Learn basic Zazen sitting meditation

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Sitting in zazen (meditation) cross-legged

Zazen means ‘sitting zen’. The Buddha realised enlightenment sitting under a tree. Down the centuries so many others have found the end of their search through the practice of Zazen.

Traditionally, you learn Zazen through working with a Zen Master. Your progress will be fastest if you can find a master to study with. There are many resources on the web and in book form to help you start to learn about Zazen. As you look through them, it may be helpful to ask yourself the questions, “What is this person’s life experience? Can they help me to touch the beauty, power and truth that is my birthright?” In the meantime, if you need them, here are some basic instructions to get you going:

  • Sit with the body upright. To start with, you may need some kind of back support. Gradually you can train yourself to find the body’s natural centre so you can find a natural upright poise.
  • Find a comfortable position for your legs. Traditionally crossed-leg full or half lotus is used (the picture above shows the more open Burmese position). You may find initially you’re more comfortable on a chair or sitting in a kneeling position. Find what works for you and as your body naturally opens up, you can move towards these positions.
  • Lower your eyes and let your gaze rest on the floor in front of you. You may wish to keep them slightly open, or let them close.
  • Centre your breathing and your mind in the centre of your body just below the level of the navel (tanden). To start with you can mentally count your in and out breaths up to ten. Then start again at one. Later you can just follow and be aware of the breath.
  • Later still there will be no breath and your whole awareness and being will disappear. When you emerge from this you will be a completely new being in a new world.
  • But don’t stop here. You need to be able to go into and out of this place at will. Then life and death have no fears for you.
  • Practise every day. Consistency is the lifeblood of progress. At the same time, don’t try to force things. Your Zazen can be the most pleasurable and enjoyable part of your day. Keep an easy, natural quality to your practice.

Download free guided meditations

To download a free guided counting the breath meditation in English and a whole slew of world languages (including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Russian, Arabic…).
Download here

We owe a huge debt of thanks to those members of our sangha who have donated their time to complete the translations and recordings.

May these recordings help you and those around you to find and realise the truth.

The two wheels of your cart

The core of Zenways Zazen practice is based in the teachings of the great Zen masters. There are two types of practice, traditionally called the two wheels of your cart (or sometimes ‘the two wings of the bird’). The first type enhances your wellbeing and vitality. To live an active fulfilling life, and at the same time to penetrate deeply into your true nature, you need a robust, healthy, physical system. The second type of Zazen is directed towards insight into the true nature of reality – kensho or satori as it’s called in Zen.

Our video course Wake up and Live introduces you to the full range of practices taught in the Rinzai Zen school that cover both wheels of the cart.

Wishing you health, happiness, delight and ever-expanding awareness of the truth of things.