Sitting Zazen

January 20, 2009 · 0 comments

I’ve read about many different forms of meditation: moon-walking, sun-walking, yoga, wall staring, zazen, etc. The books relating to Zen Buddhism I’ve read that have been written by westerners stress zazen as the sine qua non of Zen practice.  Zazen itself takes many forms (koan meditation, etc.), but the central idea is sitting still – which is hard for me to make time to do (and hard for me to do, when I make the time). 

Moon-walking is walking (generally in a circle) slowly:  right foot forward, left foot forward to meet the right, then left (or right again) foot forward; and any basic variations thereof.  Sun walking is walking (again, generally in a circle) at a steady pace: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…  Sun-walking is more active and does not stress as much the concentration on each individual step.  Yoga goes through a series of stretching postures and concentrates on the breath through the postures.  Wall staring is just what it sounds like:  sit a couple of feet from a blank wall and just stare at it.  And as I just mentioned, zazen is sitting still (with variations as to what the mind does).

Heretofore, meditation for me has been different forms of sun-walking, and a little bit of yoga.  I’ve been to plenty of yoga classes and occasionally will unroll my mat at home and go through the cycle of basic postures.  Sun-walking for me is usually along the lines of cleaning my apartment with Metallica’s black album blasting – most of my actions are from muscle-memory (but I still have to think about what I’m doing), so part of my mind is freed up to just wander.

My zen-a-day calendar for this year dedicated the first full week of January to getting the reader “back on the cushion” – the basics of zazen.  I’ve been trying to get at least a few minutes of zazen meditation in each day.  So far, I’ve been moderately successful, insofar as I haven’t just said “effit, I don’t have the time”.  What I really need to do is carve out five minutes of every day (the same five minutes, mind you) to sit zazen.

So far, I’ve been practicing a relatively rudimentary form:  I’m counting my exhalations up to ten and then starting back at one.  It’s been pretty good for me and is getting easier the more I do it.  What I’d really like to do is go straight to koan meditation, but I haven’t reached that point in any of my readings yet.  So for now, I’m sticking with the basics and just watching my breath.

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