Mantra Meditation is not really part of Zen, but I have found it useful. I noticed that during my sitting right as my brain was starting to chill out it would go into overdrive and flood me with thoughts (let me know what you have noticed). It’s like as soon as you get an irritant on your hands, your eye itches.
So in an effort to keep my mind from freaking I bought a mala (I got one for a buck on amazon) and started reciting mantras. A mala is a kind of necklace or bracelet (depending on size) that is used like an abacus. You start at the “Guru Knot” and count ‘em out. If you are interrupted just start over, not a big deal. It’s kinda like meditation lite. Here are some common mantras http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures. Some people put some (what I have found to be frivolous) importance on which mantras you do, how many times you do them, and what they are done for.
I do mantras because they are like a place holder for your brain. I do them often whilst walking. It often keeps me from day dreaming and causes me to pay more attention to my surroundings.
For a full definition of Mantra Meditation check out http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/definition, if you want. If you care about how mantra meditation works check out http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/method,again if you want. If you want to know how is mantra meditation used check out http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/how_used
Please leave your comments, questions, and an update about how your sitting is going.