To sit zazen is to meditate on the nature of existence.
For a shamanic practitioner, meditating on the nature of existence means working to get in touch with all the aspects and layers of reality. Zen teaches that the ultimate nature of reality is illusion, with reality being thing/no-thing beyond ordinary comprehension, available through the discipline of zazen. You sit zazen so that you can see the distinction between the shadows on the cave wall of your mind and the things which cast the shadows. (See what I did there? Plato reference. You’re welcome.)
For Zen Buddhists, zazen is a seated meditation, usually.
Sometimes Zen Buddhists walk to meditate, but by and large when you go to your sangha or community to sit zazen you’re going to be literally sitting down. The pillows used in zazen are called a zafu and zabuton. The zafu is a round, flatish, buckwheat filled pillow, while the zabuton is a large, much thinner pad that goes under the zafu. Comined, the two pillows help keep one’s spine in proper alignment while cushioning the bones of the ankles where they rest against the ground. It’s amazing the difference a zafu and zabuton make in comfort when sitting in zazen for long periods. Or heck, for short periods!
Shamans use zazen too, just for a slightly different reason than Zen Buddhists.
Where the Buddhist is focused on the nature of reality, their place within that reality, and the alleviation of suffering through intercessory prayers, the Shaman often sits with a defined, discrete goal in mind. The reasons a Shaman may sit in zazen vary as widely as the nature of the Shamans themselves. The practice of sitting to meditate is used to facilitate a trance state for the Shamanic practitioner. Within a trance state, the Shaman accesses layers of the World, the Spirit Worlds (upper and lower), the Astral Planes, as well as gains insights into the material world. Depending on the level of the trance and the plane/layer accessed, the Shaman may interact with various beings: ghosts, spirits, demigods, djinn, archetypal forces, and so on, all exist within the worlds available to the shaman within a trance state.
If you’re interested in the work a Shaman does while sitting zazen, I highly recommend caution, first.
Unless you have experience with both zazen as trance induction and traveling as spiritual practice, it is best to be cautious and wary. Read as much as you can on the nature of Shamanic journeys, the nature of the mind, and work to get a very well defined sense of self. Journeys into the other Realms are not for the weak of will or mind. Zazen helps build your mental muscles and prepares you for the work of being a Shaman.
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
— Shunryu Suzuki
- The Wind Is My Mother
- Seven Arrows
— Hyemeyohsts Storm
- Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self
— Anodea Judith