Zen practice always begins and ends with zazen, or seated meditation, which has been central to the Buddhist meditative tradition for 2600 years. At Open Mind Zen, our emphasis is on sitting comfortably, either on a cushion or in a chair. Meditation periods are generally 30 minutes long, with walking meditation in between periods to stretch the legs. Beginners are taught a simple breath meditation to help in focusing the mind, which can be quite active at first. When some stability of mind is achieved, one can move on to the next step of working with a teacher on koans.
Koans are traditionally used by students to hone their insight and clarity. Many of them date from the Golden Age of Zen in China about 1200 years ago. Koans are stories of interactions between famous masters and students, all of which have a point which the practitioner needs to meditate on and become one with. Koans focus on stimulating realization of the non-logical part of the Mind, which transcends our normal linear, sequential thought process. It is essential that those who wish to take this step work with an authorized koan teacher that has completed this practice within a recognized lineage. This ensures a consistency of understanding and authenticity from generation to generation. At Open Mind Zen, all of our teachers go through rigorous training in the koan tradition and are fully qualified to guide others.