When I started practising Zazen as a young student, I sat down on my pillow whenever I liked, and as long as I felt good. That wasn’t all bad, but soon I found it hard to improve my practise with this random schedule:
Should I really get up early in the morning to sit? Shall I answer the phone during Zazen or not? What if my flat-mates come in my room, they never know when I sit? It is boring now, should I stop, or sit a bit longer? Shall I go back to bed and sleep a bit longer?
I realised, when each and every time I first have to decide if I want to sit or not, and if so, when to stop, this is making my Zazen practise incredibly complicated and tiring. Fortunately, around this time, I relocated and joined the regular Zazen-practise in the Dojo where I then lived.
Although following a strict schedule was completely against my intentions and in contradiction to what I thought I understood from Zen (eat when hungry, sleep when tired, sit when …), after some, time I found the daily routine a great help!
It is already difficult enough for a beginner to keep up the motivation for doing Zazen alone at home. But if you constantly have in mind that not sitting on my pillow is an alternative, it becomes unnecessarily complicated.
Let me suggest to set up a routine, a schedule for your Zazen:
- Prepare a special Zazen place in your flat, one square meter is enough!
- Practise Zazen regularly, every day, or every other day, or every Sunday …
- Always sit at the same time, maybe at 7 after getting up, or at 9 in the evening.
- Always sit for the same duration, 5 minutes, or 15 or 20.
- Let no minor events interrupt your schedule, but better stay flexible in case of sickness, holiday, family matters or guests at your place.
- Announce your schedule, to yourself, your partner, your family. Communicate (and make clear to yourself) that this is your Zazen time, that it is important for you and nobody, not even you yourself, may interrupt you without a very good reason.
- Follow your schedule without any doubt or hesitation, and only from time to time, maybe every couple of months, re-consider if it is still suitable for you, or if you want to modify it.
I am confident, this will help you to develop a stronger and more joyful Zazen experience!