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Applied Zen Meditation & Core Mindfulness Based Therapy
Zen Buddhist Priest & Minister of Faith

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Breath is the Bridge between Meditation in Stillness and Action


This two page checklist is taken from my twenty-two page
manual entitled, "Returning to the Source: Detailed Home
Instructions for seated Applied Meditation Therapy®".
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Breath is the Bridge between Meditation in Stillness and Action

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Take Refuge in Living the Body of Meditation!

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Seated Meditation I Describe Below.


This checklist was written with the following intentions: 1) to provide beginners with detailed instructions and guidelines for initiating the healing form of seated meditation, and 2) to help veteran practitioners with the refinement and deepening of their psychobehavioral postures in meditation life practice. Within the inner and outer postural forms described here is a profound formula for practicing meditation life therapy in all activities and relationships. The checklist, therefore, should be regularly studied, consistently applied, and devotedly translated into the context of everyday life and interpersonal relationships. This personal study, seated application, and engaged behavioral translation is exactly the endless practice and refinement of meditation life therapy itself.

Remember that all the basic psychobehavioral postures outlined in this practice checklist represent an "Ancient Template" for embodying Truth, Living Integrity, Nourishing Health, and Joyously Practicing the Wisdom-Compassion Body that is exactly your Everyday Life. I urge you to investigate this "Ancient Template" by practicing and translating these meditation postures with deepening intimacy, gentleness, devotion, conscientiousness, and beginner's mind. Never assume that you have mastered or completely understood any aspect or part of this Profound and Wondrous Template. This is called, Embracing the Source of Not-Knowing and Returning to the Root of Simplicity, Everyday Life is Awakened to the Practice of Faith, Healing Compassion, Wisdom, and Wonder.

Breath is the Bridge between Meditation in Stillness and Action

1. Before you begin meditation make a personal commitment to sit down completely. This means that your mind/body/heart should be devotedly intent on letting go of all agendas, expectations, and concerns. This is a time to surrender to just being seated in the precious bodily form of peace, self -compassion, wakefulness, and breath.

2. You may employ one of several forms for seated meditation: sitting cross-legged on the floor, kneeling while sitting back on a cushion between your heels, or using a straight backed chair. If you sit cross legged on the floor, it is suggested that you also use a small sitting cushion or folded pillow which will raise your sit bones about four to six inches from the ground. In the kneeling position, your sit bones should be raised about the same height. If you are sitting on a chair, sit on the front half of the seat with both feet placed flat on the ground and about a foot apart. Keep your own posture and do not lean back on the chair.

3. Make sure that your legs are comfortable and free from any tightness or restriction due to clothing or physical position. Thus, circulation will be unimpeded and tingling and numbness will be less apt to occur.

4. Center your spine by swaying in decreasing arcs, side to side. Scan your body for any muscular tension or tightness. Breath into any tension or tightness and release it gently with each exhalation of your breath. Become as comfortable as you can. As you establish a condition of ease in the body, remember to passionately arouse and maintain a mental quality of alert wakefulness in This Only Moment.

5. Relinquish your mental tendency to keep track of linear time, and recollect your devoted intent to just sit and wait forever in breath and body without expectation. To wait forever means to surrender or yield to being in your body as you are, whether it is difficult or easy, hard or soft, heavy or light, tired or energized.

6. Straighten and extend your spine gently according to its normal curvature. Imagine a string attached to your head and being pulled tautly and gently from heaven. Sensing the weight of your torso on your sit bones, gently tilt your pelvis slightly backward. Relax your belly muscles so that your abdomen protrudes forward in a relaxed and comfortable fashion. The small of your back, above your hips, should now be naturally curved forward toward your belly button. Do not strain this natural forward thrust of your belly and lower spine as it will create undue tension and muscular tightness in your mid back.

7. Lifting your head toward heaven, align it with its natural resting center on your spine. The head should not tilt forward or backward, nor lean to either side.

8. Your shoulders should be in a relaxed and natural position, neither drooping forward nor thrusting backward.

9. Your ears should be parallel with your shoulders; the tip of your nose should be directly over your navel; and your chin should be slightly tucked in.

10. Your eyes should be open in a natural position for "just seeing", neither strained open nor drooping closed. Rather than looking straight ahead, they should be lowered toward the floor at a 45 degree angle, three to four feet in front of you. Do not concentrate them on any particular area, but allow them to remain in an "alert open gaze", mirroring and including everything crisply before them without hindrance. Keeping them in this relaxed, alert, and open position will help minimize blinking and drowsiness.

11. Your hands should be placed in the "cosmic mudra". 1 ) Right palm is up, with blade of the little finger against your lower belly just below your navel; 2) Left hand should be placed on top of your right hand with your middle knuckles overlapping each other; 3) Your thumbs should be slightly touching each other directly in front of your navel so that both your hands now form an oval in front of your lower abdomen. If I were to point a finger in the middle of your hand oval and touch your abdomen, I would be touching an area three inches directly below your navel. This bodily location, just under your skin and muscle is called the Tanden in Japanese or Tan Tien in Chinese and makes reference to your vital spiritual core or cosmic energy center.

12. Once you are comfortably seated in the bodily form of meditation, close your mouth with your lips gently touching. Your tongue should rest comfortably against the roof of your mouth with the tip gently against the upper front teeth. Your breathing should now continue only through your nostrils.

13. Become aware of your breathing with each inhalation and exhalation. Once you are aware of your breathing, begin to slowly breath into your belly. During belly breathing your chest should stay relatively motionless while your lower abdomen seems to fill up like a balloon. This belly breathing can be difficult at first. Don't force yourself. Just gently try to encourage each breath into your lower belly without judging yourself. Be patient and tender with yourself. If you find that you are creating tension in yourself, let go of the belly breathing for the time being and continue to be aware of your current pattern of breath with each inhalation and exhalation.

View a helpful animation on belly breathing by Clicking Here.

14. Follow the beginning of each inhalation with your awareness. Gently guide the inhalation with your awareness into the lower abdominal region of the Tanden which your cosmic mudra is emphasizing. Let your awareness pause as you reach the end point of the inhalation and then allow the exhalation to begin naturally from the Tanden point in the lower abdomen. Follow the exhalation with your awareness until it is complete. Then begin again.

15. Constantly recall your mindfulness to the expansion and contraction of your belly and the flow of air passing in and out of your nostrils. If you find that your thoughts have distracted you, do not judge yourself. Gently bring your mindfulness to the bodily sensation of just sitting and become aware of your belly and nostril breathing. Remember, that meditation practice is called "completion without regret" when you devotedly recall yourself to your breath in several continuos moments or when you sincerely recall yourself to breath after having been distracted by thoughts or sleepiness. Both are equal in the eyes of this practice. The embrace of unconditional compassion should extend to both the son who remains home or the prodigal son who returns after being away.

16. With each breath, allow yourself to also embody the immediate experience of your impermanence. Sense the delicate thread upon which your life hangs with each heartbeat and in each moment of inhalation and exhalation. This sense of our immediate impermanence sustains a deep appreciation of our life practice in this Only Moment.

17. Keep as still as possible during zazen meditation, but do so with a caring and compassionate attitude toward your body. If you experience some physical discomfort during zazen, try to make the necessary adjustments to settle into your "sitting form" comfortably. The adjustments might be very subtle muscular, skeletal, or attitudinal shifts. If you need to make any gross movements or subtle physical shifts, do so in a slow and mindful motion while still paying attention to belly breathing. For example, if your lower leg feels like it is starting to tingle, you might first try tightening and relaxing the calve muscle. If this doesn't work then gently and slowly extend your leg outward while still keeping your mirror gaze and belly breath awareness. After circulation returns, you can slowly and mindfully bring your leg in and return to your zazen form. Always be aware not to move in a heedless, careless or casual manner. Doing necessary adjustments in this mindful way, you will not break or loose your embodied wakefulness and concentration in each passing moment

With Encouragement,

Dr. Andrew Shugyo Bonnici
copyright 1/20/95

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