Want to Deepen Your Focus in Meditation? Try This Zen Practice

The original article was posted on Yoga Journal. See the full version here.

You know that feeling of losing yourself in something you enjoy? That’s joriki.

The ability to settle into a state of one-pointed focus is a key element in meditation. On paper, this may seem straightforward, but even long-time meditators—even on their best days—can find it difficult to find focus. Learning joriki may help you reignite your focus and bring energy back into your mindfulness practice.

In Zen meditation, joriki is a term used to describe deep focus. The “jo” is sometimes translated as samadhi, which we know from the Yoga Sutras as a state of being intensely present. “Ki” is spiritual energy, compassion, and wisdom. As a word taken together, joriki means “stable strength”—the power or ability to remain steadfast, balanced, and focused.

You have probably unknowingly experienced joriki before. It’s losing yourself in something you enjoy so much that an hour goes by without even realizing it. In meditation practice, it is that calming sense that you are “at one” with the moment and at peace with circumstances. Joriki enables you to sit, undisturbed, allowing your thoughts and sensations to arise, while your mind and body are unified in meditative concentration. For most, that powerful concentration is often fleeting. However,  you can harness joriki again with a simple and intentional breathing practice.

A meditation practice for joriki

Step-by-step instructions

  • Start by finding a comfortable seat. Bring your focus to the breath and begin counting each breath as it arises. This gives you a tangible focal point to return to when your mind drifts.
  • Breathe in for a count of 4 and then exhale to a count of 4. Increase or decrease the number based on your natural cadence. Your breath should be easy, not forced.
  • When your mind begins to wander, “touch” the thought with your awareness and let it go. Return to your breath as your anchor. If you find this difficult, then imagine you are on a raft floating down river. As a thought comes up, let it go as your raft gently glides forward.
  • Avoid the temptation to suppress your emotions. As they arise, notice them, touch them, and sit with them. You cannot fight the current, you must simply move with it.
  • As you bring your attention back to the breath each time, you will stop noticing your thoughts as distractions, and your awareness will remain focused on the present moment.
  • With time, you will strengthen this skill and develop the patience to navigate the currents of life. Each time you return to the breath, your awareness will build and you will access the spiritual power of joriki with more ease.
  • Coming together with joriki

    Eventually, you will follow the rhythm of your breath and let go of your counting, you will become one with your breath, and the experience will feel effortless. In this state of joriki, your body and mind meet in serene focus. Don’t rush the process. With experience, your awareness will sharpen and your internal dialogue will dissipate. In this state of powerful concentration, your meditative practice will blossom. As joriki grows stronger, you will move closer toward samadhi, the single-pointedness of your mind and the power of focusthat lies within you.