Meditation ‘sittings’ are open to all…… beginners always welcome!
Usually held early mornings and late afternoon according to interest. I suggest you contact me if you have not been before to check on the timings. SMS 9497705025
Za means “sitting.” Zen – deriving from the Sanskrit “dhyana”, means meditation. In its beginning stages, zazen is a practice of concentration. But more than just meditation, zazen is a powerful tool for self-inquiry. Through zazen, we can come to grasp Dogens definition of Zen; to forget ourselves and be enlightened by the ten thousand things, and through that understanding we have the potential to transform our lives.
Zen is not a technique to be learned, it is more of an attitude toward life and Zen Meditation is a superb spiritual practise with no technique to learn and no promises extended. Sitting with a group gives us the chance to connect with one another on a profound level without the need for words.
The support in group sitting is incalculable
My vision in establishing Kin-Hin was to enable people to come together to sit in meditation and be nourished by the experience. Koun Yamada wrote in his book The Gateless Gate that “to sit zazen alone is so difficult it is almost impossible. For effective Zazen it is very important to practise sitting with a group, at least occasionally”.
Understanding zen, means understanding ourselves. This understanding cannot be found in books. One needs to experience Zen and the experience needs to be first hand. I do not mean the experience of seeing coloured lights or hearing angels singing while you meditate. This is not the aim of Zen. Zen is to experience observing all your thoughts without acting on them. Be a master of your mind and not a slave.
I offer SOLO RETREATS and PERSONALISED COURSES on a one-to-one basis if you would like to experience/learn about meditation and zen practise privately.
How to practise Zazen:
Practically, we take techniques handed down from Masters. It is best to sit on a cushion with your legs crossed; full lotus (a firm foundation that signifies the loss of duality; the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh, two legs become one.) half lotus or Burmese style. Your knees should touch the mat or floor cushions. A bench is acceptable for kneeling or if you have physical difficulties sit on a chair or stool. Once settled, straighten from the hips to hold your spine erect, your head, shoulders and back in a straight line. This enables your chest to be open and the breath to flow more freely.
We tend to see body, breath, and mind separately, but in zazen they come together as one reality. The first thing to pay attention to is the position of the body in zazen. The body position communicates outwardly to the world and inwardly to oneself. How you position your body has a lot to do with what happens with your mind and your breath. If shoulders are slumped making the chest constricted, breath will not be able to flow freely. If we gaze out of the window or spend our time watching others, our mind will not settle. In some ways we have to convince our mind that we are serious about sitting in zazen, and so we must adopt the correct posture with a positive attitude. An attitude can be created by a posture and a posture can create an attitude.
Hold your head up as if you are supporting the sky, or for a more literal picture, imagine you are balancing a book on your head and keep your chin tucked in slightly. The eyes are partially closed, unfocused and looking down about 3 feet ahead of you.
Your hands are placed on your lap, close to your belly with the palm of the left hand facing upwards and resting on the palm of the right hand. The tips of the thumbs touch slightly, forming an oval. Turn your attention to your breathing.
Settle into the rhythm and then gently let go, not forcing the breath, just following it as it rises ands falls, rises and falls. Breath awareness is not just a beginners practice – it is a life long practice for all of us! Be concentrated, attentive and focused, and at the same time, relaxed. Be comfortable in your posture; do not sit holding tension in your body.
Sit like Mount Fuji,’ Japanese Zen masters were fond of saying, and I am fond of repeating for it is such a striking image! A mountain is very firmly rooted, does not react to the weather that assails it and stands majestically, unmoving, eternal. Similarly, sit unmoving and untroubled while the storm of thoughts assault you.
Do not respond, do not react to them, let them pass on. When you feel disturbed by people, be it those around you now, or memories of people in your past; use this same image of a mountain. Let the people walk over you; remain untroubled by their actions, stay majestic.
This is the real practice; not grasping at our thoughts and not responding to our emotions, irritations, desires, angers or impulses.
It is not an easy task and we all succumb to these things. Slowly though we become more aware of what is happening within us and able to see our reactions in action. Then like with our sitting practice, we bring ourselves back to balance and start again.
While sitting, if you feel particularly distracted you may find it helpful to count your breaths; inhale/exhale: one, inhale/exhale: two, etc up to ten and then start again. Another useful method is to name or categorise your thoughts. Past, future, anger, revenge, sympathy, self-pity, planning, whatever. This helps to get a sense of what it is you think most about and also helps in creating a distance from your thoughts and emotions.
With time and practice it is possible to carry this ‘distance’ over into daily life thereby becoming less inclined to instantly react to emotions. Situations and emotions can be handled more calmly. We will be inclined to see things in perspective. Sitting in Zazen we become more aware that the thoughts that constantly bombard us are fleeting, and we practice letting them pass by not allowing them to affect us.
Take sitting moment by moment; resist the urge to adjust your clothing, scratch or change position for another minute, follow it with another minute; soon enough the bell will ring.
Unless it is unbearable try to push yourself a little more each sitting in enduring the discomfort. We need discipline to master our minds. Come back to your breath: this breath that gives you life without you consciously needing to do anything. With this breath, all living beings are united and bound together.
Your mind will wander; thoughts will come – notice your thoughts, but don’t get involved in their drama. Watch them as a disinterested observer would, and come back to awareness of your breath. Over and over and over again.
In between sittings we do Kin Hin. Kin Hin is a walking meditation. Keep the same breath awareness you had while sitting and the when walking have additional body awareness. Be aware of your feet moving you along, how one leg rises as the other drops.
Genuine experience is not easy to come by. Understanding something is quite different to experiencing it and our practice is a way to gain authentic experience. When it comes to ‘spirituality’ teaching by example is by far the most valuable method. That is why it is important to stay within one tradition, follow one teaching and have access to a sangha/ community. Keeping ‘good company’ – in Sanskrit the word is satsang. In good company we may come to see first hand what the ‘teachings’ mean, learn by example and to be able to apply the examples to our own lives. This needs commitment, honesty and discipline.
There is a Zen story that reads:
A student once asked his teacher,
“Master, what is enlightenment?”
The master replied,
“When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.”
Progress has made us want every thing NOW, and makes us feel we should be super beings able to have what ever we want NOW; waiting for anything makes us irritable and angry. We see multi tasking as clever and do not give our full attention to one task.
As humans we want to feel ‘in control’; to be in the ‘drivers’ seat’ and appear knowledgeable and well-informed to our colleagues. Our culture encourages us to believe that to make mistakes is both foolish and undesirable. Society and our very own minds give us strict guidelines. However, Zen encourages us to take a fresh look at our inbred beliefs, to make mistakes and not be horrified by them. Zen acknowledges that there will always be conflicts in our lives (one of the reasons why being human is difficult!) and teaches us not to dwell upon them.
Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY