sitting 101

Here are three good descriptions of  how to “do” seated Zen meditation, or zazen.

The first example is from our sister group in Hamilton. In addition to being very clear, it has the added advantage of being short:

When we sit, we follow our breath. Beginning meditators are often asked to count their breath – on the exhale – up to ten. Then you begin back at one. If you lose track, simply go back to one.

Your breath should be slow and regular, but not forced or artificially controlled. Just breathe naturally and count. You will inevitably find yourself distracted by sounds around you and thoughts within. The way to handle them is to acknowledge them, but do not attach yourself to them. Do not get involved with them. Just let them be, let them go, and focus again on the breath.

Later, you will find that the same scant attention that you use for thoughts and sounds will work with physical feelings as well.

The second example is what the historic Buddha (also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, the Guatama Buddha or Śākyamuni Buddha) had to say about seated meditation nearly 2500 years ago in the 
Sutra On The Mindfullness Of Breathing (Anapanasati_Sutta).

There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

There is more, which you can read here if you’re interested, but you get the idea. Point is, it’s very similar the seated meditation we do in Zen.

Finally, here is what the great Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said about zazen:

When we practice zazen our mind always follows our breathing. When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world.

When we exhale, the air goes to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world.

In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all.

When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.

–Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

And since there are so many quotes in this post, we’ll end with just one more:

“That’s All, Folks!”
–Porky Pig


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