Eyes horizontal, Nose vertical. Essence of Buddhism— Eihei Dogen Zenji
In IZAUK groups, when we practise Zazen, we practise ‘Shikantaza’ or ‘just wholehearted, exact, sitting’. This is silent, seated, objectless meditation. We sit still and upright, offering our complete attention to each moment.
To practise zazen, sit cross-legged on a zafu – a firm round cushion commonly stuffed with kapok (or sometimes buckwheat hulls). The pelvis is tilted very slightly forwards. Knees connect firmly with the earth, and the spine naturally extends upwards, lifting the crown of the head towards the sky. The chin is tucked gently in, stretching the back of the neck. The shoulders relax naturally back and down. The abdomen relaxes. The left hand is placed palm upward upon the palm of the right hand, middle fingers aligned. The tips of the thumbs touch very gently, forming an oval: the cosmic mudra. The little fingers touch the abdomen. Eyes are at 45 degrees downwards, neither open nor closed, focussed on nothing. Awareness rests on body and breathing. Breathing is slow, powerful and natural. Letting go to a long exhale, fully relaxing the abdomen, and receiving the inhale naturally when it comes.
Sitting with no purpose or desire for gain, allowing thoughts and emotions which arise to float past like clouds in the sky. Some days, the clouds are small. Other days, they are mighty storms. But by practising in this way, we can experience that however they may be each day, they are simply fleeting appearances within vast emptiness.