What is it?
Zazen is a form of meditation associated with Zen Buddhism that has its origins in Chinese, Indian and Japanese Buddhist traditions. The word Zazen means “seated Zen” and is considered to be the very heart of Zen practice. To make real progress in zazen requires a genuine commitment to practice. We may not recognize dramatic changes in our lives right away, but that’s okay. One aspect of relating to our practice is to approach it with a balance of effort and patience. To find that which is beyond our ideas of self, we need to engage in our own experience of practice.
How do I practice zazen?
Find a quiet space to sit. posture can vary, but Zazen is often practiced on a mat or cushion, with or without legs crossed. The back is kept as straight as possible, head slightly tilted forward with the mouth closed, breathing naturally with gaze focused on the floor. Attention is concentrated on the inward and outward movements of the breath or just simply sitting with no attention on the breath.
Challenges and Commitments of practice
You should preferably sit in the morning, starting with ten minutes a day for the first week. As your practice develops, gradually work up to 20-30 minutes a day. First, we see our body, mind, and breath as three different things. Over time we can begin to see them more as a single experience. Sitting for long periods can be challenging for both the mind and the body. The practice of Zazen becomes more natural and comfortable over time.
Tips and Reminders
If time is a challenge, try practicing Zazen for shorter periods of 5 or 10 minutes, increasing over time. Refrain from trying to stop your thinking. When a thought comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out. Your mind will begin to calm down. Nothing comes from outside of mind. Your mind follows your breathing. Drop the ideas of time and space, body and mind, and just “be” sitting. Find a Zen community or practice partner to sit with.