First you need to know how to breath properly.  Your posture is very important. 
 Sit in some posture with your spine upright.  Any variations of the lotus 
position are best, but you can also sit on the edge of a hard chair as long as 
you keep your back upright and do not lean against the back of the chair.  Use 
'belly breathing', using only your diaphragm.  Your lower 'belly' should go in 
and out when you breath.  You should not breath by expanding your chest or 
raising your shoulders.  Breathe slowly and deeply, but effortlessly.  You'll 
have to settle in to your own rhythm to do this well.  Focus your 'mind', your 
counting, your awareness, in your belly, NOT IN YOUR HEAD!.  The Japanese word 
for this is 'hara', an area about 3-4 finger-widths below your belly-button.  

At first sit for only about 10 minutes.  Increase this time as you become more 
accustomed to sitting, both mentally and physically.  20 minutes is a good 
time.  I sit 30 to 45 minutes, but I've been sitting for many years.  Also, sit 
every day if you can, even if for just 5 minutes.       

FIRST sit counting your breaths, 1 to 10, and then start over.  Count each 
exhale and inhale separately, starting with 1 on your first exhale, 2 on your 
first inhale, etc...  (All your focus and strength is strongest on exhales - 
that's why marital artists or athletes yell (exhale) when striking/hitting.  
JMJM would refer to this as 'chi'.)  When you finish  your 5th inhale (count 
10), start over.  Only think/focus on ONE, TWO, THREE, etc...  If your mind 
wanders and you lose count, start over at 1.  If you find yourself counting 
'12, 13, ...', start over.  If you find yourself thinking 'Gee, I'm really 
sitting well today!' or 'I wonder how many minutes left.', start over.
AFTER you have mastered that, start your count (1) on your exhale and continue 
counting 1 through your inhale.  The next exhale/inhale is 2, etc...    

AFTER you have mastered that, start marking exhales/inhales only as OUT - IN.  
Start with your exhale.  Out - In - Out - In.

AFTER you have mastered that, start 'following' the breaths.  No count, no 
marks, no words.  Just your awareness flowing out and in with your breaths.

AFTER you have mastered that, drop to following.  Drop everything.  Just sit.

That is zazen (shikantaza - clear mind).

I follow this sequence every time I sit to transition into shikantaza.  
Sometimes I slide into shikantaza very quickly.  Sometimes my mind is very 
active (I'm thinking about something or have a problem I'm dealing with) and it 
takes longer.  Sometimes I sit an entire period (30 to 45 minutes) without 
getting to shikantaza.  That's not a problem and may be the best sessions. That 
(to me) just means I need to sit more often, not longer periods.

Hope this helps.


From: [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] On Behalf Of Jody W. 
Sent: Saturday, August 30, 2008 9:49 PM
Subject: Re: [Zen] Test of Character

Hello JM,

I hope to reach the level of meditation where I don't have to count my 
breths. I am still a beginner. I hope to reach the point where I am just 

I will keep working on it while not working on it.


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