Is a practice of presence. Word for word it means “sitting concentration”. In zazen we present ourselves to what is. In doing so we do not seek some special states of mind. We just are with what is. Zazen is not a relaxation exercise, even though it may make us more relaxed. Zazen does not necessarily make us calmer and more balanced. We just become more sensitive to our own humanity.

Ordinary Mind Teachers on Practice

Intelligent Practice

Intelligent Practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field. I don’t want to be that. So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it’s anything but safe. But we don’t like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obsessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality. The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal spotlight: seeing things as they really are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere.

Charlotte Beck
Everyday Zen: Love & Work

“Zen is Useless”

Sometimes… I’ll tell someone, don’t try so hard, or do less. And that’s because I see they don’t know how to leave themselves alone and just sit- they’re trying too hard to do it right or to get someplace. And so all their effort is going in the wrong direction. Instead of paying attention to the moment as it is, they’re trying to shape or control the moment, to get somewhere. In other words, they’re trying to use their practice as a technique in order to get into some special mental state or another. But really, there’s no place to get to, and nothing to accomplish. Please, let’s all just continue this practice of wasting our time together.

Barry Magid
Ordinary Mind Zendo of New York City

What Practice Is

Practice is about experiencing the truth of who we really are.

Practice is about being with our life as it is, not as we would like it to be.

Practice is about the clash between what we want and what is.

Practice is about the transformation of our unnecessary suffering.

Practice is about attending to, experiencing, wherever we are stuck, wherever we’re holding, whatever blocks us from our true nature.

Practice is about turning away from constantly seeking comfort and from trying to avoid pain.

Practice ultimately deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence—the fear that I am not.

Practice is about willingly residing in whatever life presents to us.

Practice is about seeing through our belief systems; so even if they remain, they no longer run us.

Practice is about turning from a self-centered view to a life-centered view.

Practice is about learning to be no one; not giving solidity to any belief system—just being.

Practice is about learning to be happy; but we will never be happy until we truly experience our unhappiness.

Practice is about slowly increasing our awareness of who we are and how we relate to life.

Practice is about moving from a life of drama to a life of no drama.

Practice is always about returning to the true self.

Practice is about finally understanding the paradox that although everything is a mess, all is well.

Practice is about learning to say “Yes” to everything, even when we hate it.

Practice always comes back to just the willingness to be.

Ezra Bayda
Zen Center of San Diego

About our Practice

When we sit down on a cushion in silence with ourselves we sit in the ebb and flow of self wholeheartedly with whatever the kaleidoscope of reality presents: the sound of a bird, the squad car’s siren; feelings of shame and pride; chaotic mind, peaceful mind.

Though some of these things may be harder for us to acknowledge and stay with than others, actually each is just what it is arising and falling away moment to moment, breath by breath. We do not attempt to get rid of any of these experiences or to create special states of mind. Just to be with what is, is our practice.

Through the process of letting it all in, of accepting the things we judge as good or bad, the simple and profound practice of zazen becomes the heart of our practice, the heart of how we open in compassion to our experience and to others.

Pat George
Zen Center of Philidelphia

Practice Is …

Life living life
Juicy, messy

Karen Terzano
Tavallinen Mieli Zendo of Tampere Finlan