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Thread: How to Build your daily practice?

  1. #1

    How to Build your daily practice?

    I am kind of becoming Zazen-Crazy these days. I love "Just Sitting" and would like to sit all day if I can. I don't think I have the ability to sit more than a few sessions a day right now but I want to learn from those who have been meditating for a while on how to build my daily practice safely and efficiently.

    Right now on weekdays I sit at home at least twice and most often for 3-4 sittings a day. Per each sit it is about 30-40 minutes though sometimes I even sit like 15 minutes or at best an hour. On weekends: Saturdays I sit with Brad Warner group and do my own sittings again at home for a total of about 4-6 sits; Sundays I sit with Zen Center of Los Angeles group (this is a bigger group of about 30 members) and more sits at home total 4-6 sits.

    I understand there is a lot of initial excitement and interest at the practice. But I feel this may not be just "initial" and will last. I hope I am not overdoing my practice. Again, I would like to build my practice safely and efficiently so that I can sit more often and consistent. How can I do that? What has helped you in your practice. Thanks.

    Gassho,
    Sam

  2. #2
    Hi Sam,

    Sincere and dedicated and pouring our whole body and mind into each sit, we sit each and every day ... yet not seeking, nothing to achieve. Doing so is a Big Achievement!

    In my view, sitting is not a matter of long or short, or watching the clock. Nonetheless, sometimes we sit long and sometimes short. That is why I recommend folks to attend Sesshin of at least a few days once a year ... rising at 4am and sitting all day ... wrestling with the "me myself and I" and this "Nothing to Achieve".

    However, most days we can sit shorter. Some will do as you do, some can sit for as little as 15 minutes a day ...So long as, long or short, one drops all sense of time while sitting! Here is our recommendation on minimum time, and why ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...%28Part-XXI%29

    Further, beyond Zazen on the cushion each day (which is indispensible) ... one must not forget that All of Life is Zazen and endless opportunities for Practice!

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-%28Part-XX%29

    Dogen wrote this re-Minder about time, not a matter of moments or endless Kalpa (time measure in the lifetimes of universes) ...

    The Buddha Śākyamuni, sitting with legs crossed under the bodhi tree, passed fifty small kalpas, passed sixty kalpas, passed countless kalpas. Sitting with legs crossed for twenty-one days, sitting cross-legged for one time — this is turning the wheel of the wondrous dharma; this is the buddha’s proselytizing of a lifetime. There is nothing lacking. This is the yellow roll and vermillion roller [i.e., all the scriptures]. The buddha seeing the buddha is this time. This is precisely the time when beings attain buddhahood.

    Upon coming from the west, the First Ancestor, the worthy Bodhidharma, passed nine autumns in seated meditation with legs crossed facing a wall at Shaolin monastery at Shaoshi Peak. Thereafter, his head and eyes have filled the world of the land of Cīnasthāna till now. The vital artery of the First Ancestor is just sitting with legs crossed. Prior to the First Ancestor’s coming from the west, beings in the eastern lands had not known sitting with legs crossed; after the ancestral master came from the west, they knew it. Therefore, for one life or ten thousand lives, grasping the tail and taking the head, without leaving the “grove,” just sitting with legs crossed day and night, without other business — this is the king of samādhis samādhi

    [“Head and eyes” (chōnei ganzei 頂[寧+頁]眼睛): Terms often used in Chan texts as synecdoche for a Chan master’s wisdom or essential message.

    “Grasping the tail and taking the head” (ha bi shu tō 把尾収頭): I.e., “from head to tail,” “entirely.”]
    http://scbs.stanford.edu/sztp3/trans...anslation.html

    Pace yourself, for this is a lifetime(s) practice of moment by moment ... not a sprint to the goal.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-10-2013 at 04:51 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Hi Sam,

    I have a problem with moderation. When I started sitting 2 years ago (just the other day) I would do it for 1 hour in the morning, every day. I have a wife, job, 2 kids, 5 dogs, one cat and was probably overdoing it since I am not going to be a priest. I cut back some on sitting to be awake with life off the cushion but still sit daily.

    Gassho,

    John

  4. #4
    Hi Sam,

    I have almost the same family life as John C. (without the dogs, but with one more kid ) and finding the time and quiet space, is always a challange ( I feel you John, hang in there m8, lol).

    Also I find there are seasons in sitting. There are periods of great activity and focus on Zen and more relaxed times. That is perfectly allright. Always sitting mind you, every day, but I leave myself space to vary the length and frequency a bit and take time to be more gentle with myself. Usually because doing garden work or other outside activities, are perfect for the "sitting Zen while in action" ( or whatever term there is for it?). I found there is a danger of burning out like a candle and losing all interest because in the end it hits you hard that it realy is useless.

    As for myself, I do 25 minutes sitting, 10 min kinhin and 25 minutes sitting during the normal weekdays. This way, it is not just a tiring physical exercise ( the knees, the knees, oooohhhh the knees) and shikantza tends to come more easily. Please correct me if I'm wrong here guys but I like to think 10 minutes good deep samadhi is worth the same as 1 hour of suffering ( both have value). Fighting against the clock and pain, looking for a sporting achievement ( 3 hours sitting without a break )or trying to match the stories about great masters, is all about gain and ego and that should be avoided I think?

    Just don't forget it should be 'fun in the no-fun' (or something) and it's the gentle dripping stream that pierces through the stone, not the thundering river.

    Oh well, what do I know right? There is nothing to know. I’ll stop talking now, lol.

    Good sitting

    Gassho

    Enkyo

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by John C. View Post
    Hi Sam,

    I have a problem with moderation. When I started sitting 2 years ago (just the other day) I would do it for 1 hour in the morning, every day. I have a wife, job, 2 kids, 5 dogs, one cat and was probably overdoing it since I am not going to be a priest. I cut back some on sitting to be awake with life off the cushion but still sit daily.

    Gassho,

    John
    Hi John,

    I would say that, for a monk in the monastery, that is his career and job ... his daily routine and duties, serving the Sangha and keeping the place running. In the Zen monastery, every moment and activity is an opportunity for Practice, and Zazen in its widest sense.

    You job, your wife and kids and dogs, patients and responsibilities in the community is your Sangha which you keep running, your Practice Place. All of it ... every moment and activity is an opportunity for Practice, and Zazen in its widest sense.

    Not as different as you might think.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Thanks all for the replies. Few questions

    - Do you see any harm in doing more sessions on a regular/daily practice? I understand they do lot of sessions once in a while on a retreat and it doesn't harm
    - Does sessions need to be back-to-back in order to be more effective? I can do up to two back-back sessions but on weekends when I do more than 3-4 sessions, this is what I do; I do a session then take a break do something or the other and then sit again whenever I feel like doing next. The break can be half an hour to many hours.
    - Relaxed Session: Would like to know your comments on my relaxed session. Sometimes, I just like to have a relaxed session, the adyashanti way. I just sit on bed with back to the wall and a cushion/pillow supporting back. I close my eyes as I like it that way. I don't worry about my posture at all. No hands in cosmic mudra. no worrying about straight back. I sit and let my mind wander. I even tell my mind "think if you need to". If I find myself thinking something, I allow my mind to continue to think that. Screw all meditation rules. I don't care if I make progress or not. I don't care if this doesn't enlighten me. I'll just sit and enjoy my meditation by letting whatever happens happen. (But what I found in experience is that even if I allow my mind to continue the thought, it is not easy to continue thinking the same thing. It takes some energy to continue that same thought)
    - Facing the wall versus facing the floor/room: Is there any difference between these methods? The Sunday Zen center that I attend in Los Angeles has this facing the floor type. Otherwise I face wall in all my sessions. Is this mixed approach fine or should I stick to one?

    Gassho,
    Sam

  7. #7
    Hi Sam,

    Jundo put some good material about sitting that helped me located here:

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/forum...IKANTAZA-ZAZEN

    Taigu put some good material about sitting that helped me here:

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/forum...ntaza-by-Taigu

    Gassho,

    John

  8. #8
    Senior Member ZenHarmony's Avatar
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    Thank you so much, John, for pointing me to those videos! And thank you, Taigu, for your teachings. Intention That's where I've been going wrong! I'm confident my sitting will be much more comfortable now.

    Deep bows,

    Lisa

  9. #9
    Hello Sam,
    I'm sure the video's linked by John contain many useful info; I come back to them too once in a while, always
    good to refresh. One thing poked me ...

    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    - Does sessions need to be back-to-back in order to be more effective?
    To be most effectice, not try to be effective. When trying, we fail, when aiming we miss. When sitting sits us, we come closer, just let it happen and allow it to unfold,
    just some ideas about sitting from a sleepy
    Myoku
    Gassho

  10. #10
    Hi Sam,

    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Thanks all for the replies. Few questions

    - Do you see any harm in doing more sessions on a regular/daily practice? I understand they do lot of sessions once in a while on a retreat and it doesn't harm
    - Does sessions need to be back-to-back in order to be more effective? I can do up to two back-back sessions but on weekends when I do more than 3-4 sessions, this is what I do; I do a session then take a break do something or the other and then sit again whenever I feel like doing next. The break can be half an hour to many hours.
    Hi Sam,

    You wanted me to comment:

    I see no harm in more sittings per day, so long that one recognizes that (1) this is a lifetime(s) practice, not a sprint, so pace yourself (2) whether one sitting or one hundred per day, forget about time long or short and achievement (3) take Myoku's words to heart, "To be most effective, do not try to be effective. When trying, we fail, when aiming we miss. When sitting sits us, we [hit the mark], just let it happen and allow it to unfold" and (4) take it off the cushion too, and find 'Zazen' in its boundless meaning in any activities throughout the day from walking the dog to going to the dentist to dealing with work deadlines. I believe that, even at Eiheiji and except during Sesshin, they only generally sit for one period or two in the morning and evening ... but work all day.

    Do not be too lax and neglectful about sitting, neither too tight and obsessive. Be light the lute string, which makes beautiful music when not too loose or too tight.

    I recommend a sitting of 15 to 40 minutes once or twice per day. If you wish to do two or more back to back sittings, put 10 minutes of Kinhin between.

    However, you really need to get a handle about Shikantaza as I encourage it, which is a race forward, step by step, to no goal line with every step by step a complete arrival. Here is the best description I could ever manage ... PLEASE READ & WATCH THIS AND TAKE IT TO HEART ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...s-%28Part-V%29

    That is how we teach Shikantaza here. As was discussed at ZFI, you may find different Zen teachers recommending differing things. Frankly, I think that if it lacks what I describe above, it may be fine meditation, but it is not truly Shikantaza as Goalless Sacred Sitting.

    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    - Relaxed Session: Would like to know your comments on my relaxed session. Sometimes, I just like to have a relaxed session, the adyashanti way. I just sit on bed with back to the wall and a cushion/pillow supporting back. I close my eyes as I like it that way. I don't worry about my posture at all. No hands in cosmic mudra. no worrying about straight back. I sit and let my mind wander. I even tell my mind "think if you need to". If I find myself thinking something, I allow my mind to continue to think that. Screw all meditation rules. I don't care if I make progress or not. I don't care if this doesn't enlighten me. I'll just sit and enjoy my meditation by letting whatever happens happen. (But what I found in experience is that even if I allow my mind to continue the thought, it is not easy to continue thinking the same thing. It takes some energy to continue that same thought)
    I don't know what this is, and it sounds like daydreaming. That is fine I suppose, because sometimes I enjoy daydreaming, whiling away the time. However, in the Shikantaza we Practice here, we do not intentionally daydream and think about things or get lost in thoughts, neither do we try forcibly to chase thoughts away. We let them come and go (or be silent if they wish), and just do not latch on. I am not sure the point or value of what you describe, but it sounds pretty harmless. I am also not sure what you mean by "it is not easy to continue thinking the same thing".


    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    - Facing the wall versus facing the floor/room: Is there any difference between these methods? The Sunday Zen center that I attend in Los Angeles has this facing the floor type. Otherwise I face wall in all my sessions. Is this mixed approach fine or should I stick to one?
    Traditionally, Rinzai folks face the floor into the room and Soto Zennies would "face the wall". I actually think facing the wall is better for less experienced sitters to do so, as it reduces the sensory stimuli, thereby facilitating settling the mind a bit (even though we sit with eyes about 1/3 open and do not close them).



    Perhaps I should do so more at Treeleaf Tsukuba, but our physical layout does not allow it for the middle section of seats. Also, I believe that the sitters' "looking downward toward the floor" also reduces sensory stimulation, so the effect is about the same. For more experienced sitters, I do not believe that it matters ... and, in fact, we should develop the ability to sit anywhere, however noisy, busy or distracting. We do not shut the eyes for, while we may be allowing the mind to settle a bit ... we are also -not- trying to shut the world out.

    I was surprised when, a couple of years ago, I conducted an unofficial poll among teachers who are members of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of North America, and found that most of the Soto teachers seemed to be open to sitting either way. The fall facing seems a bit on the decline.

    Anyway ... the historical reason may be a mistranslation of Bodhidharma, regarded as the First Patriarch of Ch'an or the Zen tradition, and a writing long attributed to him (The Two Entrances and Four Practices) that used the term in Chinese "biguan/pi-kuan". Historian Heinrich Dumoulin discusses Bodhidharma's wall-contemplation.

    "In an ancient text ascribed to Bodhidharma, his way of meditation is characterized by the Chinese word pi-kuan, literally wall-gazing or wall-contemplation. Except for the word pi-kuan, the same passage is found in a Mahayana sutra; it reads: "When one, abandoning the false and embracing the true, in simplicity of thought abides in pi-kuan, one finds that there is neither selfhood nor otherness, that ordinary men (prthagjana) and saints (arya) are of one essence." (Zen Enlightenment, p. 38).

    The actual meaning of "wall gazing" may not be a literal "sit while gazing at a wall", but closer to "sit as if a wall seeing". Nobody really knows what the term originally meant however. The great Zen Historian Yanagida Seizan has (ala Shikantaza) interpreted the term to denote a sort of witnessing of the world with the steadfast detachment of a wall in which one “gazes intently at a vibrantly alive śunyatā (emptiness).”

    So, whether facing the wall, or away from the wall ... just sit, without thought of in or out.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-11-2013 at 04:16 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    ... (4) take it off the cushion too, and find 'Zazen' in its boundless meaning in any activities throughout the day from walking the dog to going to the dentist to dealing with work deadlines. I believe that, even at Eiheiji and except during Sesshin, they only generally sit for one period or two in the morning and evening ... but work all day ...
    For me, this is very important. Sitting is a wonderful and very important part of practice, but if we are to help all sentient beings, sitting is only a sliver in a forest of trees.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Hi,
    Maybe the essence of practice:

    Sit daily (Buddha)
    Study a bit daily (Dharma)
    Help others daily (Sangha)

    Gassho
    Myozan
    Myozan Kodo
    Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
    Dublin, Ireland

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

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    Hi,
    Maybe the essence of practice:

    Sit daily (Buddha)
    Study a bit daily (Dharma)
    Help others daily (Sangha)

    Gassho
    Myozan
    Lovely.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    Hi,
    Maybe the essence of practice:

    Sit daily (Buddha)
    Study a bit daily (Dharma)
    Help others daily (Sangha)

    Gassho
    Myozan
    Yes, nicely put.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    Hi,
    Maybe the essence of practice:

    Sit daily (Buddha)
    Study a bit daily (Dharma)
    Help others daily (Sangha)

    Gassho
    Myozan
    Yes.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  16. #16
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    Not trying to be smart-ass or zennish about it, but if you want to build your daily practice you just need to practice everyday . Just take it one day at a time.


    Rafael

  17. #17
    I find my greatest challenge is the every day work. Its easy to get lost in the stream of events that go on throughout a day, and it becomes difficult at times to remain mindful and not simply react to the situation. To me, one of the most important "non "achievements would be to simply act with clarity and compassion and not get hung up on the attachments of my "self "
    Gassho,
    "Heitetsu"
    Christopher

  18. #18
    Senior Member Genshin's Avatar
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    I'm printing this one out to use as a daily reminder

    Gassho
    Matt

    Quote Originally Posted by Myozan Kodo View Post
    Hi,
    Maybe the essence of practice:

    Sit daily (Buddha)
    Study a bit daily (Dharma)
    Help others daily (Sangha)

    Gassho
    Myozan
    Last edited by Genshin; 03-12-2013 at 06:10 PM.

  19. #19
    That's going on a T shirt! Or one of those tiles on the wall. Very good!

  20. #20
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    Agreed, wonderful boiled down essence Myozan!
    Gassho, Jakudo
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, I. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

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