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Zazen Guided Meditation

Zazen Guided Meditation

Zazen Guided Meditation: Detailed Instructions on how to do Zazen Guided Meditation

In this article, you will learn how to do Zazen meditation, and I will give you a very detailed explanation on how to do this.

If you find that your concentration or mind is unable to ease into the rhythm of Zazen, then try the Zazen Guided Meditation Audio version of this article to help with your focus.

PODCAST AUDIO available follow the link: Zazen Guided Meditation: Detailed Instructions on how to do Zazen Guided Meditation

Zazen is the main meditation technique practiced in Zen Buddhism. It’s a mindfulness meditation with a special emphasis on harmonizing the body, mind and breath. There are a number of different Zen lineages and this has created some variation in Zazen practice and technique. But Zazen does have a number of central principles that exist in every variant and I am going to stay true to these central principles.

I will guide you through the whole technique in Detail so that you have a thorough understanding and this should help you to feel confident enough with your understanding and practice.

Posture

First we’ll start with posture. Posture is very important in Zazen, and monks will place a big emphasis on building a physical foundation for meditation.

The traditional sitting posture, the half lotus (hanka-fuza) and the full lotus (kekka-fuza), for most people I wouldn’t recommend, unless you are very comfortable with being able to maintain these postures. There are other semi-traditional postures as well, and we’ll look at these. The most important thing to remember about Zazen is that you keep your back straight.

If you’re sitting on a cushion, you can sit cross-legged in a normal sitting position for meditation and try to make sure that your knees are lower than your butt. So your knees are kind of pointed slightly downward. If you’re doing this in a chair, you can put both feet flat on the floor, but do not lean back on the chair, you want to keep your back straight.

In some lineages, they stand. They have their feet roughly a shoulder-width apart with the toes pointing slightly outward. Some practitioners kneel, and when they are kneeling they are sitting out on their heels or ankles and you can also use a folded pillow between the ankles to provide cushioning. Regardless of your posture, you want your tailbone planted firmly, into the cushion or the chair. Starting with your tailbone, align all the vertebrate, working your way all the way up the spine.

And when you get to the top, you might want to tuck your chin in a little bit, and kind of lock it in place. Your crown should feel like its level with the sky. Now that your back is nice and straight, we position the tongue. Close your mouth and teeth, just normally, don’t clinch tightly or anything, just keep your mouth relaxed.

Point your tongue upward towards the roof of your mouth and then kind of push it back toward the throat, so that it’s pointing back toward the throat. Don’t strain the tongue or anything, it can help to yawn and stretch the jaw and then swish the tongue around first and swallow any excess saliva, to help settle the body.

Hand Mudra

Cosmic Mudra meditation position (Hokkaijoin in Japanese)

 

Now, it’s time for the hand mudra, which is the hand position, this hand position is called the Cosmic Mudra or Gesture of Reality Called (Hokkai-join).

Bring your right palm to somewhere near your navel or a little bit below it, and turn the palm upward with your four fingers together. Your fingers to the left. Do the same with your left hand, and with your left hand you’re pointing your fingers to the right. With fingers together, the thumbs can do whatever they want at this point.

Now take your left fingers with palm facing up and you put them on top of your right fingers. The point of your middle knuckle of the left index finger is just kind of resting in the groove of the middle knuckle of your right index finger, and you repeat that for the middle finger and then the ring finger. The middle knuckle is in the groove of the middle knuckle of the right-hand ring finger, and the same with your little finger.

And this is just approximate, you can adjust it accordingly. Rest your hands on your lap in this position, and your fingers are parallel to the ground touching lightly. Touch the pads of the thumbs together lightly, making a ruff triangle, with your fingers as the base and your thumbs as the point, and resting the hands on your lap, the little fingers are touching the lap.

You want a good solid hand posture that forms an oval triangular shape, and just relax the hands in this position with your lap supporting them. Nothing is really forced, relax your shoulder muscles and just let gravity hold the hands in place.

Adjust the Gaze

And now it’s time to adjust the gaze. In Zazen your eyes are open. Focused on a point about arm’s length in front of you, and you want to relax your eyes so that their slightly closed. Now, look downward at a 45° angle towards the ground. Don’t move your head to do this. And you want to remember that you’re keeping your spine straight, your eyes are not wide open nor are they closed, and they’re just focusing on nothing in particular, there is nothing visual that you are going to be focusing on in Zazen.

Now you want to check your posture, move the upper body from side to side and just find the right balance so that your back feels as straight as possible, and let your shoulders and arms relax. Now that we have the physical foundation in place, let’s do Zazen.

Breathing

Breathe through the nose. Allow your chest to relax so that your abdomen is what is moving when you’re breathing. Your abdomen is like a balloon filling up with air, and there’s pressure in all directions on the inhale, you might feel it pushing into the back, into the groin, and of course outward in front of you. And your focus point is on the hara, the hara is the point that is just a couple of finger widths below the navel or about 2-1/2 inches and then just a little bit inward into the body. It’s often described as your center of gravity.

The breath should be nice and easy. Imagine that the hara is drawing the breath into itself like it’s doing all the work in your breathing. Focus on the breath with extra special attention on the hara point, just below your navel.

Zazen meditation is the art of mindfulness and this is what you’re doing, mindful awareness of the posture, breath and hara. As you become more absorbed in the breath, your breath may become longer and deeper. All that exists is the hara and your breath. And if it helps, you can make the exhale longer than the inhale, and make sure that all the breath is pushed out. This will make the inhale come very naturally.

Now let’s begin a short Zazen meditation.

  • In Zazen only the breath and the hara exist, so be mindful of this.
  • Regularly come back to your hand posture, make sure it’s correct.
  • Feel your center of balance by focusing on the hara, feel your hara, then notice again your breath.
  • The repeat the cycle.

And this is mindfulness,

Thoughts, emotions, body sensations and other processes may try to distract you from Zazen. Don’t follow them, don’t push them away, just recognize them and let them be. Your thoughts are in the moment, they come and go, and you’re an impartial observer, and they rise and fall like the waves on the ocean.

Thoughts will rise and then fall away, and as they fall you just come back to your posture, make sure it’s correct and your hara and your breath.

And this is the primary meditation technique of Zazen. You want to practice this at least a few minutes every day for best results, what matters most is doing it consistently on a regular schedule,

The other major technique is walking meditation, and I have a blog and audio on that. The Zen monks do Zen walking meditation in between Zazen sessions, and that’s to anchor that meditative awareness into daily life.

As you extend your practice your experience will deepen and you will begin to sense a growing stillness that pervades beyond your sittings.

Be gentle and try not to cling to tight, trying too hard to let go can create competition within your mind. In your mediation practice you cannot win and you cannot lose, every practice will bring you closer to harmony with your mind.

PODCAST AUDIO available follow the link: Zazen Guided Meditation: Detailed Instructions on how to do Zazen Guided Meditation


 

Related Mindfulness and Zen posts:

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