Practice Info

Sutra Book

Sitting Practice

Enter the sitting room or zendo quietly.  Leave your shoes away from the sitting area.  Please turn off your cell phones rather than just setting them to vibrate.  Remove any loudly ticking watches or other noise-making pieces of jewelry.

When you step into the sitting room (left foot first), put your hands in Gassho and bow at the waist.  Eyes slightly over the tips of your fingers.  In Gassho, your elbows are out a bit and your hands are not flat against each other but are slightly concave.

Approach your cushion.  Before sitting, make sure you have everything you might need.  Extra cushions, a bench, blankets, facial tissues, Rakusu, etc.  Set all of your gear down on the cushion, neaten the zafu and zabuton.  Gassho and bow at the waist toward the cushion, then turn counter-clockwise 180 degrees and bow away from the cushion.  Ideally, you should sit onto the zafu by just lowering yourself to the zafu without stepping on the zabuton and without the assistance of your hands.  However, it is more important that you don’t fall over, so use your hands if needed.

At some places or times of Zazen, you’ll turn to face the wall.  Other times you’ll face the center of the room.  Ask someone before entering the zendo if you are not sure which way to face.
Arrange yourself on the cushion and begin Zazen.  If the first bell has not yet rung, you should do a sitting gassho bow to others who come in and who bow towards you in direct line of sight.  Some zendos do not bow as others approach; others do.  Some zendos have a “one cushion removed” loose rule which would consider it polite to only bow if the person is one cushion away in any direction (next to you, diagonal, or facing you) and not have to bow if the person is further away than this.  Don’t worry if you don’t bow to others, this is not necessary.  Ask someone before entering the zendo if you are not sure what the custom of the zendo is.

The bell to begin should not ring until the officiate for that session of Zazen arrives.  In Lost Coin, the bell should always wait for Doen Sensei unless he or his Jisha have indicated otherwise.

After the bell rings, do not bow to others who arrive.  In some zendos, people who have not made it to the sitting room by the ringing of the first bell must wait in another area and should not go into the sitting room until Kinhin after the first zazen period.

Remain still in Zazen other than to go to Daisan with the teacher (Dokusan with a Roshi).  The teacher’s assistant (Jisha) will make announcements for Daisan or will approach you on your cushion.  If you are approached for Daisan, no words need to be exchanged.  The Jisha will bow to you.  If you wish to go to Daisan, indicate this by a gassho bow to the assistant. If you do not wish for Dasian, take your left hand, fingers together, palm up, and move it from a lower position to a higher one.  This indicates to the assistant that you are declining Daisan.  If you have a question, go with the assistant to ask it rather than asking it from your cushion and disrupting those around you.

The bell pattern should be:  three rings to start any period of Zazen, two rings to stop any period of Zazen other than the last one for that session, the ring to stop the last period for that full session of Zazen should be only one ring.  On the last ring of stopping a period of Zazen, the students should do a gassho sitting bow.

No one should rise after the last ring until the teacher has risen and exited, or if the teacher is absent from the zendo, until the most senior student has risen.

Kinhin

Kinhin is the walking meditation practice between periods of Zazen.  There is slow kinhin and fast kinhin.  Usually the total time of kinhin is about 10 minutes, unless it is outdoor kinhin and then it is often longer.  After rising from the cushion at the end of period of sitting, neaten your zafu and zabuton, gassho standing bow to your cushion, turn counter-clockwise with hands in gassho and face the center of the room. The Jikido will clap the clappers once, this is the indication to gassho standing bow,  step into line and face the correct direction for kinhin.  The clappers will sound a second time.  This is the indication to move your hands to the shashu (or sassho) position [place your hands just below your sternum (heart), with your left hand in a softly held fist, wrapping your fingers lightly around your thumb. Then place your right hand over your left with your right thumb across the top of your left hand]. You do not bow at the sound of the second clapper.  Simply move your hands to shashu under your Rakusu and begin kinhin with your left foot taking the first step.

The stepping in slow kinhin should not be done in perpetual motion.  The steps are small and after each step a moment of stillness.  This is sitting with a small moment of movement.  Take a breathe and on the exhale, begin your movement. With your left foot, step one-half of the length along your right foot, with your heel landing about midway up your right foot.  Keep a wide enough stance to keep your balance.  Transfer your weight to the leading foot.  Your back foot should have the heel off the floor after each step.  On the next exhale, begin the same movement with your right foot.  Step with your heel landing only about 1/2 of the way up the length of your left foot, put your weight in the forward foot, and lift the heel of the back foot of the floor.  Move only on the exhalation of each step.  Hands remain in shashu throughout.  Remember to continue your Zazen practice during this time.  Kinhin is not a “break” from meditation practice, it is an incorporation of meditation with movement.

At the next clapper, bring your feet side by side and bow at the waist, hands still in shashu position.  Begin fast kinhin, again with the left foot.  Zendos have different paces for fast kinhin, try to be in tuned with the rest of the zendo to be sure you are not causing back up, moving too slow, or moving too fast.  Generally, you’ll try to stay up to pace with the person in front of you without stepping on that person.

Fast kinhin is the time to leave the sitting room to use the restroom, to blow your nose, get a drink of water, etc.  Fast and slow kinhin is often equal in time at Lost Coin.  However, the Jikido should be attentive.  If there is a shortage of bathrooms or there has been a longer than usual period of sitting, slow kinhin should be cut short to allow for longer fast kinhin so that people can attend to their needs.  Students should remember that they should not wear their Rakusus into the restroom.  Hang your Rakusu outside of the restroom and retrieve it when you exit the restroom.

If you leave the kinhin formation, when you return to the room, you should jump into the kinhin formation in the same place you previously occupied it.  [If the ending clapper has already sounded, you should wait until students reach their seat and the clapper signaling that the students may sit has sounded and only move to your seat at that time.  See below.]

The next sounding of the clappers is the indication to return to your seat.  The persons who are in the kinhin formation should proceed until they reach their cushion.  Gassho standing bow to the cushion, turn counter-closewise to the center of the room and stand with your hands in gassho.  If you are not in the kinhin formation at the time of this clapper, wait.

At the next and final sounding of the clappers, the student who are in gassho at their cushions bow to the center of the room, then sit down and arrange themselves for Zazen.  Students who were out of kinhin formation may now quickly walk to their seats, gassho bow to the cushion, gassho bow away from the cushion, and sit down for Zazen.

There is no kinhin after the last sitting period of any Zazen session.

Zendos have different practices regarding chanting, putting on the Rakusu, and other Zazen related activities.  If you are not sure of the practices of the zendo, ask someone prior to entering the zendo.

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