Sitting Meditation and Practice
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"ZAZEN", Sitting Meditation, and Traditional Zen Practices Convention has it that attention is either diverted to or occupied upon the incoming and outgoing breath, sometimes counting these so as to engage discursive mind with a task to which to return, or to unfocus the eyes and direct them at a comfortable spot a short distance in front of where one is sitting, not attempting to achieve any particular thing in the effort to remain still. Alternatively, as an advance on practical aim, one may heavily restrain the perceptual arena (based on our tendency to focus on visual experience) by sitting close to a blank wall of the practice building. The character of mind i call 'repose' will likely develop as a consequence of deliberate attentive restraint, and as one becomes familiar with this reflective state, it may be engaged intentionally as part of ordinary affairs, effectively 'making everyday activities meditative'. Calm, deliberate, reflective movements are sought as part of a structured, routinized, and simple lifestyle, within the mystico-spiritual group or community called the sangha. This subsumes all functional labour and sustenance, aiming for slow, reflective attention upon all activity therein. Some sanghas engage in agriculture, and many pursue humility practice by going out into the local community to beg for food. This is done in a formal style, the charity of those who provide the sustenance conceived by them as a means of earning merit. Typically practice may also feature folkloric or cultural styles (customs, celebrations, observances) which may be Buddhist or more localized by form and theme. Seasonal, or other observations may become the focus of the sangha, and the network of sanghas within a region may coordinate so as to share time and responsibility for preparation and festivity. Formalities in some Zen traditions include the interview or encounter with the teacher, in which the student may follow ritual protocols in sharing with the instructor reflections on their state of development, observations in focus of meditative repose on traditional records (kung-ans, koans), and personal insights gleaned therefrom. Such exchanges may include idiosyncratic, dramatic, or confusing challenges on the part of the teacher, and the student is left to fathom its import and meaning. It is thought that the structure and nature of the interview may catalyze a shift in, or mould to rarefaction and potential, the student's overall mentality or particular cognitive features. At times such records, philosophic, anecdotal, or personal considerations and quandries, may become emphasized, within certain traditions or as part of recommendation by the teacher, even to the point where these become the routine attentive focus held during daily tasks about the temple. Insofar as is possible or as emphasized by the administrator of the particular sangha (the master), the practical structures are not rationally justified by theoretical explanation, but are regarded as sufficient in themselves and an aspect of the Eight-Fold Path as it has become traditional to maintain by the elders of the lineage in question.