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Thread: Help with Zazen practice.

  1. #1

    Help with Zazen practice.

    For some time now, I've been getting a muscular pain about 15-20cm below my left shoulder blade, just left of the spine, and I wonder if I'm sitting off centre. At first I thought it was just a one-off or occasional occurrence, but it has been going on too long and too frequently for that. I push the buttocks back and the belly forward every time I sit to ensure I'm sitting with a straight back and rock from side to side to centre myself and get the "funnel" effect for the torso, but this pain keeps recurring. I continue zazen in spite of this, but naturally it would be better physically, mentally, and spiritually if it did not occur at all. Has anyone got any ideas on this? I hope I've opened this thread in the right section.
    Last edited by Foursquare; 08-28-2012 at 09:06 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    This might not be because of zazen, but it might be the sitting position that pushes it over the edge. I have back pain often, not caused by zazen, but sometimes when sitting it flares up a bit. You might want to see a physiotherapist to see if there's something wrong.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc View Post
    This might not be because of zazen, but it might be the sitting position that pushes it over the edge. I have back pain often, not caused by zazen, but sometimes when sitting it flares up a bit. You might want to see a physiotherapist to see if there's something wrong.
    It only comes up when I sit in zazen, so I assume it has something to do with the way I'm sitting in zazen.

  4. #4
    Hi Foursquare,

    It may just be getting old!

    However, first I would get a heath check to make sure that there is nothing else going on that is just making itself known when you sit in the unusual position of Zazen. For example, I have had some problems with middle age gall stones that would make itself known at certain times in my back, but often in Zazen when my mind was quiet and I could feel it. I am not saying you have that (I am not a doctor, nor play one on tv), but it could be something like that.

    By the way, what position are you sitting in ... Lotus, Half Lotus, Burmese, etc. ... and do you find it otherwise comfortable to sit that way for long periods?

    A rule about sitting is that you know your own body better than anyone, and that there is no one ... or one right ... way to sit. In other words, you need to play around, try this and that ... until you find what sets it off or not. As the old joke goes, if it hurts when you do something ... don't do that! Try relaxing the muscles in the shoulders and back a bit more, letting the tension run out. See if that helps. Maybe you are sitting too "stiff shouldered" and rigid in your back and shoulder muscles.

    And, yes, your attitude is good. If there is pain, we try to find the reason. But if it is unavoidable, we just sit with ... and as ... that.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-28-2012 at 10:36 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    It's been my experience that if my hands are too far forward in my lap, it causes pain between my shoulder blades. I've come to pull my hands close in to my belly when I sit; which for me prevents the pain from arising. I have friends who like to place a cushion beneath their hands, to take the strain off of their shoulders. As Jundo said, all of our bodies are different, therefore there's no one "correct" way to sit. I hope that a bit of experimentation helps you "find your seat" soon.
    May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
    quickly be freed from their illnesses.
    May those frightened cease to be afraid
    and may those bound be free.
    May the powerless find power
    and may people think of befriending one another.

  6. #6
    I use the Burmese position with the legs folded in but not across each other. I sit squarely, and as flatly as I can, but I think my posture is not completely symmetrical and I need to keep experimenting to get it more symmetrical or as symmetrical as I can. I sat for a long time, some years, without any problem but back then I was younger, of course, in my early to mid-30s and much, much physically fitter than I am now, so maybe my general physical condition or age or both are factors. It is only recently that I've got back into a routine of regular sitting. The gall stones problem I've had fixed: my gall bladder was whipped out in mid-May of this year. I do get tense in the shoulders and that's another story. I am aware of my shoulders tensing up and rising; I then "force" them down and try to relax them only for them to stiffen up and rise again, in a matter of a few breaths. Anyway, I'll keep at it. Thank you, gentlemen, for your suggestions.

    Gassho, Paul
    Last edited by Foursquare; 09-01-2012 at 06:52 AM. Reason: To correct punctuation error.

  7. #7
    I have back and shoulder pain and find that draping a rolled up blanket across my lap in a U-shape helps tremendously. It supports not only my hands but forearms as well, taking a lot of strain out of the upper body. Taigu demonstrates this in on of his videos but I'm on mobile at the moment and can't look it up...
    Sent from my Lumia 900 using Board Express
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  8. #8
    That sounds a very good idea. If you could find the video and post a link, that would be great. Many thanks. Gassho, Paul

  9. #9
    I'm with Piobair and Kaishin, make sure your hands are resting comfortably and effortlessly in your lap, close to your belly. Other than that, I would not try to find a perfectly symmetrical position, because your body might not be completely symmetrical and your idea of symmettical might be wrong. Forcing the body into the position you think is right may not be what's right for your body. You could try just sitting down an a slightly angled zafu, without pushing the belly out and the buttocks back. Then leave the body to do its own thing. Don't worry if the posture changes, just let it evolve. See if that gives you more or less pain.

    Hope it works out!

    /Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  10. #10
    Hi Foursquare,

    Blanket or towel to support hands, zafu at an angle to allow the body to naturally sit ( without arching the back), not forcing anything.

    these would be my recommendations.

    gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  11. #11
    Again, gentlemen, thank you for your suggestions/recommendations. Gassho, Paul

  12. #12
    Foursquare -- I found it!

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ght=angle+zafu

    Fast forward to about 4:50 to where he demonstrates the use of a blanket draped across the lap. This helped me tremendously. You should definitely watch all of Taigu's sitting videos in the videos in that forum--lots of good tips!!!

    Best of luck in your practice
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    Foursquare -- I found it!

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ght=angle+zafu

    Fast forward to about 4:50 to where he demonstrates the use of a blanket draped across the lap. This helped me tremendously. You should definitely watch all of Taigu's sitting videos in the videos in that forum--lots of good tips!!!

    Best of luck in your practice
    Many thanks, Kaishin, for all your efforts. I'm sure I'll find this and Taigu's other videos useful. Gassho, Paul
    Last edited by Foursquare; 09-02-2012 at 10:15 AM.

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