Monday, July 29, 2013

If Zen Feels Right

What is Zen? This question is as vast as ten oceans with ten directions, but it starts and ends with exactly where you are. You can arrive by breathing.
If you'd like to practice Zen, turn the lights down. If you can sit in full lotus, do it, if not, half-lotus, if not that, then burmese, if not that on your knees. In all of these seats, put a cushion directly under your sit bones, lifting your pelvis above your knees; this is critical. If you can't sit in these positions, get a chair and slide to the edge of it. Firmly plant your feet. If you're on the cushion, firmly plant your knees. Make sure your spine is relaxed, but straight. This is critical. Press the sky with your head, stretch the backbone. Let your eyelids relax, but keep the eyes open, lest you invite dreams and nightmares. Gaze softly downward, a few feet in front of you. Relax the face, like a baby's face. Relax the shoulders and rest your hands on your knees, or place them in the universal mudra, like holding an fragile egg. Now breath.
Start with a quick inhalation, fill the lungs, and let the breath out slowly, feel it rise from below your belly, extend it as long as you can maybe thirty seconds. Repeat. Do this to settle
Now let the long breaths be long and short breaths be short. If you get lost, or scared, or irritated, go back to quick inhalation, long exhalation. When thoughts arise, ask "What is this?" and answer with "What is this?"
This is just what I do today. I've done many other things. Zen is successfully elusive every time, please encourage it to be so. Since you asked what is Zen, that's good enough, it's maybe the best it will get. Find a teacher, find some dharma friends, if this feels right.


  1. Do you think the nebulous definition of Zen (or Chan) makes long-term commitment difficult for some who would prefer a more logical approach, where things are defined and the goals all laid down?

  2. I think it does make it more difficult and that's probably the draw. Hammering logical nails into emptiness is insane but insatiable!

  3. good photo, but your 2009 blogs are more real what happened?

    1. Oh to be back to day one. May it be so.

    2. lol, you need a holiday : o)

    3. hmm, I see you have had a holiday, holbox island no less : o)

      you have experienced too much freedom, have fun being ripped apart by what is a phony Japanese nationalist construct :o)

      be a bit honest with yourself, you are playing..............

      you, your wife and the san francisco zen center are on a collision course and who is going to come off worse?

    4. 30 blows if you do. 30 blows if you don't. Who holds the kyosakyu?

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. you are a writer and have spent time as a hermit in Alaska ! surely you know the difference between some trite zen cliché and the real contact of infinities originality ! shame on you ! :o(

      30 blows if you do, 300,000 blows if you don't.....!

      a schizophrenic psychotic holds the kyosakyu and can be surprisingly persistent :o)

      I think the diet at green gulch is fucking your brain, vegetarian diets in the monastic setting have their origins in the need to reduce the sex drive of monks and are not suitable for married couples, being low in zinc for a start !

      also organic farms that use kelp as a fertiliser can end up with arsenic in the soil !

      it occurred to me that both you and your wife have a drinking problem and the attraction of green gulch is it doesn't permit alcohol.................

      people who need to drink like that can need chromium.............. they are self medicating anyway, the diet at green gulch with sorta salad and wheat flour approach is going to be contrary to your real nutritional needs

  4. I guess it's all perspective (or karma?). I was actually attracted to zen because it felt more logical and grounded than the yoga world I was coming from. And now having practiced Zen for a while I can definitely get frustrated by the "just sit zazen" answer to so many questions. But I still feel like its vastness works for me because I think there's room for lots of people and because deep down I know there aren't any "answers" to be had, at least not for me.