Classical Zen meditation is a wonderful tool to help calm your mind, gain peace, and give you some pretty amazing health benefits, too.
For men, it's one of the most ideal meditations they can do. The majority of practitioners are men.
But, what if you're a woman?
If you're like us, you've tried Zen, and found it extremely boring, frustrating, and stressful.
Why can't your mind just shut down? Why is it every time you find a moment of peace, something else pops up?
Isn't this what Zen is supposed to stop?
You're Meditation For Your Health, Right?
Most women give up on Zen meditation quickly. They find it more stressful than not meditating at all.
But not if the act of meditating causes you more stress. That's not going to help anything at all.
Let's take a look at why that is.
The Difference Between Men and Women's Brains
Men and women have different brains.
This isn't to disparage either, because both have their strengths and weaknesses.
One teacher said the brain is like ice cream. Men have brains like half and half – very distinct and focused flavors.
Women are like fudge swirl - all of the flavors and ingredients mix together and interact together.
Men are attracted to Zen meditation because of the way their brain compartmentalizes. The male physiology leans towards extreme focus, the ability to shut out extraneous clutter and activities, and had a strong drive towards getting things done.
We see it today in how men can focus on a task to the point they don't hear when they're women or children call to them. They have an extreme drive towards providing and work. They handle one thing at a time.
On the other hand, women's brains developed to multitask and keep track of many things at one time. Connection and community are driving force.
That's why women can watch the kids, cook dinner, and talk on the phone simultaneously. It's why women can remember so many details and everything that needs to get done. The community aspect helps encourage emotional maturity and openness to create connection.
When it comes to Zen meditation, this drive for community, communication, and multitasking leads to frustration. How can you focus on nothing went there's so much to think about?
What Meditation Women Should Be Doing
That doesn't mean women should not be meditating. It just means you need a different type of meditation.
In most meditation schools, visualization is said to be the hardest to learn and most complex. But, that's for men. Women often do visualization meditation and achieve great results right away.
Visualization requires a person to keep dozens of different details organized and active. That's very hard for a man's mind because he likes to focus on a single task. But, this is something women excel with.
On the various social media outlets, you'll find millions of videos on visualization. The instructors will walk you through painting elaborate pictures in your mind. Some of the meditations are quite general, helping you focus on something you enjoy. But, others can take you through actual Buddhist meditations, helping you visualize the different iconographs representing different things.
Many Buddhist temples are now offering visualization exercises for women to help bridge the gap of meditation.
If you do the process of sitting, relaxing, and focusing your mind on this visualization, you can achieve the same results as the Zen meditation. You can get lower blood pressure, more relaxation, and decreased anxiety.
Try testing this yourself right now. Sit quietly, take a few steadying breaths, and then picture in your mind a place that relaxes you greatly. This could be the beach, a forest, watching kids, or simply relaxing in bed.
The goal is to picture it as realistically as possible, getting all of the site's details, sound, taste, scent, and touch. You should be able to immerse yourself in that experience to the point, and you believe you're there.
It's probably a good idea to set a timer, that way you don't have to worry about sitting too long.
And then, review what you feel. Did you feel relaxed? Was your mind able to completely focus on the visualization? Did it have extraneous thoughts popping in and out?
Meditation is a great tool when it's used properly. If these two types of meditations don't work for you, there are others, and finding a teacher that will help you find your specific type of meditation will go a long way to keeping you healthy and happy.