The Somaesthetics of Heaviness and Hara in Zen Buddhist Meditation


  • Geoffrey Ashton



zazen, duḥkha, gravity, grief, somaesthetics, hara breathing


Breath is a grounding phenomenon present in many forms of Buddhist meditation. In traditional Buddhist meditations (including ānāpānasati and vipassanā), the practitioner observes the breath, surveys various physical and mental phenomena, and from there realizes that suffering (duḥkha) is not ultimately binding (and along the way, they may experience the nonduality of body and mind). Similarly, the seated meditation practice (zazen) deployed by Rinzai Zen begins with attention to breath, refines one’s attention to psycho-physical sensations, and fosters a realization of mind-body unity that enables the practitioner to face duḥkha. But this form of Zen recasts the respiratory philosophy of early Buddhism in some important respects. This paper explores how these adaptations take place in terms of an explicitly somaesthetic orientation. Emphasizing the postural form of the body, the capacity to sense the pull of gravity, and the performance of breathing from the hara (lower belly), zazen seeks to awaken the somatic body by transforming the weight of suffering into nondual, vital energy.


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How to Cite

Ashton, Geoffrey. 2023. “The Somaesthetics of Heaviness and Hara in Zen Buddhist Meditation”. Poligrafi 28 (111/112):143-72.