How to Meditate: Zazen for Beginners

Clear, step-by-step instructions on the basics of classical Zen meditation.

Here are the instructions from the video:

To begin, you will need a quiet room, comfortable clothes, and a cushion.

1. Choosing Your Position

Sit on the forward third of your cushion. The lower body will form a tripod – knees on the ground and the base supported with a cushion, bench or chair. Choose a position you can sustain for comfort and stability.

For the full lotus position, place your right foot on your left thigh, and your left foot against your right thigh.

The half lotus position places the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the floor against the right thigh.

In Burmese, both feet are on the floor, tucked against each leg.

To sit in the seiza position, set the cushion up vertically. The shins lie on either side of the cushion.

A bench can also be used.

When sitting in a chair, place your feet flat on the ground, and sit towards the chair’s edge to ensure an erect spine.

Whatever position you choose, your upper body will be the same. Place your hands in the cosmic mudra – right palm up against the lower belly. Left atop right, middle knuckles overlap. Thumb-tips lightly touch and form an oval. Use a supporting cushion if your hands fall low or pull your shoulders.

2. Finding Your Posture

Whatever position is right for you, begin by swaying side to side to center the spine. Elongate your spine by pushing up towards the ceiling then relax. Tip the pelvis forward slightly to encourage the natural curve of your back. Relax the belly and let it protrude.

Ears should be in line with the shoulders, shoulders over hips. Center the tip of the nose over the navel, and tuck the chin in slightly.

Eyes are open, lowered at a 45 degree angle in an unfocused and gentle gaze toward the floor. Look out a few feet in front of you.

Have a relaxed but alert posture. Take time to set up your body correctly every time you sit.

3. Breathing

Begin by paying attention to your breath. Let it move naturally, without effort. Count each exhale and inhale, one to ten.

Onnnnne, onnnnnnne. Twooooooo, twooooo. Threeee, threeeee.

Breathe from the lower belly, about two fingers width below your navel. Your breath may be shallow at first. It will deepen naturally with practice. Set an alarm for yourself for 10 minutes. You can experiment with longer times. It is best to sit every day.

Count silently from one to ten, one to ten, one to ten. If you lose the count, resume where you left off or go back to one. When thoughts come up, don’t engage with them and don’t suppress them. Just return to the count.

You are now ready to begin.

This method of zazen is as practiced and taught at the Hazy Moon Zen Center of Los Angeles.

More information on zazen:

In Zen Buddhism, zazen (literally “seated meditation) is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind, and be able to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment.

Zazen is considered the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, “opening the hand of thought”, that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them.(source: wikipedia)

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