Exploring Breath Practices Taught in Zen and Buddhism
A Six-Week Experiential Online Course
with Jiryu Rutschman-Byler

June 18 – July 30, 2018

The Breath six-week online course offers students with an established meditation practice – new or long-term – the opportunity to reconnect with and discover anew the fundamental breath practices taught in Zen and Buddhism — and to incorporate these ancient teachings into their practice on and off the cushion.

To keep a meditation practice fresh and alive, no matter if we’ve been sitting for decades or have recently established a practice, we have no choice but to return again and again to the most basic questions:

What am I supposed to be doing?
What do I want to be doing?
And why?

Come dive into these enlivening, transformative questions by joining Jiryu in a six-week experiential exploration of Zen and Buddhist teachings on breath.

Together we will sit, exploring in our bodies the different practices of breath meditation. We will look within, exploring our intentions, expectations, desires, and even vows around breath meditation. We will also study, how generations of Buddhist teachers, across millennia and continents, have encouraged us to work with our breath or have urged us to go beyond it.

Jiryu began studying the teachings and practice of breath meditation 20 years ago when he started practicing at the San Francisco Zen Center. He began teaching on the role of breath in Zen in 2008.


From wherever you live, you can join Jiryu Rutschman-Byler, beginning June 18, by signing up for this online course. During these six weeks, we will explore ancient Zen and Buddhist breath practices and how to find your place within them at any moment in your practice.

Course Starts on: June 18 (LIVE webinars will be held on selected Mondays: 6/25, 7/9, and 7/23 from 5:30-6:30 PM Pacific time)

All live sessions will be recorded so you will never miss a session, and can listen at your convenience any time.

Course Fees:
$134 (members)
$119 (limited income)
or call us at 888.743.9362 or (local) 415.354.0360
email us at with any questions

A limited number of need-based scholarships are available.  If you would like to apply for financial assistance, please review this page and fill-out an application.

What You Will Learn

* Meditation as an exploration and an “art”. We will study breath practices — not to find the “right” approach — but to familiarize ourselves with different techniques so we can move through them as appropriate.

* A range of Buddhist and Zen meditation teachings. The course draws upon teachers across millennia and continents, as varied as Dogen Zenji, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tiantai Zhiyi, and Suzuki Roshi.

* Specific breath practices including: mindfulness of breathing, natural breathing, “hara” or belly breathing, breath counting, strong exhalation practice, the relationship of breath to insight practice, breath and “shikantaza,” walking meditation, and more.

WEEK ONE: Introduction

What is the deepest and most fundamental form of “Buddhist breathing”? Knowing the long breath, knowing the short breath. What is the primary instruction in Soto Zen meditation, and in the teachings of San Francisco Zen Center founder Suzuki Roshi? Counting the breath.

In the first week’s practice instructions and guided meditation, Jiryu will present these basics of Buddhist meditation practice, essential for beginners and vital touchstones, which experienced sitters return to again and again to keep their practice awake and alive.

In a Dharma Talk this week, Jiryu will tell his own story about practicing with the breath, and in doing so will frame the basic issue of this course: is meditation about making effort or about letting go of effort?  “Going with the flow,” or “going against the stream of our ingrained habits?”

WEEK TWO: Walking & Everyday Life

In this week, we will step away from the cushion to explore the essential issue about breath as Buddhist practice outside of meditation – how to breathe with and through everyday life.  

In a Dharma Talk, Jiryu will explore how  the Anapanasati Sutta, the great ancient text on breath in sitting meditation, holds an important insight on how to breathe through everyday life.
Jiryu will introduce the kinhin form of slow walking meditation – a beautiful and energetic way to harmonize breath, body, and mind.

Jiryu will also show another form of walking meditation – the fast, breath counting form as taught by the great Vietnamese Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

In a Bonus Talk, Jiryu will introduce the kinhin form of slow walking meditation – a beautiful and energetic way to harmonize breath, body, and mind.

WEEK THREE: Exhaling and Tuning the Breath

In this week we will discuss and practice Suzuki Roshi’s striking and profound teaching on “dying” in a complete, total exhalation.

Jiryu will introduce the practice of total exhalation in both a Dharma Talk and a guided meditation.

Yes, the Buddha said that just to know the breath we have is the basic teaching, but what if we want to have a smoother, nicer breath?  Aren’t there techniques for giving ourselves that gift?

In a Bonus Dharma Talk, we’ll look at what the ancient Chinese Master Tiantai Zhiyi had to say on “tuning” the breath.

WEEK FOUR: A lighter touch?

In this week we will explore how our meditation can move – as all forms of Buddhist meditation traditionally are understood to move – from strong effort to light effort, from effortful to effortless.  In Soto Zen, this is expressed by the instruction that a meditator move from breath manipulation to breath counting, then to breath following, and then to dropping the breath as an object altogether and focusing on “just sitting.”

In our practice instruction and guided meditation, we will consider how do we work with this movement in the “art” of our meditation?  How long do we sit with the breath before letting go even of that effort?

WEEK FIVE: Calming or Insight?

Focusing on the breath can calm you, but can it also awaken you? Can it give you the real liberative insights of Buddhism? This is our topic this week.

A Dharma Talk explores how we might find a way to practice with breath that isn’t just calming (śamatha), but that includes inquiry and insight (vipaśyanā) as well.

What’s Going On Here?!

There are so many approaches to meditation – how can we understand and make sense of the differences?

In this talk, Jiryu will present a current passion of his – a cutting-edge schema, developed by a top team of meditation researchers, that allows us to see graphically the full range of Buddhist approaches to meditation.

WEEK SIX: Dogen Zenji’s Teaching on Breath & What is Shikantaza?

Soto Zen’s Japanese Founder Dogen Zenji didn’t write much about breath, but at one place
where he does, he implies something quite startling: Better to be a diseased wild fox than to
practice breath counting! What does he mean by that?

Where the Buddha’s core breath teaching is beautifully clear – know a long breath is long, know a short breath is short – why does Dogen insist instead that breath is “neither long nor short”? In the Dharma Talk for this week we will explore these deep and difficult teachings.

Also, this week, we will look more closely at “just sitting” or shikantaza – that elusive practice of Soto Zen.

In our final Dharma Talk, we will explore what shikantaza means, really.  Is it something that works around or within breath awareness practice? Or is it something that excludes or fundamentally differs from breath practice?

What People are Saying about Jiryu’s Courses…

- "Jiryu’s candid sharing of challenges and insights with his own practice gave relevance to the course."

- "I experienced Jiryu as embodying every attribute of a great teacher and bodhisattva: great and wide-ranging wisdom, great and open clarity, great and warming compassion! I felt Jiryu’s deep knowledge and caring transmitting powerfully through this “disembodied” online vehicle. This says a lot given I’ve only “met” him via this medium. It also says a lot for the technical structure and formatting of the vehicle itself, which I found well designed, reliable and easy to use."

- "Jiryu’s presence is simply beautiful. His wisdom and knowledge were conveyed intelligently and with clarity that ushered me towards a better understanding and appreciation for breath practice and more. I found Jiryu’s teachings reflected a depth of awareness, humility, and humor which allowed me to feel a human connection over the waves and wires of technology."

- "Jiryu is an excellent teacher. Would enjoy taking another online course from him."

- "It is so wonderful to be connected via this vehicle. The online zendo is excellent and Jiryu is totally awesome!"

Please direct any questions with this program to