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Meadowmont

Zen Qigong Community

The Soto Zen tradition of practice-enlightenment was founded in Japan by Eihei Dogen in the 13th century. Dogen Zenji said:
“The Way is basically perfect and all-pervading. ….And yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion. Therefore, put aside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward...If you want to realize just this, get to work on just this right now.”

Zazen Basics - Shikantaza (“Just Sitting”)
Place a zabuton with the zafu on it in front of a wall. Then sit in one of the following ways.
Pasted Graphic Half-lotus position: Place the base of your spine towards the front of the zafu. Sit with your left foot on your right thigh. When you cross your legs, your knees and the base of your spine form a triangle. For full lotus, also place right foot on left thigh; toes of each foot should align with outer edge of thigh.
Burmese Position: Sit with your left leg in front of the right or vice versa, resting on a zabuton
Pasted Graphic 1 Seiza: Sit on your knees supported by a seiza bench, or sitting on a firm zafu.
Pasted Graphic 2 Chair: Use a good straight, armless chair. Sit upright, not leaning back. Use a support cushion or zafu to support your upright posture.

Pasted Graphic 3Swaying the body
Place your hands palms-up on your knees and sway the upper half of your body from left to right a few times. Without moving your hips, move the trunk so that the waist and hip muscles are stretched. You may also sway forward and backward. At first this movement should be large, gradually becoming smaller and smaller, and ceasing with your body centered in an upright position.
First breaths
Quietly make a deep inhalation. Slightly open your mouth; exhale smoothly and very slowly. In order to expel all the air from your lungs, exhale from the abdomen. Then close your mouth and continue to breathe through your nose naturally.

Pasted Graphic 4Zazen Posture
Rest both knees firmly on the zabuton, straighten the lower part of your back, push your buttocks outward and hips forward, and straighten your spine. Pull in your chin slightly and extend your neck as though reaching toward the ceiling. Ears should be in line parallel with your shoulders, and your nose in line with your navel. Relax your shoulders, back, and abdomen. Sit upright and be flexible, leaning neither to the left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Once established in your posture, do not move.

Mouth
Keep your mouth closed, placing the tongue against the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth.

Pasted Graphic 5Eyes
Keep your eyes slightly open. Cast them downward at about a 45' angle. Without focusing on any particular thing, let everything have its place in your field of vision.
Pasted Graphic 6Cosmic Mudra
Place your left hand palm-up on your right palm. The tips of your thumbs should be lightly touching each other. Place your mudra roughly in front of your navel, arms slightly apart from your body.

Abdominal breathing
During zazen, breathe silently through your nose. Do not try to control your breathing. Let it come and go so naturally that you forget you are breathing. Let long breaths be long, and short breaths be short.

Awareness
Do not concentrate on any particular object or control your thought. When you maintain a proper posture and your breathing settles down, your mind will naturally become tranquil. When various thought arise in your mind, do not become caught up by them or struggle with them; neither pursue nor try to escape from them. Just leave thoughts alone, allowing them to come up and go away freely. The essential thing in doing zazen is to awaken from distraction and dullness, returning moment by moment to posture and breath, without any judgment or notion of success or failure.

Dogen offered this basic zazen instruction:
“Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking; [beyond thinking or not-thinking].
The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of great ease and joy….
Wholeheartedly engaging the way, practice-realization is naturally undefiled. Going forward is, after all, an everyday affair.”