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Zazen is a meditative discipline commonly practiced in Zen Buddhism, a branch of buddhism that focuses on rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into Buddha-nature, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. Zazen meditation practiced to connect the mind to the body. The mind has the ability to stray to the happenings of the past or the uncertainties of the future, but the body stays in the present. The goal is to bring the mind into the present with the body.
When in a Zazen meditation session, one focuses on posture. First, the posture of the body, then the posture of the breath, and finally, the posture of the mind. The posture of the body is intended to be balanced, grounded, and open. The full-lotus and half-lotus poses are commonly recommended. If those are too difficult, other poses such as Burmese or Seiza can assist. In the picture, the references “zafu” is a small cushion used to raise the pelvis. You may notice the hands of all the pictures look the same. The hand position is called dharmadhatu-mudra, meaning “gesture of reality”. The knuckles of the upturned left hand rest upon the knuckles of the upturned right hand, which, as a whole, rests upon the thighs and against the lower abdominals of the person. Thumbs gently touch in a natural arch.
The posture of the breath is very similar to how we begin our constructive rest in Alexander Technique. As described by the White Wind Zen Community, you cannot watch the breath. Watching it abandons the purpose of the exercise. A quote I enjoyed from their site is, “Like thoughts, the breath comes and goes. If anger arises, the breath becomes angry. If sadness arises, the breath sighs. If your practice is tense, the breath is tense…Each breath is fresh, new – you have never breathed this breath before.”. It describes every breath as “a touchstone through which you can bring body and mind together”. Every breath you take in at this time brings you one step closer to bodymind unity.
The posture of the mind is a bit harder to describe. For my purpose, the mind is a separate person from you. You may assume posture, but your mind may remain in the past. It may pride itself on focusing on the breath so well. It might fidget or scream. You have experiences, and your mind has experiences through awareness. Bring awareness to the mind, so that it can have the same experiences as the body. When you become lost in thought, feeling, or drowsiness, bring yourself back to the breath. Do not feel the breath, just breathe the breath.
I made a lot of connections between the Zazen meditative process and Alexander Technique. Posture is a big point. In Alexander Technique, the focus is on a natural posture, little to no tension. Constructive Rest focuses on slowing down the mind, bringing awareness to the now, and focusing on the breath. Zazen is posture based, and uses the breath and awareness to connect the body to the mind.
What I thought was the biggest difference between the two was that Alexander Technique is intended to be practiced all day long. Zazen is meditative sessions that can be left, life can be lived, and it can be returned to again. I believe multiple Zazen sessions paired with a similar discipline (similar to Alexander Technique) would achieve great results, but I am personally unsure of how effective it is on its on compared to Alexander Technique.
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