Meditation and Mindfulness

Kaizen: The Japanese Approach to Improving Your Meditation

A Japanese term for improvement, “Kaizen”, is a combination of the two words “Kai” and “Zen”. You’ve probably heard or read of Zen, a branch of Buddhism that is connected to simplicity, living in the now and ridding spiritual practices of extraneous rituals. “Kai” is concerned with change. When these two concepts are put together, the idea of improving any skill type, activity or process is what we get. 

The Kaizen concept originated after the 2nd world war and was associated with Japanese automobile company Toyota, a company known for its high production standards and efficient management styles.

Kaizen is basically about taking little steps to lead one big change. It’s about doing the small things like asking small questions, valuing small but precious moments, and enjoying the small victories.

In today’s highly competitive world, we’re encouraged and pressured to make massive changes through big strides. However, this is hardly practical as a lasting change requires consistency and if we’re being true to ourselves, big leaps are barely sustainable and therefore unrealistic. Small, constant changes, on the contrary, grow to become habits, and these habits practiced regularly are far more reliable.

Although the Kaizen concept is popular as a management philosophy, it is a lot more than that. You can incorporate the concept into your life, not just as a notion of improving yourself but also as a way to look at life. Some aspects of life that you can implement Kaizen include relationships, jobs, and businesses and time management. Exercise and fitness, in terms of yoga and meditation, can also benefit from the Kaizen approach.

Applying Kaizen to your life means you understand that even the smallest improvements in these areas are priceless and that there are really no “destinations” when it comes to getting better. With Kaizen, you do not look for the big stride forward or quick improvements, you seek the small improvements one day at a time and that eventually brings you lasting reward and happiness.

Applying Kaizen in Meditation

If you’re into mindful living even as a beginner, you probably already know how beneficial meditation can be to help us quieten those voices in our head, reduce stress and anxiety and help us feel better.

As a newbie meditator or even an experienced one, meditation can sometimes grow to become a chore. It’s even more challenging as a newbie and until you do something about it, you may start to believe that meditation is probably not for you. You then come up with so many excuses to justify your claims.

Some of the popular excuses include:

I have no time for meditation on my busy schedule

A common excuse but still not good enough. People with far busier lives still manage to squeeze out time for an activity as important as meditation, including some of the world’s biggest celebrities. The only difference between you and them is that they make it a priority.

My head is always full.

This is another common reason. I can’t stop thinking! The thoughts just keep rolling in. My head is full! And you know what? This is exactly why you need to meditate. Like all other habits, you can train your brain into calm from overthinking with conscious little but steady steps.

If you want to meditate better than before or are looking to take up the practice without excuses, then Kaizen can help. Below, we’ve outlined some ways you can integrate this concept to help you get better at meditation.

Guided Morning Meditation with Kaizen

This meditation type is a great step into a more solid meditation practice. It is great for starting the day as the words in these guided meditations contain positive affirmations. By listening to the kind small words from someone else each day, your mind begins to gradually calm that little voice inside you.

Meditating On a Topic

This is another effective kaizen approach to meditate effectively for new ideas. It is particularly useful for when you’re dealing with creative dry spells. The method shares some similarities with brainstorming but this time with a little more focus. Pick a convenient time and location for the meditation.

The location for this can be anywhere as long as technology or people are not close enough to distract you. Take a notebook with you and then choose your topic. It could be anything e.g. kid’s birthday party, your next blog post.

Sit down and gently breathe as you let your thoughts on the subject flow naturally. As the thoughts begin to flow in, jot them down and expand on them later. Don’t force the ideas. Expect unrelated ones to come up, let those go and continue meditating. If you do this regularly, you should start to see new ideas creep into your mind, even if it is slow at first.

Timed Meditation

We get it; you’re at that point where it seems like you’ve hit a brick wall with meditation. Nothing seems to work. And to complicate issues, stress seems to pile up by the second. You can reverse this. Instead of taking out long periods for meditation, especially when you’re barely feeling up to it, start small.

You can begin with just one minute. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get up and check your phone. Just set a timer for that one minute and do not look at your device until it is complete. You’ll build on that with time but for now, one minute is all you can comfortably manage. Commit to breathing for that one minute and then go to two, five, eight, and so on.

Soon, you’ll not need a timer or any guidance at all – instead, you’ll eventually look forward to your meditation sessions.

Final Thoughts

With Kaizen implemented into your meditation and lifestyle, you will discover that the continuous small choices and adjustments you make each day can lead to major improvements in your life. You will also discover that with Kaizen, the pressure of immediate proficiency is eliminated and that your little victories and improvements have made you a generally better person.

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