Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Tomato Buddha

Zazen, mindfulness, and salad.

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

August 11, 2013 - 3:00 pm

You can read Brad Warner’s description of the formal process of doing zazen (坐禅 Chinese: “zuò chán”) at the Dogen Sangha page, also linked by at his blog — which I recommend by the way, both the instructions and the blog in general — but here’s an explanation of the sort of simpler form I first learned:

YouTube Preview Image

First, you find a place to sit. At least at the start, it’s best to find a quiet, out of the way place where you won’t be interrupted. You sit comfortably in a way you can keep your spine straight — which to most Western people used to sitting in chairs will feel like you’re arching your back a bit. Traditionally, we do this sitting on the floor with a little bit of a cushion under the tailbone. In Japan, this is often a zafu, or round cushion, and a zabuton, which is a flatter square cushion. (As usual, it sounds much more interesting and exotic in a foreign language: it really means “soft cushion” and “sitting cushion” and it’s basically the traditional Japanese sitting on the floor version of “chair”.) For myself, I’ve found that a yoga bolster is a little better support; the Boulder Buddhists use a square block cushion that some people find convenient.

Buddha, of course, used a patch of dirt, and I’ve discovered that if you find a small rise so your legs can go down a little, it’s actually a very comdforable way to sit on the ground. Ideally, you should sit in padmasana, “lotus position” in yoga. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been able to sit in full lotus since I was eleven; I sit with my legs comfortably crossed.

Sort of rock around a little bit and you’ll find yourself settling down; push your chest out and your shoulders back a little to get your back really straight. Again, there are lots of formalities involved, but the point is just to get your back comfortably straight; when you find the spot, you’ll feel very solidly attached to the ground, with little urge to rock or move. I can actually sleep in that position without a back rest.

Of course I’ve been doing this for getting close to 50 years. If you’re just starting, and you’re used to sitting in chairs, you may have a little trouble with it at first. That’s all right; you can use a chair if you like. (These instructions are good for other positions.) The point of the position you sit is really simple: it should be a secure, comfortable way to sit that lets you breathe freely. It’s important not to slouch, because that makes it harder to breathe; it’s important to feel comfortable and solid and secure because if you don’t, it’s too easy to find yourself dwelling on thoughts about falling over. But the point of these positions isn’t to prove you are a good ascetic who can bend his body to his will — it’s to settle your body down safely so you can pay attention to other things.

I am, by the way, a little bit of a heretic in this: other people find the ritual aspects important, or find the practice of overcoming pain to be helpful. Me, I think you can expect some discomfort, especially starting out, but actual pain is a hint that what you’re doing that hurts might best be avoided.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (4)
All Comments   (4)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Okay, the Pomodoro technique and Tomato Buddha tell me one thing...spaghetti sauce. Does that make me a bad person? I did read Taubes' books and am practicing a low-carb diet which has netted me a 40lb weight loss to date (255 to 215). I strongly suspect that I'll have to do something different to get to the next level, oh, like, exercise, or something...You can have my pizza when you pry it from my cold, dead, tomato-stained hands...
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent description. Also timely reminder for the chronicly scatterbrained that it's time to return to practices. Thank you
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
WOW! I will re-read this several times. I'm a bit concerned about the rectum up thing but, i'll manage. When in prayerful meditation, which isn't actively praying at all, I center on the "still small voice of God" and the command to "Be still and know that I AM God." I love tomatoes, and when I start barking due to asthma, go back to one. Got it.
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
Augh, I meant to put in pictures. here's one: http://www.missourizencenter.org/images/Zazen1.gif
35 weeks ago
35 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All