The Zen Miracle Cure for Anxiety & PTSD
It's not for nothing that in old Japan -- where life was often nasty, brutish and cut short -- Zen was the "religion" of warriors.
(At one time in Japan, starting roughly during the Kamakura period onward through the era of civil wars, more samurai were doing intensive Zen meditation than monks were. Chinese Zen priests had to be brought over by the boatload just to keep up with demand for meditation teaching. The Japanese warrior class had recognized that Zen was the perfect practice for people facing death every single day of their lives.)
Doing Zen in the samurai way can resolve your anxious mental turmoil and keep you from being "stressed out" by anything at all.
The basic idea is to start with some attention to breathing and body posture. Learning to sit in Seiza, that's an excellent start (see the diagram above). (If you cannot sit in Seiza due to problems with your legs, use the picture above as a guide to keeping your posture straight yet relaxed while sitting in a chair.)
Traditionally, Seiza is done for about ten minutes, combined with "Stilling Thoughts" (Mokuso), to clear the mind and prepare for any sort of artistic practice, martial or otherwise. If you've ever studied Kendo, for instance, you've already learned how to sit calmly in Seiza and practice Mokuso.
Here is the basic instruction: take the strong Seiza posture and rather than either thinking or imagining anything or directly trying to stop thinking or imagining anything, keep bringing your attention back to the "seat of your breathing."
The "seat of your breathing" is the lower Tanden. This is a small area just about two fingers below your navel and about one inch inside it.
For many people (I am one), "breathing" as a whole is far too diffuse to focus on, so in the Japanese yoga derived from Rinzai Zen and Taoism we're taught to focus on the lower Tanden instead, using strong "one- pointed" concentration.
Anyone at all can learn to do this. It is not that difficult. And the rewards are instantaneous.
Note that the reason "one pointed" mind training works is that it brings the awareness, energy and attention down from your upper body where it's getting knotted up as "thoughts" and very uncomfortable emotions (in the neck, jaw, head, and shoulders especially) and constricting the circulation of Ki.
Each time the attention wavers, which it will, you gently but firmly bring it back to the "one point."
If even this seems difficult at first, there are three even easier methods (I myself use them all):
1. Light a candle (a small votive type candle in a dish or a glass is best so you don't get distracted by dripping wax) and focus all your attention on the flame of the candle as the "one point," getting completely absorbed into it by bringing your attention back each time it begins to wander into thoughts or images of the past and future, any worries you might have, &c.
2. Use a small indoor fountain that has a stream of water running quietly over pebbles. This can be very absorbing. It's the same idea: you listen to the trickling water (while sitting firmly yet comfortably in Seiza) and the changing, subtle sound of the water is your "one point." Each time your attention begins to waver, you return it to the sound of the trickling water.
3. Count your out-breaths slowly down from 108. Counting the breaths is your "one point." Each number fills your mind as you count it, so that in a very short time the chain of thinking is snapped. Once all your thinking disappears, along with all the anxious feelings attached to it, you will feel very refreshed. At this time, stop counting and merely relax into the natural luminous mind state.
Seiza is an inherently powerful and stable posture, even more so if you completely relax into it by dropping your energy downward -- always downward to the lower Tanden, even to the knees, the feet, the hands (assuming they're resting on your knees or making a mudra).
Always drop Ki downward, because in anxiety attacks the body's energy rushes upward and overloads your head (or, even worse perhaps, gets choked and knotted up very painfully in the chest and/or throat).
By using Seiza along with "one pointed" concentration you can overcome any anxious thought/feeling.
And better still, you will soon directly realize that your mind is the purity of unbounded space.
More of these direct and simple warrior Zen methods here.