Saturday, October 29, 2016

Meditation: When it's "Just Sitting" (Zen)

Just Sitting: The Zen Practice of shikantaza
Once or twice a day, I sit facing a wall in my home.
  • In the Sōtō Zen tradition, one meditates with the eyes partially open, facing a wall. This is to minimize the distraction of seeing other people while you meditate. Many other traditions involved closed-eyed meditation, and you can sit anywhere.
Zen enso or circle: empty zero?
I just sit. I sit for 20 minutes, a half-hour, sometimes more. But I just sit. I sit and think not thinking; I do that by non-thinking.
This is the Zen practice of shikantaza or “just sitting.” You sit, cross-legged if you can, and let your mind alone.

When you stop thinking, you reach a point of non-thinking. It’s one of the typical paradoxes of Zen that makes your brain try and twist around those words, “not,” “non-,” and “thinking” to figure out what they mean.
Zen Crossword Puzzle (
Unlike other forms of meditation, shikantaza doesn’t involve concentrating on an object, such as your breath or a mantra.

It is “objectless meditation,” where you focus on everything you experience [and therefore not objectless as one shifts to what is salient in the internal and external environment] -- thoughts, sounds, feelings -- without attaching [clinging] to any of them.

When you get there, you know what it is.

Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form.
Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left, and settle into a steady, immobile sitting position. Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.
- Master Eihei Dōgen, Fukan zazengi
I’ve been practicing meditation off and on for about 25 years. After following the Tibetan tradition [Vajrayana] for a while, I drifted among other forms of practice, notably Theravada insight meditation [vipassana], before settling on Zen.

There are many different schools of meditation, and even in Zen, there are two main currents, Rinzai and Sōtō. It is the latter, Sōtō Zen, founded by Eihei Dōgen in the 13th century, that feels right to me. It’s the one whose main practice is just sitting. More
"And what are you supposed to be?" "Anthony Weiner." Happy Halloween! (

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