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Thread: Sitting posture

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Sitting posture

    A question on the Dogen Sangha blog asked if full- or half-lotus are necessary. Nishijima's answer, as follows, smacks as "fundamentalist" in a way:

    Thank you very much for your questions, and unfortunately to the first question whether we can select another posture other than the Full Lotus Posture or Half Lotus Posture, my answers are negative.

    Because the Full Lotus Posture or Half Lotus Posture have been used since when Gautama Buddha has begun the practice of Zazen, and such kinds of methods haven't been changed for about 2,500 years in Buddhist Societies at all. Therefore if we want to change the method of practice, it suggests that we want to change the Gautama Buddha'practice itself, and so it suggests that we want to change the Buddhist teachings themselves. Therefore it is completely impossible for me to avoid the method of Half Lotus Posture or Full Lotus Posture.



    Even though in Soto Sect recently they sometimes recommend for secular practioners to use chairs for Zazen, but I think that such a kind of idea might be serious rebellion against Gautama Buddhas' teachings.
    I know Jundo doesn't feel this way, and many Zen teachers do not feel this way either. Why such rigidity? Why say that anyone who can't manage to sit in that position can't practice Zen?

    Kirk

  2. #2
    It must be remembered that Buddhism borrowed heavily from the yogic practices that preceded it. The Buddha practised these yogic aesthetic methods and naturally he adopted them. Frescos and stellas in India dating back over 5000 years show yoga practitioners sitting in the padmasanam posture.

    Although many traditions today don't know the reasons behind (or even acknowledge them) the various mudra and postures are all inherently a major element of Buddhist practice. If the Buddha had meditated under the Bodhi tree on a chair I'm sure that would today be seen as the "correct" way to practice. So is it simply imitation then? Are we simply imitating the Buddha physically?

    To the Buddha, as evidenced by reading through early Pali texts, the physical body was as important as the mind in practice and the various postures and mudras were seen as ways of both expressing and achieving spiritual awareness. What distinguishes the yogic postures from everyday poses is the attitude, the intentional awareness of the practitioner.

    The various fixed postures and mudras of Buddhism were used to still the body and mind, to bring union and to express an activeness of practice.

    Many today brush this off as esoteric practices only found within Vajrayana.

  3. #3
    Hi Guys,

    I have had this discussion with Nishijima a few times. He happens to be a 45 kilo Japanese man, and I have told him many times that it is easier for him to do the full Lotus than many fat Westerners like myself.

    Anyway, as I understand his position (and I agree), it is best to do the Full Lotus or Half Lotus if you can manage it. If not, it is okay to use Burmese, then aspire to work up to the Lotus. Other positions like Seiza or a chair are not really good, and should be avoided if possible (I am more forgiving on this part than my teacher). Myself, I mix it up between Full Lotus, Half Lotus and Burmese.

    Gassho, Jundo (90 kilos).

  4. #4
    I've been using a seiza bench, because its been the most comfortable and easy thing for me to use. But, this week after reading the post at Master Nishijima's blog, I've decided to get rid of the bench and work at sitting in the lotus posture. I can manage a pretty decent Burmese position and it seems that the more I sit Burmese and stretch the leg muscles, it becomes easier to sit in Lotus. Today for the first time ever I managed to sit in a good half lotus, it was only for a couple of minutes, but it seems like things are loosening up.

    At 6'4, and 250 lbs . . . Lotus ain't gonna be an easy thing for me, but I just plan on trying to maintain it a few more extra minutes a day. I need to be careful and not injure myself, just take it easy. I'm going to start taking Yoga classes again, gonna enroll in a nine week program starting next week, that's gonna help for sure. . .put just as in Zazen, daily practice is going to be essential. I just have make the time for it. Gonna go for three minutes in half lotus, right now. . .I'll report back on how well I do.

    Gassho,

    Gregor (113 kilos)

  5. #5
    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for some particularly nice comments on the Blog recently. Wisdom!

    Most important thing in transitioning to the lotus is that you manage to get you knees (both of them) flat on the ground, not up in the air. The feet (one or both, depending on half or full) should find a comfortable position and 'stretch' that you can hold for an extended period, high up the leg if possible. (look at various photos. Here is one):

    http://www.mro.org/zmm/teachings/meditation.php

    As with most things in Zazen, you will know it is right because you will feel the balance and very comfortable. If you feel unbalanced, or uncomfortable most of the time, then you need to work on it more.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6
    since the last discussion on this topic i have been sitting half lotus, mostly with my left foot on top. it usually takes a minute or two for my hip to loosen up enough for me to get relaxed and fully stable, but it works. i try to alternate sometimes (like this morning) with my right foot on top, but it would seem that my right knee (which hasn't had any surgery) is still tight and full of plika (sp?) and frequently upset - so i spent most of the sitting being out of sorts and trying to settle into a stable position.

    so i've been trying to do two sittings when possible - a long one and a short one and having the right leg on top for the short sitting for the sake of stretching it. no luck with it getting any better yet... and always nervous that it'll affect my work, so i don't push too hard.

    that from a 6'0, 135lb guy - you'd think i'd be fine.

    cd (63kg, 181cm)

  7. #7
    Hello fellow Treeleafers!

    Finally I've got some time to write something. On one hand Nishijima Senseis comments just sound a bit extreme, but on the other hand he is just recommending the one thing he has been doing for the last sixty years. In a way his opinion is very honest and sincere, since one could argue that only something oneself has done for a very long time can get one's honest stamp of approval. The thing is that Nishijima sensei probably hasn't used chairs and Seiza benches for prolonged periods of time and thus simply won't recommend them....or he's just a stubborn radical or both at the same time. I personally think it's mainly a question of keeping one's spine straight and finding the best possible balance, in order to be able to effectively drop body and mind.

    I've been lucky in the sense that even at times when I didn't work-out at all, my genetic predisposition made sure I was still very "stretchy" and flexible. I bought Iyengar's Illustrated Light on Yoga a few years ago and kept doing the exercises he recommended as full lotus preparation for a few weeks, after that I slowly managed to extend the full-lotus sitting time. I love committed Zazen-practice and try to push me once in a while to see how long I can sit without it getting REALLY painful, but the bottom line for me is, that my healthy knees mean more to me the ability to set a new Guinness-record for sitting time. Ruining my knees is not on my Zazen to do list. A bit of pain, a bit of hardship, no problem, but everything in moderation please. This is after all supposed to be the Middle Way.


    Gassho,

    Hans

  8. #8

  9. #9
    Jundo,

    Thanks for the Lotus advice, I'm getting my knees on the ground and have good balance, but I end up bailing out after a short amount of time due to pain in my thigh caused by my foot pressing against it. I cannot get my foot to the top of the thigh, it's at the bottom of it. . .but I'm gonna keep working it. Perhaps I'll do some yoga before each Zazen sitting? Do you think a twenty minute Yoga routine done right before Zazen would be compatible with Zen practice?

  10. #10
    Hi Greg,

    I think a little yoga or other stretching is fine.

    Looking at my feet during full and half lotus, at least one of my feet (in full) and the only foot (in half) tends to rest in the line formed where the leg folds over, behind the knee. In full, the other foot is pretty high up the thigh, but I cannot easily get both high up the thing.

    The most important thing, though, is that the two knees are flat on the floor.

    Maybe I will do full lotus with the camera tonight. Been riding a bike all over town today, so don't want to get leg cramps! ;-(

    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jun
    How would the Buddha sit?
    Is this a koan? I thought we didn't do those here. :wink:

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by wills
    Quote Originally Posted by Jun
    How would the Buddha sit?
    Is this a koan? I thought we didn't do those here. :wink:
    :wink:

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by wills
    Quote Originally Posted by Jun
    How would the Buddha sit?
    Is this a koan? I thought we didn't do those here. :wink:
    We do them. We just don't do them DURING Zazen. :wink: :wink:

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jun
    How would the Buddha sit?
    Not to mock the question at all because it is a good one, but I did read this and think 'Maybe we should have rubber bracelets with the initials 'HWBS'.

  15. #15
    fwiw, I'm reminded of saying to a local teacher before a 2-day sitting, 'I don't know how much of the two days I can sit.' and she said to my overly-attached mind, "It's not a constest."

    I don't know about you folks, but I need to work on not evaluating my breathing before I start working on getting my legs "right". :lol:

  16. #16

    HA HA

    Quote Originally Posted by Jun
    How would the Buddha sit?
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm going to suppose that the/a Buddha would sit on their butt...
    :lol:

  17. #17
    I put up a picture of myself as an avatar, but there's no way I'm going to tell y'all how much I weigh!

    I sit full-lotus during zazen.

    But I use half-lotus much of the time anyway, I'm too short to put my feet flat on the floor when I sit in a chair. And spending a long time with my feet dangling a couple of inches off the floor hurts my lower back. Maybe I could steal a computer desk and chair from the local elementary school :wink:

  18. #18
    After working at half lotus for about a week, I can say I'm sitting it now throughout Zazen, I'm switching back and forth between legs and resting in Burmese when I need to. The amazing thing is that I never believed I could do it. I had a lot of resistance to the idea of training myself to do this, I figured it was impossible. But, the discussion on Roshi's blog and here inspired me to do it. The physical limitations I thought I had were just delusions that I created. Its sort of eye opening to realize that I merely needed to have the will for this and now its something that I'm practicing everyday. It gives me a lot of confidence, something I'm actually quite short on. I don't like to admit this, but I'm realizing that throughout my life I have been insecure. So finding this confidence in myself through sitting Zazen in lotus is very rewarding for me. I'm going to keep working at it, I love the challenge.

  19. #19
    I've pretty much always sat in half lotus. I used to switch between left and right foot on the opposite thigh, but now I seem to only manage with the right. I wrecked my left knee skiing a few years ago so it can be quite painful if I bend it too much.

    The problem I'm having now is with my lower back, and I think it may stem from always sitting half lotus in the same manner. If I sit seiza my back doesn't hurt. Maybe I should just sit Burmese now and then to give myself a break.

    I've never felt comfortable sitting in a chair. Tried it a few times when my back was bothering me, but I just don't feel grounded. I can understand why lotus and half lotus is preferred.
    Cheers,
    Bruce

  20. #20
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    I find that my back hurts if I sit just on a zafu, so I stick a thick book (a dictionary) under the zafu, up to about the middle, to tilt it slightly.

    Kirk

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I find that my back hurts if I sit just on a zafu, so I stick a thick book (a dictionary) under the zafu, up to about the middle, to tilt it slightly.

    Kirk
    Yeah that does seem to help me too. I've used a phone book, or just a couch cushion under the zafu. I also read somewhere about using a small cushion under a knee if it doesn't quite touch the zabuton. I'm not sure I have that problem, but I've wondered if it might help with the symmetry of my posture. I'm wondering if sitting in half lotus in the same way, all the time is creating a slight imbalance.
    Cheers,
    Bruce

  22. #22
    Good suggestion about sliding the book under the cushion. I've just been turning the Zafu on side to make it higher, but I'm going to try to slide my copy of War and Peace between the Zabuton and Zafu.

    take care,

    Greg

  23. #23
    Hi Guys,

    The philosophy around here about sitting is that everyone should try out for themselves, and adjust, the fine points of sitting Lotus (Full and Half) and Burmese. Seiza and chair sitting is frowned upon, but tolerated as maybe necessary in some cases (I say this, although Nishijima is against it completely). So, everybody needs to try for themselves little touches like the book under the Zafu, etc.

    One reason is that I cannot see how you are sitting unless we try by video, and even video consulting has its limitations too in that I cannot reach out and adjust your position (This issue, by the way, is one of the few hurdles in having this form of Sangha ... almost anything else is possible around here!). But there is another reason: There is a cultural tendency among the Japanese to insist that everyone do the same thing about the same way. It is what makes the Japanese, well, "Japanese". Sometimes, learning to do certain things in the "way"is fantastic practice, for example, in eating Oryoki style or in movements during a ritual or in the Zendo. But, for actual sitting, I believe that everyone has a different body type and different physical issues with knees and backs and such. I am particularly sensitive to this this morning, as I hiked Mt. Tsukuba yesterday after a long hiatus and, well, it is hard to stand up today!

    So, please tinker away with the Full/Half Lotus and Burmese in minor ways. You will know when you are balanced because, quite simply, you will feel balanced, and generally comfortable in sitting for long stretches day after day. The proof is in the pudding. Just make sure you are not sagging in the back, that the back is straight, that the chin is tucked in and the head not dropping forward, and that you are not leaning to the side.

    I am not, however, so crazy about pads under the knees and not getting one's knees on the floor flat. I would only do that one if there is a real problem, and all hope is gone of stretching the groin muscles and such to get the knees down.

    Gassho, Jundo

  24. #24
    I tried using the book under the zafu, while concept of "sitting above war and peace" did seem very symbolic, I was more comfortable without the book and ended up just sitting with the cushion flat.

    I'ts interesting that Jundo mentions making sure to get the knees flat on the floor, this was why I chose to get rid of the book, I think the key for me in "achieving" Half Louts has been doing the stretching and Yoga work on a daily basis. I think the best stretch for doing Lotus might just be sitting Lotus, if you catch my point ----> But my situation is different than somebody with physical problems, I'm a young guy in good health, just not as flexible as a I could be so of course the answer has been to stretch!

  25. #25
    I just finished my final sitting of the day and actually was able to switch legs in half lotus without my knee screaming at me. Guess what - my back was pain free!! I'm going to try sitting full lotus again. I can do it, just not perfectly, but the symmetry is so much better.

    Well, off to sleep. It's 0145 here
    Night all,
    Bruce

  26. #26
    Bruce,

    Glad to see things are going well for you with the sitting. It's a nice thing to be able to overcome the physical challenges of it --- It seems that I'm becoming very focused on the state of my body/posture for Zazen, but I think this is good. Good night and sleep well.

    Jundo,

    It is too bad that we can't get the input on our posture during the sitting we do here. But, as you say its a limitation of the medium. I am doing my best to be aware of my posture and develop it -- I think things are going well. I will be visiting Zen Mountain Monastery soon to attend a three day Zen training program, I should get the hands on posture coaching their. I'm glad you brought up this issue -- It will help me get the most out of the program.

  27. #27
    Sorry if I missed it but although I see the purported "good" of full or half lotus what is the purported "bad" of seiza. Why is it frowned upon. I had started out from an Aikido background in the 70's where we were taught to sit seiza much as illustrated in the Zen Mountain Monastery link above. That same link btw is where I send people who ask me how to meditate. I sit seiza on a couch cushion with a thin pillow on top of my feet. No bench. My back is straight and my knees are on the floor lower than my butt. I could sit that way forever except my feet go seriously to sleep. If I go too long I can't stand for a minute. No feet there. Thirty five to fourty min.s is the most I dare try lest I damage myself. If you tell me not to sit seiza I won't but I am curious as to the why.

  28. #28
    Cheers Gregor! The bum knee is a bit sore this morning so I don't know how often I'll be putting it in that angle. The shops will only sell you so much Ibuprophen at a time in this country. :lol: I'll work something out though!

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Drut
    Sorry if I missed it but although I see the purported "good" of full or half lotus what is the purported "bad" of seiza. Why is it frowned upon. I had started out from an Aikido background in the 70's where we were taught to sit seiza much as illustrated in the Zen Mountain Monastery link above. That same link btw is where I send people who ask me how to meditate. I sit seiza on a couch cushion with a thin pillow on top of my feet. No bench. My back is straight and my knees are on the floor lower than my butt. I could sit that way forever except my feet go seriously to sleep. If I go too long I can't stand for a minute. No feet there. Thirty five to fourty min.s is the most I dare try lest I damage myself. If you tell me not to sit seiza I won't but I am curious as to the why.
    Hi Drut,

    The basic principle is that balance of body facilitates balance of mind. For millenia, the Full Lotus, and to a lessor extent, the Half Lotus have been considered positions of great poise and balance. The Burmese position is also very balanced. The lifting of the rump, straightening of the back with slight curvature of the lower back, the stability of the legs with good circulation, the comfortable head position ... all lend themselves to our forgetting about the body during Zazen. Once mastered, they are intended as incredibly comfortable and stable positions ... not torture

    My teacher, Nishijima, is against Seiza and, even more so, chairs. They do not provide such balance in his view, and furthermore, were not the tradition in the Zen schools. Now, the official "Soto" school line (for Westerners, at least) is that chairs, Seiza and Burmese are acceptable ... if not ideal.

    Nishijima makes the valid point that many Westerners give up on the Lotus postures for lack of trying, lack of giving it time and stretching. He is right. He may be a little stubborn in not yielding on this issue to people's needs who have legitimate physical issues, and I sometimes think so (this is a very Japanese attitude ... Little story: I once asked my dentist in Tokyo the difference between his Japanese patients and Western patients. He answered that there are two main differences. First, Westerners ask more questions about the procedure. Second, Westerners complain more, moan more and have less pain tolerance. What is true for teeth, is also true for Zazen.)

    So, you should try both Lotus and Seiza and make up your own mind. However, if you are physically capable of Lotus, that is the best I think.

    The philosophy around Treeleaf Sangha about sitting is that everyone should try out for themselves, and adjust, the fine points of sitting Lotus (Full and Half) and Burmese. Seiza and chair sitting, is tolerated as maybe necessary in some cases, if there is a true and uncorrectable physical need.

    So, please tinker away with the Full/Half Lotus and Burmese in minor ways. You will know when you are balanced because, quite simply, you will feel balanced, and generally comfortable in sitting for long stretches day after day. The proof is in the pudding. Just make sure you are not sagging in the back, that the back is straight, that the chin is tucked in and the head not dropping forward, and that you are not leaning to the side.

    Getting one's knees on the floor flat is important, and if you can't temporarily putting pads or cushions under the knees until you can by stretching the groin muscles and such to get the knees down.

    Because I cannot help with posture because of the distance (one of the few things we cannot do in this Sangha because of distance), I am recommending folks to consult with a local Yoga instructor in your area about getting in a good Lotus or Half-Lotus, or Burmese if needed, posture (just bring your Zafu when you do, as some Yoga folks do it slightly differently, sitting directly on the floor).

    If you float around this Forum, you will find lots of discussion threads on sitting tips.

    Remember too that "Zazen" is not only the times we spend on the cushion. So, sitting, crouching, back flipping, walking, running, skipping, hopping, falling or spinning is also Zazen (we still must spend that time on the cushion however). Thus, I do often "sit" Zazen other places, such as in a car ...

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2 ... sic-1.html

    Gassho, Jundo (I used to sit mostly Full Lotus. Now, I mix Full, Half and Burmese)

  30. #30
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    You know, I don't think dissing chairs is a good thing. Stting in a chair with your back against the chairback may not be good for meditation, but it is perfectly possible to sit on a chair with your back free, or to sit on a stool. Perhaps Gudo is against chairs because of the usual sitting position?

    Kirk

  31. #31
    O.K. I'll do this...I'll do lotus position for 10 mins. and seiza for 20 and see if I can work into it. I need to go slow, however, because I need my knees to stay healthy my job. I jump in and out of a truck all day for Fedex and a third of my area is heavy industry with large boxes to manage. I 'm not big but I'm well adapted to lifting boxes at least. That adaptation has done nothing for my flexability though. Most people who have areas like mine can't scratch their own backs. I have sat seiza so long it has good associations for me. I'll try.

  32. #32
    Drut,

    Burmese was a great intermediate posture for me before making the change from Seiza to half lotus, you might want to work it into your posture mix.

    Hezb,

    No air strikes here. Speaking from experience I've been one of those people you mentioned, so I think your point is 100% valid.

  33. #33
    A question for all the Yoga people out there: I've heard a few people who have to meditate lying down say that they use "corpse posture." What is that? Any pictures/instructions?

    I'm not advocating lying down posture (so please Jundo don't hit me! :wink: ). But some days my muscles are too weak for me to even sit unsupported - especially on my right side. These are also the days when you lucky people get a break from my endless blathering here!

    Thanks in advance.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by paige
    A question for all the Yoga people out there: I've heard a few people who have to meditate lying down say that they use "corpse posture." What is that? Any pictures/instructions?

    I'm not advocating lying down posture (so please Jundo don't hit me! :wink: ). But some days my muscles are too weak for me to even sit unsupported - especially on my right side. These are also the days when you lucky people get a break from my endless blathering here!

    Thanks in advance.
    I am not qualified to teach, but my practice is to try to practice. When I am sitting I am less distracted from my practice but not kept from it. So, we practice weak of body (you) or weak of will (me).

    My heart goes out to you in your weakness.
    And you do not blather.

  35. #35
    Paige,

    give savasana a try, its a great yoga posture, especially when you need to recharge. I've found Yoga practice to be a very benificial and rewarding part of my life.

    Corpse pose instructions:

    http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/a/savasana.htm

  36. #36
    Thanks everyone. I experience Todd's Paralysis after an epileptic seizure, affecting my right arm and leg (I can walk, but I can't move my knee or ankle).

    Usually it goes away pretty quickly. Sometimes though, it lasts all day, makes me pretty much immobilised. Savasana looks useful. Definitely am going to give the tight underpants (and body hair) a miss though...

    Never liked them personally, but (like Gregor and Drut) I've noticed seiza benches are pretty popular in a lot of Japanese zendos. But an organisation can hardly call itself Dogen Sangha International without following the Fukan zazengi. Am I right, Jundo?

  37. #37
    Hey Guys,

    I, personally, believe in standing, sitting, crouching, back flipping, walking, running, skipping, hopping, falling or spinning Zazen. All is good, so long as your mind is still amid the motion.

    Here is a picture of the Buddha doing his reclining Zazen. Of course, he is said to have been on his death bed for this ... but I prefer to think he was just having back problems that day..



    Gassho, Jundo

  38. #38
    Hmmm..... I can see elbow and wrist pain arising out of that posture. :lol:

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Not for me: I'm an airhead. 8)

    H.
    LOL I'm just thick! :lol: :lol:

  40. #40
    I wonder if the seiza posture may have become popular in Japanese Zen because of its use in martial arts?

    Or is it used anywhere but Japan?

    I've never seen anyone sitting seiza in Theravada or Chinese temples.

  41. #41
    So many replies. Whew.

    I tried really good leg streches that stretched your hip and knee joints so you could sit full lotus. After doing one leg it actually becomes longer than the other leg(until you streched the other leg too). It helped. I was able to sit very close to full lotus. But man why? If I do that my legs get sore and I can't skateboard.

    I sit burmese sometimes, but usual I sit on the side of my hard bed with my zafu. I think the most important thing is to have a straight, solid and relaxed posture. To have a straight spine. I like to do other things with my legs.

    I read part of sodo no gyoji by Tsugen Narasaki Roshi last night and he said it was a Japanese tradition to sit on the floor and was contemplating this sitting in chairs that westerners are accustom to. hmmm....

    I know the white wind zen center allows people to sit in all postures according to their body. like if they have problem with their legs or back. Although, I have noticed that a lot of the problems really aren't problems just reactivity.

    I don't know but isn't having a straight spine and solid posture what is important? As long as you pay attention to your posture. That's the thing about zazen isn't it. Like the posture has a lot to do with your state of mind. A slumped posture has a slumped mind. A straight and solid posture has a straight and solid mind or "more solid". I think the full lotus helps more with this. It is more grounded, but as long as you pay attention to your posture and how you are, it shouldn't be a problem to sit a different way.

    The Buddha did what he did. I think the most important thing that he did was pay attention. Of course a straight posture helps.

    I'll keep practicing and find out. Hehe.

    gassho

  42. #42
    Definitely am going to give the tight underpants (and body hair) a miss though...
    -Paige

    Alas, for me the body hair is never optional.

  43. #43
    An update. I'm still working on it. I can do the "Accomplished Pose" illustrated above but seiza..no bench/ pillow underneath though..is still my most satisfying positiion. I had already gone through all the pain management and pain "being with" already in that position over the years. If it weren't for my feet going to sleep I might just stick with that but I want to be able to sit for an hour at least. Half lotus is posible but painful for ten min.s maximum. Full lotus may take months. I don't get it. I could do full lotus when I was in my twenties. Sat three times today. I was having problems breathing smoothly so I just kept coming back. I finally realized it was because of an intercostal muscle that I strained a couple of days ago at work and thought was healed.

  44. #44
    Hi all (I'll post introduction in the Introductions thread in a short while when I can think of something to say ).

    I personally manage to do only half-assed burmese while sitting, but am trying to work my way to half-lotus (and ultimately full) in time by stretching etc. Talk about being flexible as an iron pole...

    But anyway, many people mention offhandedly that one should try the lotus unless one has some medical condition that prevents it. But are there really such conditions that make it totally impossible for a person to ever achieve the joint movement required for lotus posture - even with proper help and exercises? Except having lost both legs of course.

    I think many people may not be up for the task of making it work, but I like to think (at least keep hoping that I can do it someday) that it's not inherently impossible.

    Oh and I seem to remember reading Brad Warner saying in one of his blog entries something along the lines that having the correct posture while doing zazen is even more important than what your mind is doing. Might've got it wrong though...

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Mika

    Oh and I seem to remember reading Brad Warner saying in one of his blog entries something along the lines that having the correct posture while doing zazen is even more important than what your mind is doing. Might've got it wrong though...
    Hi Mika,

    Welcome again!

    I also think that correct posture is extremely important, and that Lotus, followed by Burmese, is probably the best. Balance in body does facilitate balance in mind, and we believe that body-mind is one and whole.

    That being said, I have found that many Japanese can be a bit rigid and incessant on the one "right" way to sit (this is a cultural aspect of the traditional arts), and about pushing oneself to conform to that 'One Way or the Highway' ... called a 'Kata' (if anyone has martial arts experience). Here is a little description (I cannot verify the source of the following, but I can verify the conclusion from 20 years living in Japan):

    .... an immovable set of rules that govern what is and what is not accepted
    as acceptable behavior or thinking in japan ... In reality, there are many “Ways” to do most things in Japan, although each
    group will have a tendency to claim that its pattern is “the Way.” As a
    medical researcher who has participated in procedures and experiments at
    many dozens of Japanese hospitals, universities and the like, I know that no
    two groups ever will follow exactly the same patterns. Each, however, will
    have a tendency to explain that its way is “the Way,” usually because the
    most senior person in the group will have come to that conclusion after
    having learned it to be the thinking of some other person ... that the senior person respects. (Also, one must be
    very careful in suggesting that a competing group might have a better way
    which contradicts the opinion of a senior member of group). Every group in
    every culture does this, but what is unusual in Japan is the inflexible,
    almost mechanical way the system operates. The emphasis on proper “Kata”
    (Boye de Menthe has a wonderful, hard to find little book on this) in
    Japanese society is reminiscent of any conservative, tradition based
    culture, though unique in the way is has developed to permit a functioning,
    industrial society.
    On the other hand, as with Oryoki eating (a wonderful example of "Kata"), there is a beauty if the fixed form that one can lose ones' 'self' in. So, "Kata" is also a good thing. Conforming to "classic" form has beneficial aspects, as does sometimes breaking free of classic form. As well, as you point out, some folks reject the Lotus position and such before really giving it a try.

    So, I am more of the opinion that different approaches work a little better for different people, I think. You need to try different things, and see what works for you. It is not 'one size fits all'. However, the traditional forms have much good about them and should not be rejected before they are tried.

    Gassho, Jundo

  46. #46
    hello all, this being my first post let this serve as an introduction.

    i find this blog and forum to be a useful support to my practice and am grateful for everyones sincere comments. ive looked around the internet, im sure everyone knows that useful and sincere commentary is not always easy to find. i look forward to more of the same and will add my two cents when it seems i have something to contribute.

    as to this particular thread, i havent seen any mention of the book - The Hip Series: Kinesthetic Stretches for the Hips and Pelvis by Allan Saltzman. ive had this for a few weeks and it has helped me sit more comfortably in half lotus. if anyone's interested, i got it here:
    http://www.dharma.net/monstore/produ...oducts_id=1526

  47. #47
    hi ya and welcome!

    Gassho
    Dirk

  48. #48
    Hi,

    This article in the current Tricycle should be of interest to folks with back issues. I have no information on the products described, or the efficacy of the technique. And I am a "Lotus is Best" fellow ...

    ... but it may be worth a try for those who need.

    http://www.tricycle.com/issues/editors_pick/4191-1.html

    Gassho, J

  49. #49
    Interesting Jundo thank you.

    I was given one of these a while back and I've used it from time to time - it's comfortable - not "kosha" as you say though.

    http://www.zenbydesign.com.au//newchair/monk.html

  50. #50
    Anyway, as I understand his position (and I agree), it is best to do the Full Lotus or Half Lotus if you can manage it. If not, it is okay to use Burmese, then aspire to work up to the Lotus. Other positions like Seiza or a chair are not really good, and should be avoided if possible (I am more forgiving on this part than my teacher). Myself, I mix it up between Full Lotus, Half Lotus and Burmese.

    I've got some injuries from the war, and as a result full lotus just ain't gonna happen. (The up-side is that I cannot sit without my back straight.) I can work up a passable half lotus, and most often sit Burmese, which is quite comfortable and I can stay there for about ever. But I also sometimes sit seiza, and I just sort of figure that if a posture isn't working for me, and instead of really sitting Zazen, what I'm actually doing is spending a half hour or more sitting on a cushion on the floor thinking about searing pain. Existential, yes... but not quite Zen.

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