How to practice the meditation
Traditionally we practice meditation facing the wall, and there are two sitting styles; both of them are authentic methods:
the half-lotus posture and the full-lotus posture
The full-lotus posture will be uncomfortable and feel unnatural for most beginners, but with practice it will come to be quite comfortable. You will find it a lot easier to sit in this position after practicing the half-lotus for some time to loosen up your legs and ankles.
The half-lotus style is the one easiest for most beginners.
To settle in the posture, sit on the zafu with your buttocks resting on the center of it, facing the wall. Then bend one knee, bring the foot as close to the zafu as you comfortably can, and turn the knee outwards so that its outer surface touches the mat. Next put the foot of your other leg on the opposite thigh. if it becomes too painful at first, you can change sides, placing the opposite foot on the thigh.
With regular practice, your legs will become more flexible and this posture will become easier and more natural. You don't have to practice zazen with the same leg below so that the seating position is not an unequal stress on your pelvis.
The lotus position is the standard advanced posture for Zazen.
To settle in the posture, get into the half-lotus. Then holding that foot in place on your thigh, grip the opposite foot with your hand and lift it up onto the opposite thigh. Then your legs will be crossed with one foot on each thigh, and (hopefully) your knees will be resting on the mat.
With your legs in the half- or full-lotus posture, place your hands in your lap. Place both hands facing up, with the fingers of the lower hand supporting the fingers of the upper hand. If your right foot is uppermost, then your right hand should
If your right foot is uppermost, then your right hand should be posed on the left hand (example 1), and if your left foot is uppermost, then your left hand should be posed on the right hand (example 2).
Curve your hands into an oval, so that your thumbs touch. Your thumbs should meet at approximately the height of your navel, and be resting lightly against your body. Some practitioners focus on the point of contact of inches and feel their pulse.
The position of the hands is a good way to check the accuracy of zazen. There should be no tension or slackening. The area bounded by the thumbs and palms contains the entire universe according to Buddhist.
Hold your arms away from your sides a little, allow your shoulders to relax, stretch your back upwards.
You may like to rock your head slightly from side to side and front to back until you can feel it sitting under its own weight on the top of your spinal column. Imagine that your spinal column with your head on the top is a column of bricks that you need to keep balanced vertically to prevent them toppling over. The spine has a natural curvature and we should aim to stretch the spine upwards in this balanced posture without straining. To keep the back naturally straight and balanced vertically is the most important point in practicing Zazen.
With the head balanced on the top of the spinal column, rotate the head forward slightly, by tucking the chin in a little, and lengthening the back of the neck until the eyes are horizontal.
In this posture, sway gently from side to side and then back and forth un- til you find a position of balance in the middle. Your body should not be leaning to the left or right, backwards or forwards. At first it is useful to ask a friend to check that your posture is correct.
This straightness is not rigidity, and it uses the body’s natural balance to stay in the position. To hold our spine naturally straight is the essence of Zazen.
Keeping our spine straight allows us to enter a calm and balanced state of body-and-mind.
Close your mouth and your teeth. Breathe normally through your nose. Don’t count your breaths. Let your tongue sit naturally behind your teeth.
Keep your eyes open naturally. Focus your eyes naturally on a spot on the wall about a yard or so in front of you, looking downwards at an angle of roughly 45 degrees; don’t sit with your eyes unfocussed.
Sitting in the balanced posture I have described, take in a deep breath and let it out. Then sway the upper body two or three times to the right and left like a metronome, coming to rest in the center. Then begin the practice.
When you finish Zazen, just remain quiet and calm for a while. Don’t be in a hurry to stand up. If your legs have gone to sleep, move them around until the feeling comes back and then stand up slowly.
How to practice Kinhin
In Zen Buddhism, Kinhin (traditional Chinese: 經行 jīngxíng; Japanese: 経行 kinhin) is the moving zazen, the prolongation of walking meditation. Kinhin is practiced between two periods of sitting meditation (thirty minutes each) and takes about five minutes.
Kinhin helps relieve the legs while keeping the concentration and the consciousness of zazen.
Make a fist with your left hand, with the thumb tucked inside, and place it against the solar plexus with the back of the hand up. Cover the left fist with the open right hand; then position your elbows so that your two arms are in a straight line.
Moving on an imaginary line... Inhale while raising the right foot and move it forward half the length of your left foot. Put the right foot slowly while exhaling , and starting with the heel, then the outer edge of the foot and then the heel.
Then move your left foot forward half the length of your right foot.
Then repeat with the right, and so on. Time your slow walking so that one step corresponds roughly to one inhalation-exhalation.
Walking in Kinhin is very slow and your posture is important; try to maintain the same state as during Zazen.
You should stand comfortably erect, as if you were suspended from a point at the crown of your head, with your vertebrae in alignment. The body should not lean either to the left or the right, nor be tilted forward or back. The spine should assume the minimal curve natural to the human body. The curve should not be accentuated by tilting the pelvis back or forward, nor holding the shoulders back or rounding them forward.
Do not look around while walking in Kinhin; focus your gaze naturally on an area about six feet in front of you.
(source : www.dogensangha.org )
Yoga postures (asanas) balance and energize the circulation of energy in the body.
They help relax the body and mind.
The mind is ready for meditation because it is more serene and meditative posture is stable because the body is free from any tension.