Exploring Breath Practices Taught
in Zen and Buddhism

A Seven-Week Experiential Online Course
with Jiryu Rutschman-Byler

Register Now

The Breath seven-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 doing in meditation?
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 seven-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.

Last year our online course on Breath and meditation practice was among our most appreciated offerings. This course has been reformatted based on participant feedback, and this time we’ll be offering the same video content more slowly, over seven weeks instead of just four, to give more time to integrate the teachings that are raised.

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.

More about Jiryu

jiryu okesa and frank

Jiryu Mark Rutschman-Byler is a priest and teacher in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, with Dharma Transmission from Sojun Mel Weitsman. He lives and teaches at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center and is the head teacher of the Buddhadharma Sangha of San Quentin State Prison.

Jiryu has lived at Zen temples since the age of 20, training under a variety of teachers in both the US and Japan. He has taught a number of courses through San Francisco Zen Center including: Breath in Buddhist Meditation, Teachings on Buddha Nature, Approaches to Enlightenment, and the Practice of Shikantaza.

Jiryu holds a master’s degree in Asian Studies from UC Berkeley where he worked on Buddhist texts in classical Chinese and modern Japanese. He is the author of the book Two Shores of Zen, about his experiences in 2002 to 2004 as an American-trained monk practicing in Japanese Zen monasteries. He has also published articles in Buddhadharma and Turning Wheel. He blogs at No Zen in the West.

Jiryu was born in Argentina and raised in Albuquerque and Chicago. He is married with two young children. More on Jiryu can be found at Shores of Zen.


From wherever you live, you can join Jiryu Rutschman-Byler, beginning March 23, by signing up for this online course. During these seven weeks, we will explore ancient Zen and Buddhist breath practices and how to find your place within them at any moment in your practice. Register here for Breath.

  • Course Starts on: March 23 (LIVE webinars will be held every other Wednesday on 3/29, 4/12, 4/26, and 5/10 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
  • Here’s what you’ll receive for your course fee.

Course Fees:

$134 (member)
$119 (limited income)

A limited number of need-based scholarships are available. Please fill out the online programs application.

Manifesting the Wisdom of the Body 2015 Registration Button

A Special Invitation to Breath participants

Join Jiryu and the Green Gulch Sangha for a one-day sitting focused on breath practice on May 20, 2017 in the zendo at Green Gulch. This intensive day of sitting will be a chance to meet Jiryu and other course participants in person, and to experiment with and integrate the techniques and teachings presented over the course of the online class.

Click here for more information on the Green Gulch one day sit.

(one day sitting is not included in Breath course price)

Course Guarantee & Cancellation Policy

Thank you for choosing SFZC’s Online Programs. If for any reason you wish to withdraw from the program, you have up to and within the first 15 days of the start of the program to receive a refund, minus a $20 processing fee. There is no refund if you cancel or withdraw more than 15 days after the start of the program.

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.



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?”
  • 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.


Walking and 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.


Dying in the Exhalation, Born in the Inhalation

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.


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?


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.


Tuning the Breath

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

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.


Dogen Zenji’s Teaching on Breath

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.

What is Shikantaza?

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?

During Each Week You Will Receive:

20-50 minutes of video sessions with Jiryu. The sessions focus on specific practice instruction around breath, the perspective of a particular Buddhist master on breath, and/or a guided meditation during which we will practice specific breath teachings. Available to download or stream.


Access to a private interactive course website for all participants.
This is the hub for all things related to this course including our community.

Participation in discussion forums
with Jiryu and fellow participants from around the globe.

Four hour-long LIVE interactive webinars.
Participants can engage directly with Jiryu and their fellow practitioners. Recordings will be made available if you are unable to attend the live dharma sessions.

Encouragement in your email inbox from Jiryu
with inspiring quotes, suggestions, and questions to support and guide your daily practice.

Access to one-on-one phone or video practice discussions
with Jiryu to address personalized questions or issues around the course content and Zen practice.

of supplemental readings and a course bibliography.

What People are Saying about Breath

I was hoping for renewed commitment to my own practice, and new paths of inquiry and I got both. Thanks!

I had hoped that the course would revitalize my practice. I felt it had become a little stale. I found it enormously helpful in that regard.

Excellent experience.

It has really helped my 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!

What People are Saying about SFZC live webinars

Feeling closer even though afar. I usually go to. . . lectures at the Green Gulch and I am always too shy to participate of the Q&A, but with this format, I felt at ease to contribute.

I thought that the video was a great improvement over the conference calls from a learning perspective and as a way to feel engaged with others. I was a little uncomfortable being brought in live at first, but I got over my self-consciousness.

It was interactive and made the group feel more like a sangha.

I took all the classes while commuting from San Francisco to Marin County on a bus and everything went well.

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Enso art by Kaz Tanashi ©
Miracles of Each Moment