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  • Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part XI)

    What’s the most important thing to remember about ‘breathing‘ during Zazen?

    DON’T STOP!

    Last time, I spoke about how there is no “bad” Zazen, even on those days when the mind is very cloudy with thoughts and emotions. But in fact, there are a couple of things we can do to settle down when the mind is really, really, really, stirred up with tangled thoughts, wild emotions and confusion.

    We can count the breaths, for example, counting from 1 to 10 at each inhalation and exhalation, then coming back to one and starting all over when we reach ten (which we rarely do) or lose track. Or we can simply follow the breath without counting, for example, observing effortlessly as it enters and exits the nose. These are excellent practices, and will calm the mind (itself a form of Shikantaza that some people pursue, even for a lifetime!). HOWEVER, for reasons I will discuss, I recommend such practices only as temporary measures for true beginners with no experience of how to let the mind calm at all, or others on those sometime days when the mind really, really, really is upset and disturbed. AS SOON AS the mind settles a bit, I advise the we return our attention to “the clear, blue, spacious sky that holds all“, letting clouds of thought and emotion drift from mind, focused on what can be called “everything, and nothing at all” or “no place and everyplace at once.” I will explain why in today’s talk.

    One we return to sitting focused on “everything, and nothing at all,” letting all things “just be” … we let the breath “just be” and give it no mind, too. We do not try to do anything artificial with the breath, and just let “long breaths be long, and short breaths be short,” the breath finding its natural rhythm. Pay the breath no mind, give it no thought, and even (as Master Dogen advises) drop all thought of “long” or “short”! In doing so, as we calm, the breath will calm as well … finding a natural rhythm.

    We may even come to experience that there is really no separate “I” breathing, no separate air being breathed, no separate world to receive our cast out breaths … and we experience breathing as as boundless as that vast, open sky. Thus Dogen’s teacher Master Tendo said, “it is not that this breath comes from somewhere … it is not possible to say where this breath goes. For that reason, it is neither long nor short.”

    Shunryu Suzuki Roshi once said this about the breath …

    If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body: just a swinging door.
    We might say that the breath, too, isno place and everyplace at once.”

    CLICK HERE for today’s Sit-A-Long video.

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part XI) started by Jundo View original post
    Comments 20 Comments
    1. kalesi's Avatar
      kalesi -
      Thanks Jundo,

      I am really going to try to keep my eyes partially open as you mentioned. I find that I am struggling with the eyelid muscles as my concentration wants to naturally (or unnaturally) fixate on that area.
    1. Dosho's Avatar
      Dosho -
      Quote Originally Posted by kalesi View Post
      Thanks Jundo,

      I am really going to try to keep my eyes partially open as you mentioned. I find that I am struggling with the eyelid muscles as my concentration wants to naturally (or unnaturally) fixate on that area.
      I found it very difficult at first and still do if I'm tired, but it does get easier over time.

      Gassho,
      Dosho
    1. markkemark's Avatar
      markkemark -
      Thank you, Jundo!
    1. jtevans70's Avatar
      jtevans70 -
      Amitoufo, Shifu!
    1. framelius's Avatar
      framelius -
      thank you for your dharma talk, today i sat with you ,
      gassho

    1. Amelia's Avatar
      Amelia -
      Quote Originally Posted by Hoyu View Post
      Thank you Jundo Sensei _/_

      How is this for a Zennie idea...
      I remember Carl Sagan once mentioned that it has been calculated that the air we breath in has some of the same molecules breathed out by countless others. You can pick just about anyone throughout history. At this very moment know, that on a molecular level, you are quite literally breathing the same air which has entered and exited their lungs.
      Interconnection!

      Gassho,
      Hoyu(John)
      This is kind of an old post to drag up but, you just blew my mind, maaan. Hehe, never thought about it that way.
    1. Shokai's Avatar
      Shokai -
      Originally posted by Geika;
      you just blew my mind, maaan.
      Similarly, there is a concept which states that everyone is our mother
      gassho, Shokai
    1. Amelia's Avatar
      Amelia -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
      Originally posted by Geika;
      Similarly, there is a concept which states that everyone is our mother
      gassho, Shokai
      No mind left to blow.
    1. anzan's Avatar
      anzan -
      Wonderful! I enjoy the analogy to the training wheels and to take in the blue sky instead. I started counting the breaths and still do sometimes. This made me recall being in the supermarket and feeling very overwhelmed by the clouds of people and children with their little kid carts. I would stop and breathe and my wife would ask what I was doing. "Counting," I said. Perhaps I looked a bit crazy! By counting I was holding the clouds in as opposed to noticing them truly and thereby letting them float away. Thanks Jundo!
    1. Marcelo de Valnisio's Avatar
      Marcelo de Valnisio -
      Some time ago I started to keep the attention on the space around me and not on the breathing. It's easier and more comfortable for me. There is a magnificent feeling when, after exhaling, it takes a few seconds until the inhalation come again.
    1. Troy's Avatar
      Troy -
      I am new to zazen so I am trying to keep an open mind about changing my meditation habits, however I have found many benefits from my current meditation method. I start meditation by saying phrases that follow my breath such as "Breathing in I nourish my body" and then "Breathing out I am calm." As my mind starts to calm down, I will shorten the sentence to "I nourish my body" and "I am calm." Then as my mind begins to slow even more only one word will follow my in breath "Nourish" and my out breath "Calm." Lastly, I am able to forget all words and concentration on breaths and just be. Uusally basking in a powerfully calm and joyful emotion. At this point. I suppose this last state is most similar to Zazen meditation. However, I value the beginning parts of my mediation for two reasons. First, it provides me an effective method of entering in to the final state of my meditation. Second, when I am out and about in my daily life and feel a strong negative emotion, I can stop, breathe three times and I am quickly calmed and can better deal with the situation I find myself in. Thoughts??
    1. Jundo's Avatar
      Jundo -
      Hi Troy,

      Well,if it works for you, don't fix it. If you want to do so for a few minutes at the start of Zazen, that is fine.

      Then, however, around here we sit Shikantaza. Strange as it sounds, Shikantaza does not run after or particularly value (or not value) powerfully calm and joyful emotions. We sit with what is, totally at Peace and Joyful (Big "P" and "J") with whatever is ... which, strange as it sounds, may or may not be particularly peaceful and joyful in that moment.

      We let rainy days be rainy, sunny days be sunny ... same with healthy days or sick days, happy and joyful moments or sad and crying moments ... all what is. Life. Our Peace and Joy transcends all that, even transcending ordinary peace vs. chaos, joy vs. sadness. So Peaceful and Joyous that there is not even need to feel peaceful and joyous or not feel so.

      Weird, huh?

      Let me point you to this ... on "right and wrong" Zazen ...

      http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...nd-Wrong-Zazen

      Gassho, Jundo

      PS - I like very much your taking a few breaths to calm yourself when experiencing negative emotions off the cushion and out in the world.
    1. Troy's Avatar
      Troy -
      Thanks for the reply Jundo. I read the thread and it was helpful. My understanding is that Shikantaza is sitting with what ever is. We let the thoughts, whether good or bad, enter and exit our mind with no resistance. We do this until the thoughts and emotions drift from our mind. Our mind becomes calm. Then, we focus on everything and nothing at all. But I am not clear on what "every and nothing at all" is?
    1. Jundo's Avatar
      Jundo -
      Hi Troy,

      "Everything and nothing at all" is everything in the room (in all time and space in fact) and nothing in particular. A chair may be in one's line of sight, but we don't get caught and tangled in thoughts about it or leading from it like "Oh, nice chair. I like that chair. I need to buy new seat covers thought. I wonder where I can get a good deal on seat covers ... ". The chair is just there in our line of sight, and we let it be. The chair is just the chair, unique in all the world. Just what it is. Leave it alone, no need to think about it.

      And, yes, thoughts will calm and decrease as we don't latch on. However, that does not mean that thoughts and emotions might not keep coming (they likely will like clouds constantly drifting into a blue sky, although long stretches of empty blue too), or that necessarily we always "feel calm and at peace" (some of those clouds might be dark and stormy ones). However, we treat those thoughts and emotions just like the chair by not getting caught, latching on and getting tangled. Just let them be what is in the room (all time and space really), just like the chair sitting there. Then we discover a great Peace, Calm and Clarity that holds all the world, including chairs, you, me, thoughts and emotions ... both calm emotions and not calm emotions, white clouds, dark clouds and clear blue sky.

      Kind of counter-intuitive way to find Calm (Big "C", cause Calm holds all this not always calm life), but it works.

      Gassho, J
    1. Troy's Avatar
      Troy -
      Hi Jundo, I think I get what you are saying now about "everything and nothing at all." Thank you for that explanation . I am so use to focusing on one thing (usually my breath or a certain feeling) during meditation that it will be a big change for me. I know how to focus on my breath and not latch on to my thoughts and emotions, but I have not wrapped my head around how to focus on nothing and not latch on to my thoughts and emotions. It is probably one of those things I will have to experience to truly understand. I am lamenting a bit about changing because my current meditation method has brought me great peace. Training my brain to focus on one thing has also improved my concentration abilities. But then again, there is that old saying if you don't try you will never know. So, I will give it a try. Gassho, Troy
    1. Jundo's Avatar
      Jundo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Troy View Post
      Hi Jundo, I think I get what you are saying now about "everything and nothing at all." Thank you for that explanation . I am so use to focusing on one thing (usually my breath or a certain feeling) during meditation that it will be a big change for me. I know how to focus on my breath and not latch on to my thoughts and emotions, but I have not wrapped my head around how to focus on nothing and not latch on to my thoughts and emotions. It is probably one of those things I will have to experience to truly understand. I am lamenting a bit about changing because my current meditation method has brought me great peace. Training my brain to focus on one thing has also improved my concentration abilities. But then again, there is that old saying if you don't try you will never know. So, I will give it a try. Gassho, Troy
      Hi Troy,

      If you have been practicing Karate, and come to an Ai-ki-do Dojo, one practices there Ai-ki-do and not Karate. Both are beautiful ways however. I will not say which way is best, or best for you. You have to find out.

      What is our central point here? That "feeling peaceful" is a nice and pleasant thing (and a doctor might often be able to write a prescription for it that is faster than meditating). But if you are trying to go through life feeling la la la peaceful, one is actually missing the point. Nor is a Buddha's Peace an ordinary feeling of "I feel calm and peaceful". Rather, there is a profound all encompassing Peace (Capital "P") that is and embraces all this life, both calm times and life's chaos, happy and sad times, ups and downs, sickness and healthy days, peace and war. It is a Peace of One Piece so whole that it holds all life's sharp and broken pieces.

      The way we learn to experience and embody such is by Just Sitting with and as What Is, letting all things be, not getting caught in the theatre of thoughts and emotions. That's our way around here.

      Gassho, Jundo
    1. Troy's Avatar
      Troy -
      Hi Jundo, Ok, so I did some additional reading on the net and tried sitting Shikantaza style a couple times today. Here is where I am at. Help me by letting me know if I am starting to get it. I will say that I am beginner with no shame and began my meditation by obseving my breath. I focused on the in and out of my breath until my mind calmed down. Then I focused on the present moment which included everything about the present moment: recognizing and acknowleding sounds, thoughts, emotions, etc. but not getting caught up and lingering on these. I stayed in the present moment observing everthing but focusing on none like everything was kinda in my peripheral vision at the same time. I just let myself be. If I became too distracted, I returned to my breath to become centered again. However, there was one paticular reoccurring thought/emotion I felt today that kept coming back again and again. Since I could not shake it, I stayed with it which of course took me out of state of awareness that I previously described. But by working it out in my head, looking deeply in to the reason I was having this thought/emotion, I was finally able to let it go, go back to my breath and eventually back to my state of awareness. Am I getting closer?
    1. Jundo's Avatar
      Jundo -
      Don't overthink it or plan out "how". It is like driving a car or riding a bike ... simple and nothing to think about or strain at when you get it.

      Here is my advice ... Just Sit. Don't Latch on to thoughts, let things be as they are. Do not judge or assess. Relax. Hold in one's heart that this moment is Sacred, there is no other place to be or action to do in all time in space in this moment but sit. Nothing is lacking.

      Gassho, J
    1. Troy's Avatar
      Troy -
      That was helpful, thanks for the dialog, Gassho, Troy
    1. Marj's Avatar
      Marj -
      Now come on if he breathed out his ears his ear drums were busted or the tubes. I have one that flaps a bit on my right ear.. For sinus problems I found echinachea really helps. I find my issue is being in constant pain from arthritis makes it difficult to totally relax. I did once time and saw time stop with some leaves floating below a tree.. But soon as I noticed the leaves had stopped they started up again. Since Im an addict recovery person its a bit rougher getting the mind "whats left of it" to be in a state of calm but I do it anyways. I know its not to have an OBE or Mystical experience but I think life is magickal anyways.. Nothing extra ordinary about mystical experiences since light dances and Im a light being.. .. Spirit blessings.. How come a photo signature does not show up ? is that feature turned off?
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