Of all the Zen practices, Soto Zen is considered “minimalist.”
Our primary practice is called Zazen, which literally translates as "seated practice".
All you have to do is to sit down, be still, and be quiet; just breathe (easier said than done!).
How we do Zazen:
When you enter Zoom, you should already be in your meditation space and seated.
To begin sitting practice, the priest or practice leader will ring a bell three times.
We place our palms together in Gassho and bow at each ring.
This is to show gratitude for our practice place, and for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Then, placing our hands in the Cosmic Mudra (non-dominant hand resting in the dominant hand, thumbs touching lightly) or hands resting lightly on thighs, and sitting with our backs straight, eyes lowered, but open, and our chins tucked slightly; see below. We begin our practice, breathing in and out through our noses.
Sitting Positions For Zazen
We are aware that for some of us, even those of us long in the habit of sitting Zazen, full lotus is difficult for one reason or another. For those really struggling with the sitting positions, Andrew Kokuu McLellan at Treeleaf Zendo offers the following article (shared in consultation with him) "Seated Meditation"
After We Are Seated
We place our attention on each in-breath and out-breath. If thoughts arise, (as they do) we treat them as passersby. We acknowledge them and let them move on, bringing our attention back to the breath. No. Big. Deal.
We sit Zazen for 20-25 minutes. When the period is over, a bell will ring twice. We place our hands in our Gassho and bow at each ring.
Zazen and Children
Kyoji writes: When my kids were kidlets, I found them to be both curious and frustrated by my sitting practice. "B" would stand reaaally close in front of me, put their hands on my face and get almost nose to nose, and whisper, "Mommy...are you mend-i-ta-ting?"
There were interruptions.
It seemed every time I sat down they NEEEEDed me.
What worked for us were two things: I bought 2 big throw pillows and put them on the floor near me.
I also created a "quiet basket" colouring books and zen storybooks, beads to string etc, that were only used in the "Buddha room." They were allowed to come in and stay for as long as they wanted, but they had to be quiet. It worked pretty well!
Another activity we did was to create a Bodhi Tree with brown paper bags for the trunk and branches. The leaves were green construction paper cut into a heart shape (the shape of ficus leaves apparently)
Every day we would talk about one of the paramitas, the Noble Eightfold Path, or to whom we were going to send Metta. Each kid would create a leaf. Before long our tree was full. It took up a wall and went from floor to almost ceiling!