Many people are unable to visit a Zen center for guidance and support. In recognition of this, Robert Aitken, Roshi, wrote Taking the Path of Zen, a thorough how-to guide to Zen training. I know of no better introduction to this ancient path of wisdom.
Roshi provides clear instructions on the “mechanics” of sitting, but also offers support and encouragement for those who undertake this path without the companionship of a community. Here’s a typical passage:
Accepting the Self
The everyday experiences of forgetting the self in the act of, say, fixing a faucet, may be understood as a model for zazen, the meditation practice of the Zen student.
But before any forgetting is possible, there must be a measure of confidence. The diver on the high board lets everything go with each dive, but could not do so without the development of confidence, a development that goes hand in hand with training. Such letting go is not random. The diver has become one with the practice of diving - free, yet at the same time highly disciplined.
Even champion divers, however, do not touch their deepest potential simply by working out on the high board. A more useful model may be found among the archetypes of zazen, such as Manjusri who occupies the central place on the altar of the zendo (meditation hall).
He holds a scroll, representing wisdom, and a sword to cut off all your concepts. He is seated on a recumbent lion, and both Manjusri and the lion look very comfortable. The lion power is still there, however, and when Manjusri speaks, it is with the voice of that lion.
Completely free, and completely controlled! The new student must make friends with the lion and tame it before he or she can take the lion seat. This takes time and patience.
(from Ox Herding)