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When preparing to do zazen, remember to harmonize the body, then the breath, then the mind.

 

Harmonize the Body

Sit on the forward third of your cushion.
Arrange your legs in full lotus, half lotus, Burmese, seiza, bench or chair.
           Make sure you are comfortable!
Center your spine by leaning forward and back, then swaying right and left three times.
Straighten your spine. Imagine a string attached to a hook in the top of your head,
           pulling you straight up. Now, relax one notch.

Head: not tilting forward, backward, left or right
Ears: parallel with shoulders
Nose: centered over navel
Chin: tucked in slightly
Eyes: open, lowered at a 45 degree angle, resting on the floor in front of you
Mouth: lips and teeth closed, light vacuum in the mouth
Hands: right—palm up, resting against the belly
           left—on top of right, middle knuckles overlapping
           thumbtips—lightly touching, forming an oval
Keep the spine straight and relax the shoulders, ribs and abdomen completely

 

Harmonize the Breath

Take three long, deep breaths. All the way in, all the way out.
Now let out a long sigh then gently let the breath fall to the lower belly.
Straighten your spine a little bit more with each inhalation, and relax your breath a little bit more with each exhalation.

 

Harmonize the Mind

Be fully aware of each breath for its entire cycle.
Count each breath on the exhalation.
When you reach ‘10’, begin at ‘1’ again.
If you lose count, begin at ‘1’ again.
Let the mind settle in the belly along with the breath.

 

Open the hand of thought *

Let all thoughts and feelings pass through the mind like the Spring breeze.
When you find the mind has grasped onto a thought, gently release it and return to counting the breath.
Straighten the spine a little bit more with each inhalation.
Relax the mind a little bit more with each exhalation.
Be good to yourself!

* Thanks to Uchiyama Roshi for this image

 

Butsudan

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