How to Sit Zazen


Sit on the forward third of your cushion or chair.

Arrange your legs in a position you can maintain comfortably in a half-lotus, full-lotus, Burmese or seiza. Make sure your weight is distributed on three points: your knees should be on the ground and your buttocks on your cushion. On a chair, keep your knees apart, about the width of your shoulders; feet firmly on the floor.

Straighten and extend your spine, keeping it naturally upright, centering your balance in the lower abdomen. Push your lower back a little forward, open your chest, and tuck your chin in slightly, keeping the head upright, not leaning forward or backward or to the side. Keep your ears in line with your shoulders. Rock your body gently forward and back, and then sway gently from side to side until you naturally come to a point of balance and stillness on your cushion.

Keep your eyes on the floor about three to five feet you; eyes neither fully opened nor fully closed. If you are facing a nearby wall, then look “through it” towards where the floor would be. If the eyes are closed, it is more likely you will begin to daydream, visualize, and chase your thoughts.

Keep you lips and teeth together with your tongue resting on the roof of your mouth. This helps prevent excessive salivation.

Place your hands on your lap with the right palm up and your left hand (also palm up) resting on the right hand, fingertips of the left hand touching the base of the fingers of the right hand, thumb tips touch slightly, forming a horizontal oval. This is the mudra of zazen, in which all things are unified. Place the sides of the little fingers against the abdomen, a few inches below the navel, thus harmonizing your mudra with your center of gravity.

Take a few deep breaths, exhaling fully. Let your breath settle into its natural rhythm. With proper physical posture, your breathing will flow naturally into your lower abdomen.

Sit still and keep your attention on your breath. When your attention wanders, bring it back to the breath again and again (and again) – continually, as many times as necessary.

Be fully present. Simply do your very best. At the end of your sitting period, gently sway your body again, stretch your legs and be sure they have feeling before standing.

Sitting every day is more important than how long you sit. So practice every day for ten to fifteen minutes (or more), slowly increasing the length of your sitting and you will discover the treasures of your life.