Zen sitting meditation and posture
Breathing | Posture | State
Zazen (Sitting in Zen meditation) focuses on attentiveness, which
is the heart of most forms of meditation. The mind is restless. It keeps
wandering. One moment you are thinking one thing and the next moment a
new thought arises. Inwardly we are often absent. Our minds are permanently
busy with demands, illusions, desires and other distractions. However thinking
about life is not the same as life itself. It is essential to immerse yourself
in the moment and to become as one with whatever may be, in daily life
or during Zazen (Sitting in silence).
Attention in Zen meditation concentrates on breath and body. In this abdominal
breathing is of major significance. It connects body and mind and helps
to explore the deeper levels of existence. Respiration through the nose
down to the diaphragm centers and relaxes the mind. During expiration the
slow extended length of the breath is particularly supportive. With each
out-breath there is a sense of “letting go”, of breathing without
any goal. One should also not manipulate the breath. It should be silent,
slow and relaxed.
The body and sitting posture
One sits on the front edge of a round meditation cushion (Zafu) – or
on a small meditation bench – with the knees placed firmly on the
ground. This raised cushion or the bench help tilt the pelvis forward slightly
and assist in putting a natural curve in the spine and maintaining good
posture. A mat or a blanket is used as comfortable under-layer.
body is upright out of the hip joints but does not loose the connection
with the earth. It is of utmost importance that the hips are worked on
and “opened up”. If the hips are not “open” there
is excessive strain placed on the knees and thighs. The spine is extended
and the chin tucked slightly in. It may be helpful to imagine a string
connected to the top of your head that slightly elevates the body. The
shoulders are relaxed. The nose should be directly over the navel.
should be slightly open and downcast without being focused on anything.
With eyes open you are less likely to get carried away with daydreams and
fantasy while also remaining grounded.
hands form a Mudra.
The traditional posture in Zazen is the full Lotus (Kekka).
The left foot
is positioned on top of the right thigh, the right foot is on the left
thigh. The full lotus is difficult to master and for inexperienced people
the half lotus is much more practical. However with regular careful exercise
and persistence you may eventually be able to master the full lotus.
Other easier sitting postures are as follows:
The Half Lotus (only one foot is positioned on the thigh of
the other leg.)
Lotus (Foot on lower leg)
The Burmesian posture
The Seiza posture
(here supported by a blanket or a pad)
Or sitting on a small meditation bench
Persons with problems to sit on the floor may also sit on
a chair. The thighs are slightly down. Feet are hipwide grounded
to the earth. Do not lean back (You may prevent this by using a cushion
under the back part of the rear).
State of the mind: Alert non-thinking
A stable sitting position supports the stability of the mind and assists
in focusing on the moment. The intention is to join body, breath and spirit;
to be with oneself and with the world, without judgment, to be just present "here
and now". Breathe slowly but fully into your belly and let your thoughts
float like clouds. Do not identify yourself with your thoughts or follow
them and you will gradually be immersed in silence.
Breath counting is an effective method of preventing thoughts. This method
is taught by the Soto school (Shikantaza: only sitting). In Soto, Zen is
practised facing the wall, unaffected by distractions. Expirations are
counted from “One to Ten”, then start again with "One".
When thoughts interrupt the counting simply come back to “One” and
start again. This is performed without any aim and without any idea of
challenge or competition.
The Rinzai school represents Koan-Zen. This is the other well-known Japanese
way of Zen. Here meditation is carried out facing the center of the room.
Koan-Zen is somewhat more dynamic. The relationship of master and disciple
is more pronounced than in Soto-Zen.
Both kinds of meditation are practiced within Bodhi Sangha. P. AMA Samy
guides and instructs all visitors according to their practice and need.
Zazen may also be practised solitarily at home. It is recommended that
one start carefully and slowly e.g. five or ten minutes only per day in
the first week. This may be increased to15 minutes daily during the second
week and to 25 minutes daily from the third week on. It is important to
practice regularly and 30 minutes each day is better then one hour every
two or three days. As you become more adept it is recommended that you
find a teacher and join a group to sit with and learn from.