Dharma Q/A: What Is “Leaning Into” Zazen?

This morning I was contemplating before and during meditation what it means to “lean in.”  I get passive meditation, because I have done plenty of that, but how does one lean in?  Is it with my mind?  Should I be invoking something?

An excellent question to ask about this kind of vague directive I often talk about! Sounds like you understand that zazen isn’t “passive” – already, right there, you invite the aliveness and curiosity at the heart of zazen which is better described as “active receptive” rather than “passive.” As we become more concentrated in mediation through a singular focus that brings a bright alert crispness to the awareness, the shift to “leaning in” is hard to describe. It means letting go of whatever gains come from meditation, continually brushing away distraction, even the distraction of peaceful feelings or pleasurable ease. There is nothing to invoke or do “with your mind” because there is no “you” and a “your mind” that is separate.  If you brush away whatever arises, including wanting something to happen, and wondering if you’re doing it right, that is the art of zazen. Getting comfortable with not knowing, just continue and you will find your way. When we lean in, we give over our own separate self and begin to deeply trust the space of meditation. This is what is meant by “just sitting.”

In gassho


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