Our Guide to Starting Your Silent Meditation Practice
(Dogen Zenji translated by Rev. Master P.T.N.H. Jiyu Kennett)
“Sit steadily, neither trying to think, nor trying not to think; Just sitting, with no deliberate thought, is the important aspect of serene reflection meditation.”
Serene Reflection Meditation
Soto Zen meditation is a Buddhist meditation practice that offers a potential awakening from the dream of our own ignorance.
A meditation space is being offered to all to come and sit in silence together.
Two 30 minute periods of formal sitting are joined by 5 minutes of a walking meditation.
The 5 starting points to remember when beginning a Zen meditation practice:
1) Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
2) Sit still in a position that can best be maintained with comfort and alertness for the duration of your meditation.
3) Breathe normally and gently be attentive of your breathing in this present moment.
4) Allow what you see, hear, taste, smell, feel or think to unfold without deliberately trying to control any of them.
5) Whenever you find yourself deliberately hanging onto or pushing away any part of what you see, hear, taste, smell, feel or think, then just return directly to the awareness of your breathing until you are ready again to try point (4) again.
Soto Zen Instructions
For those new and/or curious about the practice, SOTO ZEN INSTRUCTIONS are provided below, compiled by Howard Mitchell, a lay practitioner of Soto Zen meditation for over 45 years:
Life is experienced through the sense gate information of our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.
Suffering in life occurs when we develop the habituated responses of grasping after, pushing away or ignoring, that information.
Soto Zen meditation is a process of freeing ourselves from these habituated responses and the suffering that results from them.
To set up a Soto Zen meditation practice:
Arrange a sitting space with minimal distractions for the period of time that you plan to sit.
Wear loose fitting clothing and turn off any media devices that might intrude, like cell phones.
Choose a sitting posture that can be comfortably maintained with minimal muscular effort and that will allow you to remain alert. The most common postures are the half & full lotus crossed leg positions, the Burmese position with one leg in front of the other, kneeling postures or sitting on a chair.
The pelvis should be slightly tilted forward with a cushion or a bench to comfortably support the spine and prevent slouching. Check your spine to see if it is leaning off center or is twisting left or right. Do the same check for your head and neck. Rock gently back and forth to find the midpoint where your natural upright posture requires the least amount of physical strain to maintain itself.
Rest both hands, palms upwards, on your lap. Your dominant hand should be covered with the other hand. The thumbs should be lightly touching. If your hands cannot rest comfortably together on top of your lap, put something under your hands to support them so that they can.
If physical pain develops within your sitting position and becomes the focal point of your meditation for more than five minutes, quietly adjust or move into an alternative position and continue meditating.
Begin the meditation by observing the physical sensations of your natural breathing in this present moment. Once this has been established, expand your awareness to include the observation of all your sense gates.
To Facilitate this Meditation
Our eyes are left open, gazing downwards at a 45 degree angle and resting upon whatever view happens to be there. It is important to not direct the eyes to move around, search for anything in particular or create a blank perspective by un-focusing them
Our ears hear whatever is there, whether sounds or silence. The important point is to not search for, reject, or ignore what we hear. Just allow whatever is there to be received without any attempted editing.
Our nose takes in all of the smells that happen to be present, without searching for, rejecting or being oblivious to them.
Our tongue tastes what the taste buds offer while gently resting still against the front teeth and with the mouth closed.
Our feelings or sensations are allowed to arise, live and pass on, without us trying to influence any part of their comings and goings.
Our thoughts are simply observed as they unfold with no deliberate attempts to direct them in any way.
3 Instructions of Soto Zen Meditation
The first instruction of Soto Zen meditation is to allow all of the information of what we see, hear, smell, taste, feel or think, to be freed from being manipulated by our habituated responses.
The second instruction of Soto Zen meditation is to immediately restart the meditation process each and every time we notice ourselves grasping after, pushing away or ignoring this information.
The third instruction of Soto Zen meditation, is to apply in daily life, what we now practice with in formal meditation.
The degree to which these three instructions are mastered, is the same degree to which our attachments and corresponding suffering, simply ceases to be.
Here, the inheritance is freedom, clarity, equanimity and an ever widening heart.
Homage to the Buddha. Homage to the Dharma. Homage to the Sangha.