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Thread: breathing

  1. #1


    Once you have found your posture, breathe in and out deeply, sway left and right and then settle firmly and steadily. Think of not-thinking.

    ...Is the only referrence in the fukanzazengi to the breath when settling down. I'm probably letting my monkey mind get away with murder here but... when you sit you should just let your breath come nautrally in and out with out paying it any attention, yeh? But does that assume you are breathing correctly? For zazen is there a correct way?

    The only other reference to breathing in relation to zazen I've come across is from Rev. Master Jiyu Kennet where she says if you are distracted you can breath in deeply imagining the energy going from the base of the spine to the crown of the head and then as you exhale it going down to the hara but only to do this a few tmes to focus and then get back on with sitting.

    At the start of sitting I'm breathing down in my tummy and towards the end I'm breathing very shallowly in my stomach (I think) and occasionally end up taking in a sharp involuntary breath before settling back down. Does this mean that I'm breathing wrongly? I would asume that there is some inbalance for the occasional sharp intakes?

    Any comments other than just sit :lol:

    In gassho, Kev

  2. #2

    Dogen did not really say much about breathing. In fact, I often think that he could have said more (breathing is so important in the martial arts, for example). But, Dogen did not really seem to say much more than "know that long breaths are long, short breaths are short ... and that they are neither long nor short'. And breathe from the tanden [the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel], but know that they come and go no where.

    About breathing during zazen, Dogen Zenji said in The collection of Dogen Zenji's formal speeches and poems (Eihei-koroku), vol. 5: In our zazen, it is of primary importance to sit in the correct posture. Then, regulate the breathing and calm down. In Hinayana, there are two elementary ways (of beginner's practice): one is to count the breaths, and the other is to contemplate the impurity (of the body). In other words, a practitioner of Hinayana regulates his breathing by counting the breaths. The practice of the Buddha-ancestors, however, is completely different from the way of Hinayana. An ancestral teacher has said, “It is better to have the mind of a wily fox than to follow the way of Hinayana self-control.” Two of the Hinayana schools (studied) in Japan today are the precept school (Shibunritsu) and the school based on Abhidharma-kosa (Kusha).

    There is also the Mahayana way of regulating breathing. That is, knowing that a long breath is long and that a short one is short. The breath reaches the tanden and leaves from there. Although the exhalation and inhalation are different, they both pass through the tanden. When you breathe abdominally, it is easy to become aware of the transiency (of life), and to harmonize the mind.

    My late teacher Tendo said, “The inhaled breath reaches the tanden; however, it is not that this breath comes from somewhere. For that reason, it is neither short nor long. The exhaled breath leaves from the tanden; however, it is not possible to say where this breath goes. For that reason, it is neither long nor short”. My teacher explained it in that way, and if someone were to ask me how to harmonize one's breathing, I would reply in this way: although it is not Mahayana, it is different from Hinayana; though it is not Hinayana, it is different from Mahayana. And if questioned further regarding what it is ultimately, I would respond that inhaling or exhaling are neither long nor short. ... zazen.html
    It is, after all, goalless "just sitting".

    We usually just let the breath settle into a natural rhythm. I find that 2 or 3 breaths per minute is a sign of a very balanced Zazen. Let it come and go so naturally that you forget you are breathing.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3
    I find that 2 or 3 breaths per minute is a sign of a very balanced Zazen.
    Arg! I think you just gave me a goal :wink:

    Thought as much and that it would be from an asumption that you are breathing properly in the first place in relation to the tanden.

    I've seen that other schools place more importance on the breath in terms of counting, timing in versus out, exhalation pauses etc.

    Reading one article said that deep breathing alone is enough to balance the ANS, I'm sure Gudo Nishijima would have a coment on that.

    In gassho


  4. #4
    I found that a lot of my usually tension and wandering mind is related to the breathe. When the breath is calm and natural then mind and body seem to be calm and natural as well. After I a while I found if you just let the breathe come and go without grabbing onto it, it naturally calms down. Just sort of let it be, like everything else.

    Gassho Will

  5. #5
    Breathing is about the only thing that has never been a problem in my practice – simply because I never cared about it.

    When zazen works really really well, I notice two characteristics of the breath:

    • Breathing is really slooooow. Some people say: As if you were breathing through a reed like a snorkle. Yes, it's probably like that.

    • Breathing is "round": The change between inhaling and exhaling is so smooth, it's hardly noticeable. (Reminds me of the perfectly round pedaling on a racing bike: no peaks, no slack.)

    Actually, once breathing works it is not noticeable at all. Besides that there's only the usual tricks like regaining focus in one deep exhalation if the mind wandered off or observing a few breaths if mind is really annoying. I only notice my breathing if something goes wrong: like the typical "square" abrupt breathing when tension or distraction is present.

    Pretty ordinary, I think. So what works for me is: Let Zazen do the breathing.


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