Zazen, or seated meditation, is the central practice of Zen Buddhism. By sitting still and paying close attention to our breath and posture, we return to where we already are. We come home to the present moment. As our practice deepens, our minds become more balanced, and we become intimately aware of the impermanence and interdependence of all conditioned things. Cultivating clarity and stability of mind, we also cultivate compassionate awareness.

Zazen is a simple practice, but it is important that it be done correctly. Eihei Dogen (1200-1253), founder of the Soto school of Zen, offers these instructions:

When sitting zazen, wear the kashaya (patched robe) and use a round cushion. The cushion should not be placed all the way under the legs, but only under the buttocks. In this way the crossed legs rest on the mat and the backbone is supported with the round cushion. . . .

Straighten your body and sit erect. Do not lean to the left or right; do not bend forward or backward. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders, and your nose in line with your navel.

Rest your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and breathe through your nose. Lips and teeth should be closed. Eyes should be open, neither too wide, nor too narrow. Having adjusted body and mind in this manner, take a breath and exhale fully.

Sit solidly in
samadhi (one-pointed concentration) and think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Nonthinking. This is the art of zazen.

--Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen,
ed. Kazuaki Tanahashi (North Point Press, 1985), 30

                    Traditional postures for zazen: