Sitting in Zazen - A Masters Perspective

Sitting in Zazen - A Masters Perspective

With our upcoming Zen Meditation class starting on 14th November Zen Meditation - Zen Voices, it seemed timely to have this blog come from my teacher Genpo Roshi, whom I have been following for 6 years now and I share with you now to support your own meditation practice. 

It is a great basic introduction to the sitting practice or Shikantaza that will be a core part of the class starting this month.

No experience is necessary to join the class and all instructions will be given each class for each of the 2 sections we will practice each time. You can book in directly via the website or pay on arrival.

Meditation can bring a great deal of benefit to body and mind, and many folks find it difficult, but simply surrendering to the sitting is the first step, one mirrored in our Shikantaza practice. The Zen Voices aspect, allows us to make friends with the parts of our mind that unconsciously play in the background and make life more of a challenge. Zen voices allows us to make an ally of them so they contribute more positively towards our lives.

Enough from me, over to Genpo Roshi for his instructions:


Reproduced from

For the first 40 years of Zen practice, I sat in formal lotus posture cross-legged with my back straight and unsupported. Now for the past six years I sit very differently. I am loving sitting more than ever being completely relaxed and comfortable on a chair, my legs not crossed, feet flat on the floor, resting my back against the back of the chair, upright but not stiff or rigid in any way.

I place my hands either resting on the arms of the chair, my lap or my palms facing upwards on my lap, whichever is more comfortable. My palms are in the cosmic or also known as the universal mudra, left palm on top of my right, thumb-tips touching. My ears are on a plane with my shoulders and nose in line with my navel, chin slightly tilted down. I place my tongue against the front roof of my mouth, with teeth and lips both gently shut. I either close my eyes or leave them partially open looking down at a 45 degree angle.

I begin sitting with twenty very slow, deep breaths, expelling all the air through my mouth with lips narrowly puckered. Breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, I continue to count these slow deep breaths from one to ten repeatedly in this way for the first twenty breaths. Then I begin breathing naturally with mouth closed, through the nostrils only, dropping the counting and just sitting without preference or judgements. I just sit as the Apex, in the voice of “non”, beyond thinking and not thinking, non thinking; also beyond preference and having no preference, non preference not even having a preference for no preference. Sitting in non judging mind, not judging even when I judge, beyond judging and not judging. As the great Zen Master Dogen instructed, “Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.”

To visualize the triangle here is extremely helpful, the left corner is the, “thinking mind” the right corner is the, “not thinking mind” and at the Apex including and transcending is the, “non thinking mind” beyond thinking and not thinking.

Sitting in this way I can completely relax, having no pain anywhere in my body. I used to sit forty to sixty minutes at a time without pain; these days I often sit two to four hours in one go without pain completely relaxed and natural.

The key is to have no preference for being awake over asleep, attentive over inattentive, aware over unaware — without any goal or objective, aim nor purpose. I just sit upright, comfortably, relaxed and natural. I give myself complete permission to just sit without judging my sitting or anything that arrises in any way.

It is bliss and joyful samadhi. It is empowering, self-fulfilling samadhi, it is dropped off, dropped off. In this sitting there is an absence of self. At times there is no-one to be aware or not aware, awake or not awake, there is no coming or going, no knowing or not knowing, thinking or not thinking, beyond all such paradoxes.

In this samadhi there is a thin, almost indistinguishable line between alive or dead, breathing and not breathing, conscious or unconscious. It is absolutely blissful and silk-like. The entire body is relaxed, from head to toes, right down to the cellular level. All stress and tension in body/mind are completely released. In this sitting it is like being dead while still alive, alive while completely comfortable with death, and this samadhi gets carried over into daily life as a pure childlike happiness. All internal conflict is gone, embracing each aspect of self and its opposite.

There is real joy and pleasure in serving and being present for others. There is a very deep loving appreciation for people being who they are, not needing to change or fix anyone. Allowing you to be you and me to just be me. Not needing to become like “you” or to have you become or be like “me.” All internal conflict is gone and there is just peace and joy remaining.

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About the Centre

The Centre for Integral Health was started in 2013 by director Ben Calder after studying Integral theory since 2011 and over 10 years of professional practice of kinesiology and Bowen fascia Release Technique, coupled with the desire to explore the application of the Integral Model in relation to health.

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