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Thread: Zazen, What to do when you are NOT caught up?

  1. #1

    Zazen, What to do when you are NOT caught up?

    When you do Zazen, you can be in two mental states

    State 1 : Lost/Getting-Caught-Up in Thoughts
    State 2: A state of not being in the above State (i.e., Aware/In-the-present-moment/Not-Caught-up)

    You don't need any instruction when you are in the first state, because there is nothing you can do there.

    When you are in the second state, this is when you are in control and can do Zazen wrong. You can regret getting caught up, You can philosophize about how to do Zazen right, You can worry about whether your Zazen is going fine or not etc...

    So what is the instruction when we are in State 2. Is it best to just sit calm and let the next thought take over you? In meditation practices where there is an object it is easy as we just go back to the object (Say breath or mantra etc...).

    Uchiyama Roshi talks about bringing attention back to "Posture". Nishijima Roshi also talks about similar thing about "Keeping Spine Straight". The only problem I have with these is that there is an object there.

    Isn't it much simpler and much more shikantaza like, if we didn't bring attention back to either posture or "keeping spine straight"? I am reading "Opening your hand of thought" and am a bit confused by the suggestion to bring attention back to posture. When I realize I am caught up in thought stream, my awareness is already back to the present moment. Won't it be fine if I just did nothing and sat calm, allowing the next thought (or getting caught up in next thought) to take over? Isn't bringing the attention back to posture one more additional step along the way?

    what do you recommend as an instruction for the State where you are not Caught-Up? Thanks

    Sam

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    When you do Zazen, you can be in two mental states

    State 1 : Lost/Getting-Caught-Up in Thoughts
    State 2: A state of not being in the above State (i.e., Aware/In-the-present-moment/Not-Caught-up)

    You don't need any instruction when you are in the first state, because there is nothing you can do there.

    When you are in the second state, this is when you are in control and can do Zazen wrong. You can regret getting caught up, You can philosophize about how to do Zazen right, You can worry about whether your Zazen is going fine or not etc...

    So what is the instruction when we are in State 2. Is it best to just sit calm and let the next thought take over you? In meditation practices where there is an object it is easy as we just go back to the object (Say breath or mantra etc...).

    Uchiyama Roshi talks about bringing attention back to "Posture". Nishijima Roshi also talks about similar thing about "Keeping Spine Straight". The only problem I have with these is that there is an object there.

    Isn't it much simpler and much more shikantaza like, if we didn't bring attention back to either posture or "keeping spine straight"? I am reading "Opening your hand of thought" and am a bit confused by the suggestion to bring attention back to posture. When I realize I am caught up in thought stream, my awareness is already back to the present moment. Won't it be fine if I just did nothing and sat calm, allowing the next thought (or getting caught up in next thought) to take over? Isn't bringing the attention back to posture one more additional step along the way?

    what do you recommend as an instruction for the State where you are not Caught-Up? Thanks

    Sam
    Good thoughts/questions. I don't have time for a long answer, but the short one is: the 1 and 2 you divided up are not two. They are both the same. The state where you are not caught up is the state where you are caught up, just as much as the state where you are caught up. There is nothing you can do in either. Either be caught up or don't be. Nothing to do. No one state two state three state four. While it might look relatively like, hey, this zazen is crappy because I'm caught up and hey, this zazen is "higher", it's just not the case.

    I have to go teach some folks.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Words and questions are fine.

    But they only get you so far.

    Just sit.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Shuso and Ango leader for September 2014.

    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  4. #4
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    what do you recommend as an instruction for the State where you are not Caught-Up?

    If you are thinking about it at the time then you are caught up again!
    Otherwise......
    ...watch it, enjoy it, let it be, go with it, flow with it, forget it, sit it, ( ) it!

    Gassho
    Heisoku
    平 息

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    Words and questions are fine.

    But they only get you so far.

    Just sit.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Wise words my friend ... This is something I use through out my life.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    When you do Zazen, you can be in two mental states

    State 1 : Lost/Getting-Caught-Up in Thoughts
    State 2: A state of not being in the above State (i.e., Aware/In-the-present-moment/Not-Caught-up)

    You don't need any instruction when you are in the first state, because there is nothing you can do there.

    When you are in the second state, this is when you are in control and can do Zazen wrong. You can regret getting caught up, You can philosophize about how to do Zazen right, You can worry about whether your Zazen is going fine or not etc...

    So what is the instruction when we are in State 2. Is it best to just sit calm and let the next thought take over you? In meditation practices where there is an object it is easy as we just go back to the object (Say breath or mantra etc...).

    Uchiyama Roshi talks about bringing attention back to "Posture". Nishijima Roshi also talks about similar thing about "Keeping Spine Straight". The only problem I have with these is that there is an object there.

    Isn't it much simpler and much more shikantaza like, if we didn't bring attention back to either posture or "keeping spine straight"? I am reading "Opening your hand of thought" and am a bit confused by the suggestion to bring attention back to posture. When I realize I am caught up in thought stream, my awareness is already back to the present moment. Won't it be fine if I just did nothing and sat calm, allowing the next thought (or getting caught up in next thought) to take over? Isn't bringing the attention back to posture one more additional step along the way?

    what do you recommend as an instruction for the State where you are not Caught-Up? Thanks

    Sam
    I would like to address this, but first need to confirm that you did not switch your "State 1" and "State 2" in the question.

    I will assume you did. As some have noted, if in a state truly "not lost/not caught up in thoughts" then no getting caught up in "regret of getting caught up" etc, no philosophizing and worry about doing Zazen "right" or any other thing. If regret, worry or philosophizing comes ... we let it go without grabbing on and jumping in.

    The time to "open the hand of thought" is when lost and caught up in "State 1".

    And there is even a "State Not 2" ... caught up and not caught up at once.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-05-2013 at 03:42 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    As I already told you, just sit. Comes a time when the question vanishes.

    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.

  8. #8
    Hi Sam:

    We haven’t heard from you (at least on this thread; maybe you have messaged Jundo or Taigu). Have we answered your question sufficiently?

    I wanted to add that there definitely seem like there are different “states” during zazen. But even when we seem to be in state 2, that clear calm state, if we’re really paying attention we’ll notice thoughts floating through there. The idea in either state 1 or state 2 is not to hold onto anything – really difficult even though it sounds terribly simple.

    The reason I answered the way I answered is because dividing up, categorizing, trying to figure out, that’s the last thing we’re doing in zazen. Problem is, once we say, okay, state 1 and state 2, there’s always another state. In my personal opinion (and Jundo and Taigu please correct if I’m wrong), we do “get better” at sitting over time. And our practice deepens and expands to daily life, more and more intimate. Still: right from the start, beginner’s mind.

    Lastly, to answer your question more directly: yes, it’s okay just to sit calmly and not bring attention to posture, I’d say. Pay attention to that blue sky as Jundo says; be that blue sky. Sometimes we say let the mind rest in the spine or in the palm of the left hand, and that can seem like an object, but it’s really only the spaciousness we’re resting in.

    Hope you’re well, and more basically, as Taigu says, just sit. (and if I’m just saying stuff you already know, please ignore me; I just didn’t want to leave you, as they say, hanging).

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  9. #9
    Alan and others,

    Thanks for the replies. So it is okay to just sit calm. That clears up things for me. Actually Alan, I liked your short first reply even better haha, especially when you said "There is nothing you can do in either". I did a sitting after reading that, and that sentence seemed to help make my zazen better because I realized I am not in control even in state 2 and it doesn't really matter what I did. That made my monkey mind shut up.

    I know zazen is just sitting without any "mental attitude" but if I sit with these kind of "mental attitudes" somehow it seems to help. Some of the other ones I used earlier were (When I say "used", it is NOT an explicit use):

    - Sit and allow everything to be as is
    - Sit with the idea of "Just Sitting"
    - It is okay whatever happens
    - When you realize you are just out of getting caught up in a thought stream, just sit calm and do nothing
    - There is nothing you can do (Latest addition)


    Jundo,

    The time to "open the hand of thought" is when lost and caught up in "State 1".

    And there is even a "State Not 2" ... caught up and not caught up at once.
    When I was doing my earlier mantra meditation, I might have hit such a state. It felt like thoughts were just floating around but I was untouched. It was more like a "Lucid Dreaming" experience. I had a lucid dreaming experience after meditation once where I was witnessing the entire dream and was aware that I was lying in the bed (like an awake sleep).

    The suggestion of "Open the hand of thought" somehow might be misleading to beginners like me. There is no way that I can "open the hand of thought" or "Un-Grasp a thought". As long as I am caught up in a thought stream there is no way for me to get out of it. I keep following the thought till the "return" happens. By that time un-grasping has already happened.

    - Sam

  10. #10
    Hi Sam,

    You asked for my comment:

    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    - Sit and allow everything to be as is
    - Sit with the idea of "Just Sitting"
    - It is okay whatever happens
    - When you realize you are just out of getting caught up in a thought stream, just sit calm and do nothing
    - There is nothing you can do (Latest addition)
    I actually like these as a brief re-Minder of why and how one is sitting. I also like that "sitting is, for this moment, the only place to be and only thing to do in this moment in all the world". I sometimes briefly recall something like that during sitting.

    But after you are re-Minded. drop the phrases and thinking ... and just get back to Just Sitting. Do not just be thinking "sit and allow everything to be as is" but actually drop that thought and sit and allow everything to be as is!

    Sitting and allowing everything to be "as is", by the way, does not mean to be sitting thinking about things, or trapped in emotions and confusion. It means sitting with all things "as is" without thinking about things, being trapped in emotions and confusion. Our "just do nothing" is -not- just doing nothing because we "open the hand of thought" (see below) and let the thoughts and emotions go from our clutches.

    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Jundo,

    When I was doing my earlier mantra meditation, I might have hit such a state. It felt like thoughts were just floating around but I was untouched. It was more like a "Lucid Dreaming" experience. I had a lucid dreaming experience after meditation once where I was witnessing the entire dream and was aware that I was lying in the bed (like an awake sleep).
    Oh, my experience of "thinking non thinking" is much less grand. It is usually something like having a momentary thought that (2) I have some problem in life that feels like hell or worries me ... and simultaneously (2) feeling there is no problem, nothing to change, no particular desired outcome, what will be will be, and a peace with things as is. All At Once.

    The suggestion of "Open the hand of thought" somehow might be misleading to beginners like me. There is no way that I can "open the hand of thought" or "Un-Grasp a thought". As long as I am caught up in a thought stream there is no way for me to get out of it. I keep following the thought till the "return" happens. By that time un-grasping has already happened.

    - Sam
    What you say sounds really complicated. If I am thinking about something, I just let it go. It is as simple as opening the fingers of the hand and letting a held balloon float away.

    A few minutes later, if I find another balloon in my hand ... I just repeat.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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