1. Sit on the forward third of a chair or cushion.
2. Arrange your legs in a position you can maintain comfortably. In the Half Lotus position, place your left leg on your right thigh (or vice versa). In the Full Lotus position, put your feet on opposite thighs. You may also sit simply with your legs tucked in close to your body, but be sure that your weight is distributed on three points: both of your knees on the ground and your buttocks on the round cushion. On a chair, keep your knees apart about the width of your shoulders, feet firmly planted on the floor.
3. Straighten and extend your spine, keeping it naturally upright, centering your balance in the lower abdomen. Push your lower back a little forward, open your chest, and tuck your chin in slightly, keeping the head upright, not leaning forward, or backward, or to the side. Sway your body gently from left to right, until you naturally come to a point of stillness on your cushion.
4. Keep your eyes cast on the floor about three to four feet in front of your body, eyes neither fully opened nor closed. If the eyes are closed, you might start to daydream or visualize things.
5. Keep your lips and teeth together with your tongue resting against the roof of your mouth. Place your hands on your lap with the right palm up and your left hand (palm up) resting on your right hand, thumb-tips lightly touching, forming a horizontal oval. This is the mudra of zazen, in which all things are unified.
6. Place the sides of the little fingers against your abdomen, a few inches below the navel, harmonizing your center of gravity with the mudra.
7. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling fully. Let your breath settle into its natural rhythm. With proper physical posture, your breathing will flow naturally into your lower abdomen.
8. Sit still and keep your attention on your breath. When your attention wanders, bring it back to the breath again and again-as many times as necessary!
9. Be fully, vitally present. Simply do your very best. At the end of your sitting period, gently sway your body from right to left. Stretch out your legs; be sure they have feeling before standing.
10. Practice every day for ten to fifteen minutes (or more) and you will discover the treasures of your life.
This first appeared in The Ten Directions (Fall/Winter 1993) and is reprinted with permission.
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.