modern life.

Some Tips for Reaching a State of Zen

Based on this experience, I’d like to just share a couple tips to help others struggling to reach a similar meditative state:

Don’t mistake a clear mind for a lack of focus

Pick an appropriate scene to focus on that you find calming, such as an abstract painting.

Begin not by concentrating on the image of your focus, but your interconnectedness with it.

Expect Zen to be a learning process and don’t become frustrated if you don’t “get it” at first.

Share your thoughts and feelings with others.

Utilize sources like the internet to connect with other like minded individuals

Have you practiced Zen meditation, or any other meditation? What were the benefits to you? Did others notice a change in you?

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Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching unsubsidized student loans as well as medical condition scholarships. Whenever this work at home mom gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.

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  1. Hi Alexis and Angela,

    Alexis, I agree with your ‘interconnectedness’ point. I rarely meditate. When I do, it usually last not more than one minute. Couldn’t get my mind stop thinking longer than that. I agree with the ‘interconnectedness’ point because I experience it when I do things mindfully. Even the most plain and boring task such as hanging you washed clothes for dry, if do it mindfully and feeling the interconnectedness between you and the task, can give you peace and enjoyment. I feel it and enjoy it but couldn’t describe it in words until I read your post. The word ‘interconnectedness’ describes it very well. Thanks Alexis.

    • Hi Nor,
      I’m so glad you found something to describe “that feeling” in Alexis’ post!
      It is a pleasure meeting you. Thank you so much for leaving your comment.

  2. Hi Alexis, great post! I love learning about how others came to embrace mediation in their lives. We all come to it in different ways. I can’t imagine living on a submarine – but I can understand how it moved you to go within.

    Your tips on reaching a state of Zen are wonderful. :)
    Aileen recently posted…Why I Don’t Want to Know your Secret WishMy Profile

    • Hi Aileen,
      I could never live on a submarine either!

  3. Angela,

    I loved hearing about your spiritual beginnings and your experience in meditation. Like Tess, I can’t imagine living in a submarine either!

    Meditation has transformed by life. I know now that I am not my thoughts and emotions. I have the skills to both calm my mind and increase the clarity of mind. Mindfulness and awareness together bring a sense of spaciousness and ease into one’s life and being. A warm compassionate heart naturally springs forth. There’s so much benefit to meditation, I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

    Thanks for introducing us to Zen!
    Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted…Stop the World and SeeMy Profile

    • Hi Sandra,
      I’m so happy to see you here and glad to know that you enjoyed Alexis Bonari’s guest post. I agree with you – absolutely.
      Meditation also transformed my life as well! The benefits you listed in your comment are exactly what I’ve experienced as well. I honestly think we should be funding and teaching meditation in public schools and in prisons. It would transform our society. Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your wonderful insights with us.

    • Hi Tess,
      I couldn’t live on a submarine either. Just thinking about the lack of sun and air make me feel so claustrophobic, I’m glad Alexis found meditation to keep her calm while deep under the ocean!

  4. Hi Alexis,

    I have a book that discusses about the Tibetan Book of the Dead in my home library. I have had it for years but never got the chance to read it. Thanks for reminding me! I may just go buy the actual Tibetan Book of the Dead myself.

    I have not tried Zen meditation and would like to know more about what it is about. Thanks for highlighting some important tips here!
    Evelyn Lim recently posted…Self Love Series Take A Self Love QuizMy Profile

    • Hello dear Evelyn,
      Thanks so much for visiting us here today. I have not read The Tibetan Book of the Dead either. It does sound intriguing though.
      I don’t practice Zen meditation either. I’d like to know more about it too.

  5. I have tried to follow various practices including Zazen. However, it works much better just to do some hodge podge of what works for me for right now. I do find that my practice changes and evolves. So, may be one day I will grow into one specific practice.

    Meditation has taught me to be aware of and consciously choose my thoughts and emotions off of the cushion too, and has changed my life.

    I like your advice not to mistake a clear mind for lack of focus. I think I do that often.
    Debbie Hampton recently posted…Less Food For ThoughtMy Profile

    • Hi Debbie,
      I’m glad you enjoyed Alexis’ article. I like what you say: Meditation has taught me to be aware of and consciously choose my thoughts and emotions. That is one of the greatest benefits I think – to no longer be held hostage by your monkey mind. Excellent point!
      I found that interesting too regarding not mistaking a clear mind for lack of focus. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Thanks so much for coming by and adding to the conversation here.

  6. Wonderful article, Alexis. Yes a little understanding of Zen goes a very long way. Understanding the nature of a simple question like “what are you doing?” or “are you sure?” has the power to reminds us of our Authentic Nature. To remind is to re-mind… that is it puts us back in the mind of infinite intelligence that we had simply forgotten.

    Life on a submarine must have been an amazing experience and challenge… I am curious, how did you find new books to read on the submarine? :)
    rob white recently posted…The Value of ThoughtsMy Profile

    • Hi Rob,
      All good questions. Maybe Alexis will stop by and answer!

  7. Indeed, I consider Zazen as important part of my daily practice. For me, the greatest benefit is that Zen helped me calm down. I used to have very chaotic mind with hundreds of thoughts punching me each minute. After few weeks of Zazen, chaos is gone, and I’m at peace.
    Nathan recently posted…What Do You Really Need To Know About MeditationMy Profile

    • Hi Nathan, So nice to see you.
      I’m so glad to hear about your success with meditation. Unless you experience this – you cannot know the joy of having a clear and centered mind. You put it so well: after a few weeks of Zazen, chaos is gone, and I’m at peace. Wonderful!



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