The Manual Labor of Zen Meditation
4.3 (29 ratings)
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The Manual Labor of Zen Meditation

a course for beginners who like to use their bodies for learning meditation
4.3 (29 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
551 students enrolled
Created by Gordon Greene
Last updated 8/2016
Current price: $10 Original price: $20 Discount: 50% off
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  • 1 hour on-demand video
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  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • feel the ways in which the use of breath and gravity accelerate their meditation practice
View Curriculum
  • 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 is the target audience?
  • 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.
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Curriculum For This Course
16 Lectures
Introduction to the Course
3 Lectures 10:01

This lecture introduces why I find it helpful as a teacher to think of Zen meditation as manual labor. If we have a sense of what the "work" of meditation is, then we can look at how to optimize use of our body to accomplish that work. We don't always think of work or manual labor as fun, but once you start to develop a visceral use of breath and posture, your senses wake up and meditation becomes a very different experience.

Preview 02:33

In this lecture I introduce the place where I teach and how it has influenced how I teach. I also introduce the three Zen students - a senior student, a beginning student, and an in-between student - who help demonstrate the key points of this course.

Introduction to Spring Green Dojo

Here I emphasize that this course is about learning with your whole body and why that is important in Zen training.

Preview 04:19
Introduction to Zen Training
3 Lectures 09:13

It is not easy to do Zen training. So this lecture explores what makes that effort worthwhile.

Why train in Zen ?

I come out of a particular lineage of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. One unique aspect of the Chozen-ji lineage is that there are three areas of training considered essential for full development of each student: training in Zen, training in a martial art, and training in a fine art. In this course, we focus on the first two areas but the principles are just as applicable to the fine arts as well.

The three elements of Zen training

Breath and gravity are the two essential tools for Zen meditation. In this lecture I illustrate how that use of breath and gravity in Zen meditation can be taught and amplified by training with a sword and a log-splitting maul.

Breath and gravity in Zen training
The Work of Swinging a Sword
3 Lectures 21:09

This lecture explains the significance of breath and gravity when training with a sword.

Breath and gravity with a sword

Here we illustrate the essential movement of a sword cut and how that movement relates to our form of Zen meditation.

The basic movement of a sword

How do we bring alive the movement of a sword so that a student can best feel the two essential forces of breath and gravity?

The dynamics of swinging a sword
The Work of Splitting Logs
3 Lectures 11:34

This lecture introduces the role of breath and gravity when splitting logs for firewood with a maul.

Preview 04:58

There is an alternative way to use your body when splitting wood that can be just as effective in waking up the use of breath and gravity.

Another form of splitting

Splitting wood with a maul may seem like hard work. But what is the rhythm in the use of breath and gravity that help it become effortless?

The dynamics of splitting wood
The Work of Zen Meditation
3 Lectures 17:14

Now we get to the heart of the matter: how to use the forces of breath and gravity to accelerate the work of Zen meditation?

The breath and gravity of meditation

One way to look at the work of Zen meditation is to recognize the way in which neuromuscular habits control our use of breath and posture. If we don't specifically work to change those habits, it is very difficult to ever advance the development of one's practice of Zen meditation.

An assault on habits

Our style of meditation is very active even though it looks like no one is moving. That "activity" is the way in which we learn to properly use the forces of breath and gravity.

The dynamics of meditation
1 Lecture 03:42

Here's a chance to summarize what we have been learning and to give final emphasis to the use of breath and gravity in meditation and the ways in which we can use a sword and a splitting maul to accelerate that development.

Closing review and credits
About the Instructor
Gordon Greene
4.3 Average rating
29 Reviews
551 Students
1 Course
Head Priest - Spring Green Dojo

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.