Zazen, Form and Farts

A quiet room is good for zazen. Eat and drink moderately, don’t entangle yourself in delusive relationships. Just leave such things to themselves. Don’t think about good or bad, right or wrong. Don’t give rise to the mind’s common concepts, the judging of thoughts and observations. Don’t sit to become an Awakened One because you can’t fabricate a Buddha out of sitting or lying down.

In the place where you practice spread out some thick matting and place a round cushion on top of them. Sit on the cushion with your legs crossed in either the full lotus posture or the half-lotus. This means place your right foot on your left thigh and your left foot on your right thigh, loosen your clothes and belt keeping them neat. Then put your right hand palm up on your left foot and put your left hand in the palm of your right, the tips of the thumbs touching lightly. Find your posture, leaning neither to right nor left, forward or back. Your ears should be aligned with your shoulders, and from the front, your nose in a direct line with your navel. Place your tongue against the roof of your mouth keeping mouth and lips closed. Your eyes should be open and you should breathe gently through your nose.

Once you have found your posture, breathe in and out deeply, sway left and right and then settle firmly and steadily. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Be Before Thinking. These are the basics of zazen. ~ Dogen “Fukanzazengi”

The power of zazen lies in our ability to attend directly to our practice.  This is a deeper level than just imitating form or adhering to a particular position.  Our posture is discovered through practice and becomes another manifestation of our nature.  Similar to when you bring nothing to prayer but empty words and obligation, you achieve nothing but attachment to form.  You can not pretend to sit.

Your practice is an experiment in radical honesty and to open yourself to your actual experience you need to allow yourself and your practice to bloom.  Mindless adherence to form precludes that growth.  Form and structure nurtures us and provides us with space and opportunity but it also binds and blinds us.

Sitting zazen will cause some discomfort in the beginning. I try to allow for discomfort to be an important part of my practice and something to engage with rather than run away from.  Rather than look at it in a dualistic manner and equating pain with failure, I engage the pain directly and continue to sit.  Through continued practice sitting and my best judgment I realized that the pain I was experiencing in full-lotus was too much and allowed for my posture to change and evolve.  I settled into something that was more appropriate to my practice and my stage in life. 

Practice is not a competition or a race.  No-one wins or loses.  By being honest with our practice we are honest with ourselves and that is the first step of realizing a Buddha.  In the words of Sawaki Kodo Roshi “You can’t even trade a single fart with the next guy. Each and every one of us has to live out his own life. Don’t waste time thinking about who’s most talented.”

Don’t waste your time, just sit.