What is Zen meditation?
“During authentic zen meditation you should not try to achieve anything. Without focusing on anything, our concentration is with the posture, our breathing and our state of mind.”
Zen meditation is Zazen, which means sitting meditation. In Zazen three points are particularly important…the posture of the body, the breath and the attitude of mind.
Sitting on a special cushion (zafu) cross your legs in full or half-lotus position. The pelvis is tilted slightly forward so the back is easy to stretch forming a natural posture. The head is straight and the chin is withdrawn. The eyelids are relaxed,half closed, and the vision is directed downwards.The hands together form an oval shape, the fingers are placed together and with the tips of the thumbs touching each other gently. The side of the hands are placed against the abdomenjust under the navel.
The correct zen breathing differs from the usual we normally breath. The zen breathing is long, quiet and deep. The emphasis is on the exhale. During the exhalation you collect your energy into “kikai tanden ‘, a key energy point in the body a few inches below your navel. The abdomen relaxes and expands slightly outwards after each exilation. After the exhalation, the inhalation occours naturally by itself, after which the cycle is repeated. The inhalation again is short and spontaneous.
Attitude of mind
For the attitude of your mind you get the recommendation to let go your thoughts like clouds passing in the sky. You imagine a blue sky for which white clouds floating by. But in practice it may be cloudy and on one thought (or emotion or memory etc.) the other follows. Yet you are now doing zazen. Master Deshimaru compared the effect of zazen with that of a glass of cloudy water that you quietly let alone and after some time the earth lowered to the bottom and the water becomes clear.
But if you want to do something with zazen, if you want to achieve something, when you are fighting against your mind, it’s like you’re stirring in the glass.
So you focus on your breathing. At the word concentration you can get the impression that you should do an effort. But you don’t need not do more then to bring your attention back to your breathing. Without passing a judgment on the length, the content or the amount of your thoughts. Just accept your state of mind.
Don’t use zazen – not to solve something, not to conclude or understand something better. Sometimes zazen is doing that for you but you don’t follow your thoughts. It might appear to you as if you’re watching a black TV screen. While zapping arround seems much more attractive. The world of the mind is so familiar that you can identify with it and don’t want to let her go.
It is your comment and your interpretation of reality. It is a fraction of a second behind the reality. If you continue zazen, the television will disappear without noticing. You don’t focus on something, you are focused. You are not a spectator anymore: you are. The thoughts that arise are indeed no more than sheep clouds that pass by in the sky.