Some Guidelines on Zen Practice

Zazen (Sitting Meditation) the Heartbeat of Zen Practice

Zazen (Sitting Meditation)
the Heartbeat of Zen Practice

At the heart of Zen practice is Zazen, sitting meditation.

One master said that listening and thinking are like being outside the gate, and zazen is returning home and sitting in peace. Zazen is really a very simple practice and does not involve complicated instructions. When one studies the ancient Zen meditation manuals, it is always surprising how brief and plain they are. While they speak of the possibility of attaining the freedom and naturalness of a tiger in the mountains or a dragon in the water, the actual instructions are so concrete. Sit in the proper posture and attend to the body, breath, and mind.~Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara

1. Maintain a daily sitting practice at home or work – whatever you can manage. Try and make it regular and consistent, both in time and duration. If you need help with this in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask. Many people find it easiest to sit first thing in the morning, and perhaps in the evening too if possible.

2. Our intention is to sit “mountain still” in the zendo. As far as possible, let’s support one another in this endeavour.

3. Zen is nevertheless a lively and dynamic practice. Joy, grief, turmoil, confusion, surpassing stillness, love, rage, fear, profound insights may all arise in the big cauldron of our zazen, as may boredom and physical discomfort too at times. Please welcome all these states with equal openness.

4. During a Dharma talk, you’re free to change position as necessary, but please keep movement to a comfortable minimum. Feel free either to look at the teacher or not. Some people prefer to maintain their zazen posture, which is also fine, as long as we face into the room. Remember: don’t think about the talk, just practice listening.

5. It’s fine to arrive late and leave early during our weekly sits. You can enter the zendo during a sitting period as long as you do so quietly and mindfully. Please don’t enter during a talk – just sit outside in the hallway on one of the chairs, unless otherwise guided.

6. As a sangha it’s good and fine that we all socialize as we choose with other zendo members. The only caveat is that it’s best not to discuss our practice too much. There are reasons for this which we’ll gladly explain to anyone who’d like.

7. Dokusan (private interview between a student and Zen teacher) is confidential. Please don’t talk about it with others.

8. The Zendo is your resource. Please come and sit with the group as often as you like. If you’re a member of Baguio Zen Center or any of its affiliate Zen Centers, you’re free to sit here any time you like, as long as the zendo is free.

9. Please keep a journal of your zen practice. You can write in this as often or as little as you choose, but it’s a good idea to make a note after each dokusan. (If you are working on koans other than the koan Mu, this is essential.) Writing things down helps us to let go of them, and to move ahead in our practice. It also provides us with a road map we can look back over later.

10. Remember, if zen is about anything it’s about letting go. It’s very radical, in that there is no end to our letting go. Ultimately, we let go of everything – and then we have to let go of having let go of everything. For this reason, it’s important to be very kind and compassionate with ourselves. It is a challenging practice and training. Patience and deep sympathy for our human nature are essential. Please be kind to yourself at all times. From this, kindness towards others will naturally follow.

Getting started with the Baguio Zen Center

Source: adapted from Mt. Cloud Zen Center

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