What is Zen?
astral zen form

What is Zen?

What is zen? Zen is defined as a state of calm where actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort. The term comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chan – with roots to the Indian practice of thinking and meditating known as Dhyana.

Zen is a wisdom tradition and is practised in China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea. There are also Zen centres in other countries. Zen teaching is a way of life. 

What is a Zen state of mind?

This expression is often referred to as the state of no-mindness. This relates to the mind not occupied or fixed by thought or emotion, and open to everything. Distractions, fears and worries are absent, and the mind is present, aware, and free. This pure state of mind, of pure mental clarity, is produced by the absence of the limited self.

In all our workshops at Spirit Vine Retreats we use several principles of Zen meditation. Our main purpose is to achieve the state of calm, teaching mindfulness techniques.

What does it mean to be in Zen?

The purpose of all Zen teaching is to increase the awareness of wonder and to answer that wondering with a deep expression of one’s own nature. When you can notice yourself and go beyond the words to speculate what your own mind and being are – this is being in Zen.

What is the purpose of Zen?

According to Shunryu Suzuki-roishi Zen sitting meditation can calm the mind, bringing clarity, and a greater sense of kindness. This is just one part of the journey. The purpose of Zen isn’t to stop mind activity, but to let thoughts come in and go out.

When things appear as if they’re coming from outside the mind it’s actually only the waves of the mind. These gradually become calmer as they cease to trouble you. As the waves rise the essence of your mind remains pure – similar to clear water with a few waves – the practice of water. The water and waves become one.

What is Zen meditation?

Zazen meditation has both external and internal instructions on how to engage your awareness in the immediate experience of the present moment. The practice of zazen meditation realises your true nature which goes beyond self-identity without self-imposed limitations.

Progress is made by approaching sessions with a balance of patience and effort. Carefully finding the right space creates an atmosphere of clarity and calm. Paying attention to posture and comfort will ensure that you can pay undivided attention to breathing and thought.

Your thinking will stop by itself as your mind calms and you begin to understand that the mind encompasses everything. As you simply become aware of the moment of breathing all ideas of time, space, body and mind will just be sitting.

Zen monks typically meditate for several hours every day, and often practice all day and sometimes all night. A week of intense meditation known as sesshin, takes place in Early December, ending on the eight to commemorate Buddha’s enlightenment.

How is Zen different from Buddhism?

The essence of Buddhism is achieving enlightenment by seeing one’s original mind or nature directly, without the intervention of the intellect – true human nature. Buddhism practices include meditation, the Eightfold Path, right mindfulness, effort, concentration, and right speech.

The literal meaning of Buddhism is those who follow the teachings of Buddha. Rebirth is one of the central beliefs where an endless cycle of birth, death, and re-birth takes place, which can only be broken by attaining Nirvana to escape permanent suffering.

Buddhism uses statues as meditation objects which are revered as they reflect the qualities of the Buddha. The Buddha is viewed as the highest teacher and founder of Buddhism, the all-transcending sage. The goal is to attain enlightenment and to be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, attaining Nirvana.

Zen is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism and practices include regularly visiting a temple to meditate and make offerings to Buddha. Zen believes in buddhas that can live forever and influence man in similar ways that are attributed to gods, as in the late Mahayana sutras. Zen is the Japanese translation of the Sanskrit word meaning meditation.

Zen is based on the practice of transcendent virtues with the most widely used being generosity, moral training, patient endurance, energy or effort, meditation, and wisdom.

Zen is a meditation-based Buddhism that doesn’t rely on scripture, ritual, or doctrine, and is confirmed by personal experience. There are four Zen statements that are quoted to illustrate the essential spirit of Zen:

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

What is Zen philosophy?

The Zen definition for deeper learning can be broken down into elements:

Practice Zazen (Meditation)

In zazen, the goal is to harmonise breathing, body, and mind. Through this form of meditation, inner peace and clarity will be achieved

Operate from your True Self

There are five simple ways to recognise whether you are doing this:

  • The true self is certain and has clarity – not influenced by outside issues that lead to confusion
  • The true self is stable – not constantly shifting
  • The true self is driven by a profound sense of truth – not driven by ego and self-demands
  • The true self is at peace – not easily disturbed or stressed
  • The true self is love – not looking for love from outside sources

Practising Zen in Daily Life

By living every moment to the fullest and respecting the mind, body, and soul, Zen can be applied to every day. You can develop self-awareness and act in a manner that benefits yourself and others. Recognise things for what they are, and rise above opposing principles known as dualism, which can cause anxiety and conflict. Letting go will free your mind.

Spirit Vine Retreats in Brazil offer a variety of techniques to connect with your essence at a deeper level. Meditation training can help with the understanding that in the unconscious mind time doesn’t exist and everything is happening right now. The creation of mental space for new visions and insights will help the mind incorporate the information, achieving inner peace.

Upcoming Retreats

  • Oct  20 — Oct 28
  • Nov  20 — Nov 30
  • Dec  15 — Dec 23
  • Jan  5 — Jan 13
  • Feb  14 — Feb 24

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Spirit Vine COVID-19 Update

Last Updated: 5th May 2021

As travel has opened up in different parts of the world, we have resumed our retreats since October 2020. In light of the global situation, we are establishing new guidelines to ensure that we provide the maximum amount of safety to all participants who attend the retreats.

We will be following the guidelines provided by the Brazilian government which you can find below, and adding any necessary precautions suitable for the retreats.

In the Itacare area, where we are located, there are very low number of COVID cases.

We will update this section when new information is available.
Content listed here is subject to change.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Brazilian Government Recommendations for COVID-19

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water;
  • if water and soap are not available or when hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used;
  • Maintain at least a 1-metre distance between yourself and others;
  • Wear a mask, that covers your nose, mouth and chin;
  • Practice respiratory hygiene;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
  • Be aware of the situation of your destination and follow the guidelines of local public health authorities;
  • Avoid spaces that are closed, crowded or involve close contact;
  • Monitor your health for COVID-19 symptoms and, if you feel unwell:
    – seek medical attention;
    – stay self-isolated as recommended by local health authorities.

Anyone who wants to enter in Brazil must present a negative Covid RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to boarding the flight and travelers must fill out an affidavit (printed or digitally), with the written acknowledgement to the health measures that must be complied with during the period that they will remain in the country. You can find more information about the affidavit here.

Prior to leaving Brazil, depending on the requirements of your destination country, you may be required to present an RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of your departure. In this case, we recommend you to budget the required time of 4 hours to take the test and get the results in Sao Paulo airport.

Please note that Itacare and Ilheus do not have RT-PCR testing centers.

Spirit Vine Guidelines for COVID-19

If you will arrive in Brazil more than 3 days before the start of the retreat, then you need to do another Covid test (quick Covid test) before entering our center and send the results to me by email.

Spirit Vine Cancellation Policy for COVID-19

If you have paid for a retreat and you are not able to participate for major reasons like travel restrictions due to Covid-19, then you may apply your credit to another retreat of the same value for a period of 2 years.