zen and mindfulness: posture


This is the first in a series of topics from the seminal book on Zen: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. I’m going chapter by chapter and offering my thoughts on the subject Suzuki (much more eloquently) spoke on. You should definitely check out Suzuki’s book. It has changed many lives.

To sit in the correct zazen posture is to practice Zen Buddhism. There’s nothing else to it and there’s infinitely more to it, but all you have to concern yourself with is maintaining your posture and your breathing. You must have faith in that. Your Buddhahood inherent in your being comes to the fore when you sit in this posture.

I have reread Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind roughly once a year for the past six years. I deeply adore this book even though I do not exactly prescribe to its teachings. The philosopher in me won’t shut up. I know that if I want to be a good Buddhist I have to give up this striving, and yet I do not wish to give up this striving and so I have decided that perhaps the Zen Buddhist path is not the path meant for me. I sit in meditation of subjects such as the focus on posture, and it helps me along my spiritual path. That is enough for me at this point in my life.

What I have determined regarding posture is two-fold:

  1. The posture Zen Buddhists recommend for sitting in zazen (full-lotus position) is one that is actually very comfortable to sit in for long periods once you become accustomed to it.
  2. By achieving perfect balance in this position, you can be very still and mostly undistracted by your body as you sit.

I don’t claim to be an expert at sitting in this posture, but the improvement I have noticed in my practice suggests these two determinations. By removing these inputs from the loop of consciousness, a Zen Buddhist practitioner can focus their consciousness on centering, the concept of emptiness , or whatever their meditation may be on.

The admonition that merely to sit in the correct posture is to practice Zen Buddhism has also made me think. How true is that? My conclusion is this, and it is something I will continue to come back to time and again:

In order to process the infinite you need an infinite container.

This is related to what I talk about when I model the mind on a loop of consciousness and processing inputs. If you take the input of the infinite, the only thing that can process it is something capable of containing the infinite, or an infinite container. This is both inherent and not inherent in people. Bringing it to fruition is the goal of many religions.

Related posts:

  1. mindfulness basics: sitting
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