Why all the prostrations?

If you live in Korea and ask your local Zen teacher what you should do when your life is falling apart, you will probably be told: do prostrations! 500 a day! 1,000 a day! Which may seem surprising — isn’t Zen about sitting still? And how can something that looks like a cross between squats and child pose be relevant to your spiritual life?

But you know how when you sit in meditation your mind goes all over the place? It seldom does that doing prostrations. Doing prostrations is a method of practice that bypasses the frontal lobes and goes straight for the central nervous system. At the bottom you’re in a posture of total submission, a posture of complete humility — that’s why we talk about bowing in repentance. But then at the top you’re upright and ready for anything. Down. Up. Down. Up. Over and over again. Over time it’s as if you’re rewiring yourself, changing your synapses. Your center becomes stronger. Your heart becomes more open. You don’t have to think about it. It just happens.

 

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