An Unauthorized and Incomplete Guide to Zazen–contents

Drawing Water and Chopping Wood

Julia set

Miraculous power and marvelous activity
Drawing water and chopping wood.

(Pangyun, a lay Zen practitioner, eight century C.E.)

Cleave a (piece of) wood, I am there;
lift up the stone and you will find Me there.

(The Gospel According to Thomas, pg 43 log. 77, ©1959 E. J. Brill)

The breath in emphasizes flexion in the body, as does the action of lifting an object; the breath out emphasizes extension in the body, as does the action of wielding an axe to split a piece of wood.

The weight of the entire body can bear at a single point in the movement of inhalation, as though lifting an object; the weight of the entire body can bear at a single point in the movement of exhalation, as though cleaving a block of wood.

The weight of the body at a single point generates reciprocal innervation in the muscles of posture, to return a balance in the movement of breath.

If the weight of the entire body returns a balance through the movement of a whole inhalation, that's a miraculous power of the entire universe, as far as I'm concerned; if the weight of the entire body returns a balance through the movement of a whole exhalation, that's a marvelous activity.

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