Zazen, or “sitting zen,” is meditation in the Zen Buddhist tradition. On the surface, this silent and motionless practice may appear to have little in common with the loud and vigorous activity typical of martial arts. However, zazen and martial arts share a methodology through which the mind is trained concurrently with the body. Meditation is often perceived as a mental exercise and martial arts as a physical one, although in practice things are not so simple. For example, mental discipline is often deliberately used to push the body further in martial arts, while in meditation one’s racing mind is calmed using disciplined posture and breathing. In order to gain perspective on how the mental and physical actively reinforce each other, we practice this style of meditation periodically at outdoor practices and training retreats.
What should I expect from a typical zazen session?
Zazen involves motionless cross-legged sitting, which can be challenging at first. Establishing and maintaining correct posture and breathing is the first step in practice. You will need a cushion to sit on: cushions can be either the traditional zafu or improvised (folded hogu, yoga block, etc.) A cup of tea is typically served at the beginning to facilitate the transition from motion-based training to meditation. A typical sit lasts 45 minutes, although it may be conducted in shorter blocks interspersed with taekwondo practice.