Zazen, the formal practice of seated meditation, is the cornerstone of Zen training. Za means "sitting." Zen, which derives from the Sanskrit word dhyana, means "meditation." In its beginning stages, zazen is a practice of concentration, with a focus on following or counting the breath.
HOW TO SIT
- Sit on the forward half of your zafu, bench, or chair.
- Arrange your legs -- full lotus, half lotus, Burmese, kneeling, or chair; choose the most stable position you can sustain comfortably.
- Center your spine by swaying in decreasing arcs, left to right, forward and backward.
- Straighten and extend your spine, and align your head (by "pushing up the ceiling" and then relaxing).
- The origin of thrust is at the small of your back so your belly and buttocks both protrude slightly.
- Head -- should neither tilt forward, backward, nor lean to either side
- Ears -- should be parallel with shoulders
- Tip of nose -- centered over navel
- Chin -- tucked in slightly
- Eyes -- neither fully opened nor fully closed, lowered to a 45 degree angle; unfocused, "gazing" at the floor 2 to 3 feet in front of you so blinking is minimized.
- Mouth -- lips and teeth closed; place the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, just behind the front teeth. Swallow any saliva in your mouth, and squeeze out the air so there is a slight vacuum. This inhibits salivation and overly tense jaw muscles.
- Hands -- place in "cosmic" mudra:
- Right hand -- palm up, blade against lower belly
- Left hand -- on top of right, middle knuckles overlap
- Thumbs -- tips lightly touch, forming an oval
Make sure your whole body is arranged the way you want it before beginning zazen. And keep as still as possible during zazen. If you must get up for the restroom, or if a coughing spell requires you to get a drink of water, please rise and exit quietly and quickly. Take care of your immediate needs, and return in a mindful manner, re-joining the group as soon as you can. After a short sit there is walking meditation (kinhin).