What is Practice?

Zen practice is seeing into our nature that is “before thinking”.  From the time of our birth, we begin to develop this “conditioned” mind.  Our biases, prejudices, our thought patterns, our perceptions of the world become so much a part of us that we seldom question it. These things become our “I” and we hold onto them so strongly. Practicing Zen meditation allows us to see through that curtain of thought and opinion and relax that tightness to see our true nature.  Our practice includes prostrations, chanting, sitting, Kong-an practice and walking meditation.

Prostrations:  We do 108 bows in the morning.  Bowing practice is a strong energy practice.  If you have trouble concentrating or restless energy then do bows.  With your hands in hap change, bring your knees to the mat, then bowing down put your forehead on the mat with your hands open at either side of your head. Stay there a moment then stand back up and bring your hands into hap chang.

Chanting:  Chanting is a wonderful practice in helping to keep your mind clear.  When you are chanting, just hear the sound of your voice and the sound of the voices around you.  Just perceiving that sound – letting all thinking fall away – brings a clear mind and clear energy into your life.  Most people don’t think of chanting when they think of Zen meditation, but almost all Zen centers have a chanted liturgy of some kind.  Chanting is just another way of meditating.  You can also use chanting during sitting meditation – saying the words silently to yourself.  Mantra practice is a kind of chanting which is a repetitive sound such as “Om mani padme hum” or “Kwan Seum Bosal” that you can also do during sitting meditation.

Walking Meditation:  Walking meditation at the Zen center is interspersed with sitting meditation to give the body a chance to move.  Walking meditation is done together, in a line, led by the head dharma teacher or guiding teacher with the hands clasped over the belly.  In our school, walking may be done slowly or faster depending on the needs of the sangha.  Sometimes fast walking helps to counter sleepiness during a retreat.  Walking together means trying to keep in the footsteps of the person in front of you and being aware that the person behind you is doing the same thing.

Kong-an Practice:  Kong-ans are Zen puzzles that cannot be answered through discursive thought.  As your practice strengthens, then the answers come from a clearer perspective.  Kong-ans are practiced with a JiDoPoepSaNim or Zen Master.