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Thread: Listen to your knees...

  1. #1

    Listen to your knees...

    Hi Treeleafers!

    I am not writing the following to whine, but as a reminder that you should listen to your body.

    About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with a patella dysplasia, which is a deformation of the kneecap. You don't see this with the naked eye, but it has caused some considerable pain now and then.
    Anyway, doc told me that if things get worse, knee surgery might be necessary.
    Up to now I had been using a meditation bench (Pi form) and it was excellent. Pain in the knees was there, but still ok. However, already during our zazenkais here I felt my knees reached a certain limit.
    I ignored it (I am stubborn)...
    However, about two weeks ago the pain was really, really intense, just after 30 minutes of sitting (sometimes tears of pain welling up). I should have listened to my inner alarm bells by then (did not though).
    Last Saturday when I came home from shopping my right knee was stiff and swollen. I cooled it and from then on I've been doing zazen on a chair.
    This has been quite a change for my sitting practice, I must admit, but I think I will carry on sitting like that. I am still (relatively) young and I'd like to have well functioning knees...

    So, if anyone of you feels pain during sitting that goes way beyond the normal pain on a regular basis (I know that some pain is normal during zazen), listen to your body.

    Oh, and before I forget:
    If any of you have to use a chair for zazen as well, I'd be happy for any tips/recommendations!

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  2. #2
    I can sit quite comfortably on a zafu for long periods...problem is, when I arise, sometimes I can't straighten my right leg, it can't bear weight, and it's astoundingly painful. Sometimes this happens when I get out of bed in the morning, without warning. When this happens, I'll be on the couch for a week. These episodes were becoming more frequent and more severe until I started sitting in a chair. Now they're much better.
    For me, this was quite an adjustment; like learning to sit all over again. My major obstacle was my prideful attachment to sitting on a cushion; as I let go of that, things got easier. I sit with my feet apart, and flat on the floor. I sit upright, just like I did on a zafu; not leaning into the back of the chair. Raising the back legs of the chair (or my butt on a cushion) to give an angle similar to a zafu or meditation bench seems to help; most chairs tilt your pelvis back, not forward, which seems to put pressure on my lumbar spine as I try to sit upright (I've got herniations at L4-5, L 5-6, and L6-S1 as well); YMMV.
    Experiment. A teacher once told me that it takes quite a while to "find your seat" on the cushion. I suspect that this is true of a chair as well.

    May you and all beings be well and at peace.
    Emmet
    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.

  3. #3
    Or...Make your way to good Alexander Technique guy, relax and don't compete with ghosts, enjoy being, enjoy sitting and not sitting in sitting, as well as sitting in non sitting.

    give the mudra of your hands to birds and traffic

    give your breath to your already breath as sky and air hugging you

    just enjoy being you

    without you


    gassho


    T.
    Last edited by Taigu; 03-07-2013 at 01:46 PM.
    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.

  4. #4
    I went through a period some years back where enforced pain was the practice... especially during a retreat (Yong Maeng Jong Jin). Sitting still as a statue with the unbearable until "one of us has to go". It was very stubborn , foolish, and typical of my personality. There is unavoidable pain in life, and no point seeking out a flame to hold my hand over .

    Taigu, you have recommended the Alexander Technique many times. Thank you. It is time I looked into that.

    Gassho,
    Daizan
    Last edited by Daizan; 03-07-2013 at 02:05 PM.
    大山

  5. #5
    Sorry about the bad knee Timo ... I know how you feel. I used to suffer from PFS (Patello-Femoral Syndrome) from running and not stretching properly.

    Like Daizan has also said, I too would push myself during zazen to a point where the pain would be unbearable, then the pain would subside due to the fact my legs had fallen asleep.

    The thing that helped me tons was yoga ... it helped in opening my hips, stretching out those worked muscles (hamstrings, IT Band) from running. But I also agree that it is important to listen to the body ... without my body I am less use to the people around me, so if I am sore, I do Kinhin.

    Be well and hope all goes ok with your knee.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    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 Shingen View Post
    Sorry about the bad knee Timo ... I know how you feel. I used to suffer from PFS (Patello-Femoral Syndrome) from running and not stretching properly.

    Like Daizan has also said, I too would push myself during zazen to a point where the pain would be unbearable, then the pain would subside due to the fact my legs had fallen asleep.

    The thing that helped me tons was yoga ... it helped in opening my hips, stretching out those worked muscles (hamstrings, IT Band) from running. But I also agree that it is important to listen to the body ... without my body I am less use to the people around me, so if I am sore, I do Kinhin.

    Be well and hope all goes ok with your knee.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    Yep, I had to do some very basic yoga for several months (it seemed like a lot longer) just to be able to sit Burmese-style (longtime runner, soccer player). I still do a little from time to time, but this reminds me I should do more. Thanks Shingen.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  7. #7
    Thanks a lot for all your useful comments!
    I read something about Alexander Technique about ten years ago, I think it was by Michael Gelb. It already fascinated me back then, but we had no teachers anywhere near our place, so I forgot about it.
    I think I will check availability (and costs) again - I guess there will be more places nowadays.

    Yes, it's a bit of experimenting right now. Even with small things like where to put my hands (without having hunched shoulders), etc.
    On the other hand: Somehow it's a bit like getting back a fresh beginner's mind. ;-)
    It's interesting how a different posture has so much influence on my monkey mind. Surprisingly, when I use a Qigong standing posture it is almost "blue sky" right away, very calm and peaceful, very effortlessly.
    Will try out new things...

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  8. #8
    Hi Timo - I think you may have mentioned that you were reading Okumura's 'Living by Vow' a while back.
    I've been reading it in stops and starts - but page 220 really apertains to this thread.
    Okumura writes about how with his body half-broken with pain he could no longer sit as he had done in the past. He writes of how this allowed
    him to become free of his own practice.

    My body was well and truly broken when I came to Zen - no possibility whatsoever of 'sitting' in the formal way. It bothered me a lot to begin with - despite Jundo
    and Taigu repeatedly teaching to do what I can - in whatever way I can.

    It doesn't bother me at all now that I'm mainly 'sitting' lying down.

    Okumura's words on this subject are truly wonderful as he relates it to bodhisattva practice and finding the compassionate buddha within.



    Willow
    Last edited by willow; 03-07-2013 at 10:28 PM.

  9. #9
    Hi Willow,

    I haven't mentioned Okumura's book, but I have it on my wishlist now.
    Thanks a lot for telling your personal experiences you've made. It is encouraging to hear that you practice despite your health problems. I remember when I was ill in bed for a few days last November I had to do zazen in a lying position. It worked, but it was not easy for me.
    However, after reading this thread I am convinced that it's more or less just about habituation/customisation (don't know if these are the right words in this context, but I suppose you know what I mean).


    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  10. #10
    Senior Member Juki's Avatar
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    The knees! I sustained a small meniscus tear in my left knee last week in a hot yoga class. Tried to fold forward from a standing half-lotus tree position and come into a "flying" crow and heard a loud pop. I have been sitting Zazen in a chair for the last several days, which I find much tougher than sitting on my Zafu. The chair is less comfortable and requires more patience.

  11. #11
    Hi William,

    Sorry to hear about your injury - sounds painful (I've imagined the pop noise *shudder*)...
    I've been doing zazen on a chair for more than two weeks now, and after those initial problems it gets "better". Yesterday I found a better solution for a good sitting position (involving a wedge pillow) - I guess in another two weeks or so sitting will be pretty much like before.

    I love what Taigu said above: "just enjoy being you without you"
    I just surrendered completely into my new situation, which made things easier.
    It just took a "F-it" or two.

    Hope you'll be back on track soon!

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

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