Meditation Instruction

Zen meditation is called zazen. Zazen is simply being present to the manifestation of our experience, including thoughts, sensations, sounds, sights, smells, and tastes. This practice can enable us to realize that the source of our experience is a mysterious, alive presence, that we share with all beings. This presence has been called many names, God, the one Buddha mind, cosmic consciousness, etc. It is through directly experiencing it, and learning to express its loving spirit in our lives, that we can truly serve others and ourselves.

Some guidelines for zazen:

Zazen can be done either cross legged, in a kneeling position, or sitting in a chair. It is advisable to sit in whichever position you can maintain comfortably and with stability.

Once you have sat down, relax your body, while keeping your back straight and your head directly above your neck (nose in line with your belly button, and ears on the same plane as your shoulders). You’ll find that when you sit this way, your weight is supported by your spine, and you can relax your muscles.

Look slightly downward in front of you. Relax your vision, don't try to focus, see, or not to see anything in particular. Traditionally in Zen, we keep the eyes open, but if you're more comfortable with them closed, that's okay. If your eyes are open, it's normal for them to go out of focus after sitting for some time.

Place your hands comfortably in your lap. It is recommended to place one palm under the other, with your thumbs lightly touching, forming an oval.

Take a deep breath, exhale fully, and then take another deep breath. Then let your breath settle into its natural rhythm. Be aware of your body and your breathing. Don’t try to adjust the way you breathe, just breathe naturally, and be aware of the breath coming in on the inhale and going out on the exhale. Feel the sensation of the breath coming in and going out -- moment by moment. When your mind wanders and you realize you have forgotten to be aware of your breathing, just be aware of whatever your mind is doing, and bring your attention back to your breathing.

There are other specific practices that can be used to deal with our mind's tendency to get lost in thought. One of these is to count the breaths. As you breathe, count (to yourself) each inhalation and exhalation: inhale (one), exhale (two), inhale (three), exhale (four), and so on, up to ten. When (if) you get up to ten, start over again at one. However, each time your mind wanders and you find you are no longer counting, start again at one. Don't get discouraged if you can't seem to get past one or two. One of the first things we notice when we begin to meditate, is how our mind wanders wildly from thought to thought, without any direction. But with perserverence, the mind tends to quiet down. Thoughts arise less often and die down again without attachment or importance.

Think non-thinking -- just notice whatever is arising -- sights, sensations, sounds, thoughts, etc., yet also remaining aware of your breathing.

Practice zazen at least 15 minutes each day.



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