Form Practice in Zen Training

Matsumoto Shoukei sweeping at the temple

Tony McNicol

Nov 12, 2021
Martin Goodson

This podcast talk explores the importance of posture, deportment and energy training in the wholehearted application of daily life practice.

“In America, when we meet a friend, we shake hands; the strength is in the arm. When you walk on the street, you should put strength in the abdomen and walk straight. Some people give the impression of being intoxicated, their walk is so weak. A gentleman or lady must cultivate dignity. Therefore, you must practice the shape of meditation whenever you have time. People who cannot keep this shape are very undignified. They come to a house as a guest and very soon are leaning back with their feet up on a chair. Such slouching is undignified. Naturally there are formal, semiformal, and informal attitudes; but even the so-called informal has a kind of formality.”

from The Shape of Meditation by Sokei-an

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In this podcast:

  • We revisit the centrality of form practice for Zen training.

  • How letting go of ‘my’ way and learning how to ‘give myself wholeheartedly into’ is the key to Zen training (samadhi).

  • How the monks train, with energy, cleaning the floor, wake up bell, chanting etc.

  • Learning to sit still, not moving the hands when talking

  • All these exercises bring awareness into the body by the power of restraint.

  • Energy is the basis of the body & mind, curating this and keeping it from ebbing away is key.

  • Energy is dynamic and when inhabiting the human form ‘humanises’ and is kept out of the other five realms.

Podcast Talk: Form Practice in Zen Training

The video below shows an example of the floor cleaning method mentioned in this talk. It gives a feeling of the importance of samu or work-in-the-temple and the part it plays for the monk's own training.

A Day in the Life of a Zen Monk

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