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Lions Roar : May 2015
zazen. A zabuton (soft mat) and zafu (cushion) will offer support for upright sitting. GIVE CAREFUL ATTENTION to your body and posture. If you are just starting out, try a number of different ways to sit in order to find one that’s comfortable for you. There are several options. Sit with both legs crossed so each leg rests on the opposite thigh (full lotus); sit with one leg resting over the opposite calf (half lotus); sit on your knees with your legs folded under you, straddling a cushion like a saddle; sit on a low bench with your legs tucked under the bench; or sit in a straight-back chair. THE SITTING POSITION that works best for you will depend in part on your flexibil- ity. Stretching prior to each sitting will help alleviate tightness and discomfort. As your meditation practice evolves, the pain you may experience at the outset will become less of an issue. Though there may be some discomfort as the limbs stretch in unfamiliar ways, gradu- ally the body adjusts. WHATEVER POSITION you choose, your back and head should be erect. Your ears should line up with your shoul- ders and your chin should be slightly tucked in. Sit quietly with your eyes open and unfocused. Lower your gaze to a 45-degree angle. Bring your atten- tion to your breathing. First, inhale and exhale through your mouth while rock- ing right to left three times. Bring your hands together forming a zazen mudra (left hand resting on right hand with the palms facing up and the tips of the thumbs just touching). NOW YOU ARE READY to concentrate on your breath. Focus on the inhale and count one, then focus on the exhale and count two. Inhale again, count- ing three, and exhale again, counting four. The goal is to get to a count of ten without thoughts crossing your mind. If thoughts come up, start over at one. Breathe through your nose in a natural, unforced rhythm. REFRAIN FROM TRYING to stop your think- ing—let it stop by itself. When a thought comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out. Your mind will begin to calm down. Nothing comes from outside of mind. The mind includes everything; this is the true understanding of the mind. YOUR MIND FOLLOWS your breathing. While you are following the breath, drop the notion of “I am breathing.” No mind, no body—simply be aware of the moment of breathing. Drop the ideas of time and space, body and mind, and just “be” sitting. ♦ FORGET THE SELF Maezumi Roshi on the essence of zazen—and life Zazen is the practice and realization of manifesting our body as Bodhi, as enlightenment. It is both the practice and the realization, for when we truly do zazen, there is no distinction between practice and realization. It is wisdom as is, as things are. This zazen, the practice of the Buddha Way, is none other than the practice of one’s life. The best way to practice is to forget the self. By forgetting the self, we can appreci- ate our life not in the narrow, restricted, isolated way that we usually live but rather as a life of unity, a life that is unsurpass- able. Another way to explain what we mean by forgetting the self is that we are transcending the subject-object relation- ship or the I-Other relationship. We are transcending duality. Just-sitting is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. For in order to just-sit, we have to forget the self. What does that mean? There are no thoughts because there is no thinker. Instead, we are the thoughts that come up. There are no bird songs because there are no concepts of bird songs. Instead we are those sounds. In the same way we are the raindrops, we are the thunder and the lightning. In sitting, the whole universe is revealed and manifested. To study this life and to forget the self mean to truly be the Way. The Way is everything. Each of us is the Way. At each moment, everything is all together liberated, manifesting as a whole. It is not one’s own activity—for in zazen the one has disappeared—but the activity of all the buddhas. All phenomena of the universe are unified with one’s own activity. This is the kind of zazen we should appreciate. Adapted from Appreciate Your Life: The Essence of Zen Practice, by Taizan Maezumi Roshi (Shambhala Publications). SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 32 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE