Zazen is a meditation technique and one of main practices of Zen.
Through a form of meditation based on breathing. This practice is called Zazen that anyone can do it.
The practice is easy. It doesn’t matter if you are smart or not, if you have high IQ or not. Whether you are literate or illiterate Zazen is for all people. The Sixth Ancestor, Hui-neng was illiterate, yet he became one of the greatest Zen Masters. If he could do it, you and I can. Even a child. Everyone can count at least from one to ten. Or one to five. Or even one to three. in fact everyone who breathes can do it. And since everyone breathes, everyone can do zazen. It’s so easy that we can give you the entire practice in just a few minutes.
You begin with your body posture. You can do zazen sitting cross-legged on a pillow and mat. These are known in Zen language as a “zafu” and “zafutan.” Or you can sit on a small especially designed bench, knows as a “sezar bench.” You place your legs underneath the seat of the bench. You’ll find this a very stable and comfortable way to do zazen.
Or you can sit in a chair. You can even do zazen lying down. If you really want to be macho you can go into one of the “lotus” positions: full, half or quarter lotus.
breathing is a very important part of zazen. Breathing should be abdominal. Bypassing your lungs, fill the tummy up so it expands like a balloon. Place your hands on your legs, close to your body, fingers overlapping, thumbs slightly touching – just below the navel – encircling the spot of the body known as Ki or Chi, or Joriki, which is known to be the most powerful “chakra” or power-source of the body. It is here that the strongest energy is generated. Maintain this position and take a deep breath. After the belly is full with air, hold it for a moment, and then slowly let it out.
Then begin to count your breaths. You may count on the in-breath and on the out-breath, or on the either in-breath or out-breath. We find the most powerful way of counting is on the out-breath. Try all the ways and see what works for you.
Hold the count for the length of the breath. So with your out breath you would be saying “Oooooooooooooooone,” “Twoooooooooooooooo,” “Threeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” etc. Continue until you reach the number “ten,” then go back to “one”.
The old Buddhists identified two types of thought. First, there are random thoughts and second, there are reflective thoughts. Random thoughts are the ones pop up in you head all the time. They come and they go. Reflective thoughts are one of the random thoughts you latch on to, and entertain, and develop, and get lost in.
However you will eventually realize that you caught in a reflective thought and as soon as you do, all you have to do is stop the thought and go back “one.”
The process of breathing, counting of the breaths, getting caught up in a reflective thought, realizing it, stopping the thought, returning to one, is purifying. By going through this process many times, you eventually will lose count less often, and your mind will become more serene, even, calm and best of all, rested.
Do not be afraid of thinking. Do not feel that by thinking you are doing it all wrong. That you are a failure at zazen. It is impossible to stop thinking. As long as you are alive and breathe you will think.
Remember its not the random thoughts that pop up all the time which cause the problems. It’s the reflective thoughts. The ones you involve yourself in. You shouldn’t even try to stop this type of thinking – reflective thinking. The point is not to stop thinking. The point is to go through the process. The process of:
- Counting the breaths.
- Getting caught up in a reflective thought.
- Realizing it.
- Stopping the thought.
- Returning to one.
This is the process of purification. And so paradoxically, the more you think, the more you find ourself caught up in a reflective thought, the greater the opportunity for purification.
The Mind as the Sea
Zazaen is the only practice which rests, trains, relaxes, and steadies your mind. Zazen develops your mind to the point where it becomes the greatest tool you can have. Your mind always working. Even when you sleep your mind is working. When you go to vacation your body rests. You lie down you the beach, take in the warm rays of sun and relax. But your mind is still working, working, working. When you are sleeping your mind does not rest – it dreams! In zazen, however your mind rests. Your mind is “let go” and given the time to build its inner muscles. Your mind is strengthened. Your mind takes a rest. Your mind is at peace.