I'm going to be introducing a more rigorous meditation practice into the regular evening service. In the space where we sit quietly I'll be leading Zazen, in the Soto-Zen style. In this kind of meditation we see the body/mind treated as a single thing, not two separate things. Zazen is a meditation of posture as much as it is about the mind. When the body is still and balanced the mind becomes still and balanced.
The reason I'm warning you in advance is because you might want to bring your own cushion (see below).
I know we briefly talked about posture a few months ago, after one of our services, but I'm writing to mention it again. The ideal posture for this kind of meditation is full or half-lotus. You can also sit in what is called Burmese posture.
The aim of these three postures is to create a balanced tripod to rest the trunk of your body on. If you are sitting in one of these postures you may need a firm cushion to raise your bottom about six-inches off the floor. I use a couple of yoga blocks at the wheel of life, but there are not many there. If you have a yoga block or firm cushion, please do bring it with you. Or do what I have just done and order a zafu (mediation cushion).
You can also use a meditation bench, in a kneeling posture, which some people find very comfortable and produces the same balanced effect. You can also sit on a chair, some people use a wedge shaped cushion to help create the right balanced position on a chair.
That's my introduction, I wanted to leave you with a few words from Dogen, who created the Soto school in medieval Japan and introduced this kind of sitting to Japan:
"At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth together and lips shut. Always keep your eyes open, and breathe softly through your nose.
"Once you have adjusted your posture, take a breath and exhale fully, rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking. Not thinking. What kind of thinking is that? Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen.
"The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized; traps and snares can never reach it. If you grasp the point, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that the true dharma appears of itself, so that from the start dullness and distraction are struck aside."
You can read the whole text here: Fukanzazengi
Hope to see you all soon, although I know some of you will already be at Buddhafield on Wednesday, if you are going, I'll see you at the weekend!
With love, Namo Amida Bu