Zazen - Breath - Dharma Rain Zen Center
Simply let the body breathe naturally; don’t try to control your breath.
During zazen, the breath tends to become slower, deeper, and more regular,
but not this isn’t always so. Allow the breath to do whatever it does.
Notice and accept the changes, but don’t try to force anything in particular
to happen. This is exactly what we do with our thoughts as well, and eventually
with the rest of our lives. With zazen, we are learning to be calm and receptive,
to wait and see what happens without making assumptions.
Although no effort is made to control the breath, attention is placed on
it. The breath is a particularly useful object of concentration, because
as long as we are living, our breath is tangible to us. During meditation,
the attention wanders, simply bring the mind back to the breath. The experience
of the breath is invariably in the present moment. When we form the habit
of returning to the breath, we are also forming the habit of coming back
to the present moment in all circumstances.
Counting the breath can be a useful method of gaining concentration. Count
each breath on the exhalation, from one to ten.
At the count of ten, drop
whatever thoughts have made their way into the mind, and begin again
at one. This provides just enough structure to remind the mind to pay attention;
you might think of it as “coming back to one.” You may find
that the counting has ceased, or continued mindlessly. This is a clear
that your attention has wandered away from the present moment.
The sitting posture is one that gives the most freedom to the diaphragm,
allowing full, uninhibited breathing. This freedom can be obstructed
by thoughts, feelings, or poor posture. Emotions may cause muscular
tension in the chest
and shoulders, hindering rib expansion, or in the abdomen, limiting
free movement of the diaphragm.
Slumping forward restricts the belly’s ability
to expand on the in-breath, keeping the breath in the chest. With deep, clear
breaths the chest moves very little, and all the motion comes from within
the abdomen. Noticing the tension is the first step in releasing it and settling
into full, easy breathing. It is also useful not to wear tight clothing,
especially around the waist, as this tends to constrict expansion of the