To practice zazen one sits on a cushion in the lotus [half lotus, quarter lotus, Burmese, kneeling or on a chair] posture. The pelvis is tilted forward to allow the knees to press on the ground. From this foundation the spine is held upright. We push the sky with the top of the head, chin in, head straight, shoulders relaxed, belly soft, nose directly in a line with the navel.
We then sway the body from side to side until we find the point of vertical balance and we draw still.
The eyes remain open, half closed, allowing the light in, looking down about one metre in front of us at an angle of 45 degrees. Mouth is gently closed, teeth together, tongue resting on the palate.
The posture could be compared to a drawn bow, the mind its arrow.
The left hand is placed palm upwards resting in the right hand, fingers together, the blade of the hand in contact with the abdomen, tips of the thumbs rest lightly together forming a horizontal line, neither mountain nor valley.
The breath becomes calm, is silent, imperceptible and establishes a slow, powerful, natural rhythm. The exhalation is long and deep, and both inhalation and exhalation occur naturally, unconsciously.
Attitude of mind
Just as right breathing can only arise from a correct posture, the attitude of the mind follows naturally from a deep concentration on the posture and the breath. Images, thoughts, ideas rise up and are allowed to float by like clouds in a vast blue sky; we neither follow them nor reject them. Over and over again, countless times, we awaken from our thoughts and return to the present moment. Over time, naturally, automatically, unconsciously one reaches deep consciousness, Hishiryo, beyond thought. This Hishiryo consciousness is not a special condition or state of consciousness but is the return to ordinary mind, the natural condition, a state of balance.
Between periods of zazen, we pratice walking meditation, kinhin. This is zazen in motion, the link between sitting and activity; in this way we begin to integrate our practice into the everyday actions of our lives