The Manual Labor of Zen Meditation

a course for beginners who like to use their bodies for learning meditation
Free tutorial
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 (78 ratings)
1,976 students
1hr 13min of on-demand video
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feel the ways in which the use of breath and gravity accelerate their meditation practice


  • The only expectation is that a student approach this course with an open mind and a willingness to use their own senses to understand the principles being taught.


People often start meditating out of a need to connect the world in their head with the reality around them. One way to do that is through use of your senses. This course focuses on a way in which you can use a deeply visceral sense of your breath and the sensation of gravity throughout your body to do the work of meditation.

Feel Your Meditation Come Alive as Your Use of Breath and Gravity Comes Alive

Many traditions teach that your meditation deepens as the length of your exhalations deepen.

Lengthening exhalations comes out of exploration of the connection between your breathing and the ways in which every part of your body experiences gravity.

One way to explore that connection is through practice with a sword.

Another way is to split firewood with a splitting maul.

When done properly both of those practices strongly reinforce the use of breath and gravity when doing Zen meditation.

The work of Zen meditation is to resolve duality – the simplest duality to begin working on is the mind and body duality.

Zen Meditation is Manual Labor

This course began when I met a young Swedish tech entrepreneur last November. He is self-taught in almost all things that interest him. This openness is what led him to Spring Green Dojo, a curiosity to see what he might learn about using his whole body to engage the world instead of just his thoughts.

He spent three days training with us in Zen, with the focus of that training being the physical ways in which we deepen our use of breath. Given the short amount of time to work together, I wanted him to viscerally grasp the two core principles that guide Zen training: the work is to resolve duality, and your body and your senses are your tools to do that. So we trained with a sword and then did Zen meditation. We trained with a splitting maul and then did Zen meditation. With a sword and a maul, the movements are big and obvious. When sitting on a meditation cushion, the movements are far more subtle.

Overview of the Course

This course takes you through the same steps that this young Swede experienced. First, understand that the work of Zen training is physical. Then, find how using a sword and a splitting maul can teach how use of breath and gravity lie at the heart of that work. And finally, take that learning to the meditation cushion. You'll find sixteen lectures, taking up a total of just under 70 minutes.

Who this course is for:

  • This course is meant for people interested in the physical nature of a meditation practice. They can be beginners or long-time practitioners, both will benefit. It is specifically addressed to those who are interested in or train in the Rinzai school of Zen meditation but the focus is on basic principles that apply to any meditatiive practice.
  • This course does not specifically aim to teach how to meditate. Such instructions are more detailed than what you'll find in this course. But it does teach the underlying dynamics that make meditation effective. And it does address why we meditate in this particular fashion.


Head Priest - Spring Green Dojo
Gordon Greene
  • 4.8 Instructor Rating
  • 78 Reviews
  • 1,976 Students
  • 1 Course

Greene Roshi has been training in the Chozen-ji lineage of Rinzai Zen since 1978, receiving formal teaching credentials from his teacher - Tenshin Tanouye Roshi - in 1996. He left his work as a faculty member at the School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii in 2006 in order to found Spring Green Dojo, the rural training facility of the Wisconsin Betsuin in south-western Wisconsin. There he conducts formal Zen training  as well as helping to develop a number of innovative approaches to bringing Zen methods and principles into the lives of organizations and individuals.

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