Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lessons from my Zafu: Life & Death

Zazen involves the simple, but not so simple, focus of your attention to your breathing. Inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling. This goes on typically for a 40 minute period. What also goes on is a lot of monkey mind chatter and the mind losing focus of the breath.

One method I use to help my focus and keep my zazen practice as pure as I can is to remember that each breath is a new breath. Each one is unique. I tell myself there is life and death in each inhale and exhale, respectively.

Inhaling I breath in new life, exhaling I let go and die. I imagine that I am reincarnated with each breath...and in many ways I am. I know I am alive when I inhale, because if after an exhale, if there is no inhale, well this body has decided to relinquish my life-giving force. So, I am also thankful for each inhale...and exhale. Life and death are contained in it...they make up one breath. They make up life.

So, when you find yourself struggling upon your zafu, hopefully this tip might help you stay with your practice.

Hands palm to palm,


  1. What is that old koan? 'How long is a man's life?' ;)

  2. Old koans are great. I just want to know whose dragging this corpse around.

  3. Ah, very interesting thought. I'll try that next time we end up sitting. My mind tends to wander. A lot.