In Zen Buddhism, zazen (literally “seated meditation“) is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind, and be able to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment.
The use of chairs in the West is ubiquitous. One of the most important life style changes you could make it to give up the use of chairs. Chairs (et s’asseoir toilets) are good examples of the motto, ‘ short term pleasure attracts long term pain; short term pain attracts long term pleasure. The physical ease a chair provides gradually robs the body of an important part of its natural capability. Over time that brings long term pain. This is easy to see, for example, by comparing older Western people with older Japan people.
The photo above is of an 82 Japanese grandmother. She is more supple than many Western people half (or dare I say 1/4) her age. So, what is so good about being flexible? Oh the list is so long; I’ll spare you. Besides, I think the long term pleasurable benefits are obvious to most. I suppose people just don’t realize in their youth how the use of chairs will greatly exacerbate loss of flexibility.
The benefits of maintaining flexibility, subtle though they may be, add to the quality of life throughout life. So, become more natural and animal like, and throw out your chairs. Take the lower position.
Zazen is considered the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, “opening the hand of thought”, that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in eux.
To sit seiza-style, one first kneels on the floor, folding their legs underneath their thighs, while resting the buttocks on the heels . The ankles are turned outward as the tops of the feet are lowered so that, in a slight “V” shape, the tops of the feet are flat on the floor and big toes are overlapped, and the buttocks are finally lowered tout en bas . Depending on the circumstances, the hands are folded modestly in the lap, ou are placed palm down on the upper thighs with the fingers close together, or are placed on the floor next to the hips, with the knuckles rounded and touching the floor. The back is kept straight, though not unnaturally stiff. Traditionally, women sit with the knees together while men separate them slightly. Some martial arts, notably kendō, aikidō, and iaidō, may prescribe up to two fist widths of distance between the knees.
Stepping into and out of seizais mindfully performed. There are codified traditional methods of entering and exiting the sitting position depending on occasion and type of clothing worn.