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Get your basic questions answered on Zen meditation.

I cannot sit crossed-legged on the floor. Can I still practice Zen?

Yes, Zen is not body sitting but ‘mind sitting’ so no matter what your body is doing, you can always return to clarity. Formal sitting meditation and other practices are methods that can help us become more clear in our moment to moment life. You can sit on a chair, stand, walk or even lie down if necessary. For group sitting practice sessions, using a chair and also periodic standing are recommended as an alternative.

How different is Zen from other meditation techniques?

Different techniques of meditation have different purposes: some meditation styles are for reducing stress, for making our body more healthy, or for improving our professional skills. There are also meditation or contemplation styles from Christianity, Hinduism or Islam. Meditation styles from Buddhist traditions also have some purposes. Theravada Buddhism teaches vipassana or insight meditation as a method to attain nirvana. Mahayana Buddhism has many kinds of practices for those who wish to attain the bodhisattva path. Zen means understand your true self – what am I? Wake up to become Buddha, then help all beings. When we embark on a spiritual practice, it is important to first ask yourself – what do I want? If you don’t know, no problem. Zen means keeping a don’t know mind anytime, everywhere, keep looking and one day the answer appears.

Do I have to do the kong-an interviews? It seems intimidating.

Don’t worry about the kong-an interviews. We suggest you just join the practice, ask questions and listen to some talks, and connect with the community. Then slowly, if Zen is a good fit for you, trying a kong-an interview is a natural process and although it may seem intimidating at first, you will come to experience the joy of experiencing your mind open up. The teachers are always there to help you every step of the way.

I cannot do the bows due to some body problems. Is there an alternative?

Standing bow or sitting bows are also alternative forms of bowing. We recommend you consult a teacher first if you are bowing for the first time.

Why do I have to keep my eyes open when doing Zen meditation?

Zen means to wake up. We do meditation while staying awake, not in sleep state. So Zen is a way to experience clarity in mind when we are in the state of being awake in our everyday life. Sometimes we are awake but our mind is spaced out or in delusion, or driven by emotions, or even falling asleep. Keeping our eyes open helps us to perceive everything in front of us just as it is, without adding or taking anything way. That is clear mind. If you feel tired when sitting, you may need better sleep or rest. Sometimes we have a habit of closing our eyes when we sit. If you try to stay awake, at first it can be a bit uncomfortable, but over time, you will feel refreshed and awake. We recommend consulting a teacher for more instructions on how to have an awakened sitting experience.

Do I have to be a Buddhist to practice Zen?

The Korean Zen master Man Gong once said, “If you can taste soy sauce as being salty, you can practice Zen.” One does not have to be a Buddhist to practice Zen. There are however, some foundational teachings from Buddhism which accompany Zen practice that are meant to help us find our true nature and give us a a clear direction.

What are the health benefits of Zen?

Zen meditation is not a cure for medical or mental illnesses or disorders. By meditating, if we can become clearer and calmer, that naturally helps us to choose to do things that can reduce stress and help ourselves, paving the way for better healing. For any mental illnesses or disorders, we recommend you consult your physician or therapist before starting a meditation practice.

What are the benefits of membership at Zenseoul?

Membership at Zenseoul provides access to regular practice, retreats, resources and events as well as discounts where applicable for such programs. You can also connect with the global Zen community, and taking Buddhist precepts or further dharma teacher training are also available in the Kwan Um tradition. As a Zenseoul member, you are also automatically eligible to be a member of the Kwan Um Zen Online, the global online community where worldwide Zen programs are available. To join, visit

Do you offer any scholarship?

Yes, we do offer scholarships on a need basis. Please connect with us if you need support to help your practice by writing to