How do YOU meditate?

Our tradition has multiple ways to experience and practice dhyana.

What is the Hollow Bones Zen Approach to Meditation?

Meditation is a transformational method that, skillfully applied, provides the power for our awakening journey. Not all meditation methods work the same, and no single method is appropriate for all students at all times. This is one reason why meditation traditions are so clear on the importance of working with a teacher. Another reason is that we are very good at convincing ourselves we’re more awake than we actually are – a teacher or good spiritual-friend helps us have a clearer picture of our circumstances at any given point in our practice.

Hollow Bones Zen is a dhyana (meditation) school, and our lineage has multiple ways to experience and practice dhyana. 

They are three “sudden” methods:

  • Direct pointing via Mondo Koan (part 1)
  • Kika-onza (dharana, dhyana, samadhi)
  • Shikantaza  

And one “gradual” method:

  • Jhanas
Sudden Methods

Direct Pointing:

Learn more about our Mondo Zen process. This is best done with a facilitator. However, even working this material by oneself can be impactful. Download the manual by clicking here.


Literally to “return home and sit in peace,” this is a practice of using concentration methods (dharana) to tune the system and open the heart/mind (dhyana). Or, as Jun Po used to say “to penetrate and abide.” With enough concentration-meditation practice, we enter into absorption (samadhi). Absorption in itself is deeply rejuvenating, and when skillful meditation objects are used in conjunction with an appropriate philosophical orientation, genuine insight arises. 

Taking an appropriate seated posture, we combine breath and a concentration anchor. We suggest one of the Mondo Dharani found beginning on [page 57 of the manual]. Settling in and giving oneself completely to the inquiry, cutting all off at form and sensation, we observe what happens with compassionate curiosity. 



Shikantaza is “just sitting” and is a non-conceptual, faith-based practice. 

Taking the seated posture and settling the breath, one sits and remains highly attentive to the act of sitting. It is a deceptively simple practice based on one essential and one secondary premise. 

The essential premise is that you are, intrinsically and without question, already one with awakened consciousness. There is truly nothing to do, and the act of sitting in the meditation posture itself is enlightening. You are already on the path and exactly where you must be, simply look and be present to this. 

The secondary premise is that awareness transcends whatever arises within it. It is space, and space is inclusive of all that exists. Awake awareness isn’t not-thinking, it’s non-thinking. The distinction between witnessing that which is present and actively participating in what is present is a subtle event that we learn much from. 

With absolute certainty that we are already awake and that everything that arises in awake awareness is OK, we can “just sit.” Noticing when we aren’t “just sitting,” we reinvigorate ourselves to “just sit.” We sit with alertness and intensity, patience and vigor, balanced precisely in this very moment. Suddenly we recognize the beauty, perfection and joy inherent in our fundamental being. Here unfolding living; here living unfolding.

Gradual Methods


The jhanas are a systematic progression of meditative states that can be gradually and incrementally trained. Through the exercise of mindfulness (sati) on specific mental qualities, the mind becomes unified and tranquil. This unified, tranquil mind then investigates the twin qualities of emptiness (sunyata) and buddha-nature (tathagata-gharba). 

The basic premise is to apply our attention to a specific object of contemplation. The newer we are to the practice, the more we benefit from “concrete” objects, like our bodies, mantras and malas. As practice matures, we can (and must) take increasingly subtle objects, like the sensations of the breath and the qualities of awareness. 

When this applied mindfulness is effortlessly sustained with alertness, a correct understanding of emptiness, and a subtly pleasant emotional quality, we enter the first jhana. In order, we then move through embodied sensations of agitated bliss (piti), joy (sukkha) and finally single-mindedness (cittaikagrata). Each sensation is always present but their relative strength changes as we deepen into meditation. With well-established single-mindedness, we turn to examining the conscious experience as transient and empty,  and genuine insight arises. 

Getting Started & Deepening our Practice

The best time to begin a meditation practice is now. When starting out, it is best not to have ideas of perfection regarding the amount, quality, or circumstances of meditation and to simply and sincerely do one’s best and embrace an iterative and emergent practice.

It is very difficult to start and maintain an effective meditation process alone, however. Having the support of a teacher and sangha is precious and can assist us in technique, motivation, comprehension, and integration of our experiences.

Hollow Bones Zen offers many ongoing practice opportunities up to and including one-on-one meditation instruction with our teachers and extended retreats and sesshin events. We encourage you to reach out to us with any questions you may have, and doubly encourage you to join us on this journey.