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Thread: zazen and reactive patterns

  1. #1

    zazen and reactive patterns

    i basically see my life as a series of perpetual reactive patterns to thoughts, feelings, etc. now, can zazen help me 'break' these patterns or at least become more aware of them?
    craig

  2. #2

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Yep, I know that feeling

    My experience of zazen and the talks and reading around zen is that yes, I have become more aware of them, but it's still up to me to choose whether to say 'yeh but..' and do it anyway.

    Zazen doesn't choose for you but allows you to see that there is a choice. In my humble opinion that is :wink:

    May be over the longer term it does choose for you, but may be you'd need a reply from an old long termer?

    In gassho, Kev

  3. #3

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    without a doubt, but expect to suffer and experience frustration. a part of the path. Not that it's all bad, plenty of "good" things too.

    some ppl don't require much effort wrt to breaking or letting go of patterns, others (moi) require a heck of lot more.

  4. #4

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    thanks for the responses. my question basically stems from the my experience with more elaborate form of meditation techniques from the Tibetan school. I tried chanting and that seemed to be way too devotional for me. I like zen's simplicity but worry that zazen doesn't specifically address fear of death, reactive feelings (that we're unaware of, etc. the Tibetans have a whole tool chest for these things. i just wondered, if zazen did this...even indirectly. it seems to me that suffering is ultimately not just experiencing our experience and reacting to it. if we can end these reactions, or at least decrease them, then we can end suffering(?).
    craig

  5. #5

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    some ppl don't require much effort wrt to breaking or letting go of patterns, others (moi) require a heck of lot more.
    In that movie about Dogen that Jundo posted the one thing that stood out (probably just for cinematic effect) was when the monk tried to smooth Dogen's brow.

    W

  6. #6

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    i basically see my life as a series of perpetual reactive patterns to thoughts, feelings, etc. now, can zazen help me 'break' these patterns or at least become more aware of them?
    ...
    my question basically stems from the my experience with more elaborate form of meditation techniques from the Tibetan school. I tried chanting and that seemed to be way too devotional for me. I like zen's simplicity but worry that zazen doesn't specifically address fear of death, reactive feelings (that we're unaware of, etc. the Tibetans have a whole tool chest for these things. i just wondered, if zazen did this...even indirectly. it seems to me that suffering is ultimately not just experiencing our experience and reacting to it. if we can end these reactions, or at least decrease them, then we can end suffering(?).
    craig
    Hi Craig,

    I happen to have given a talk (and kitchen appliance demonstration) related to this on today's "Sit-a-Long" ...

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2 ... fo-25.html

    For sure, our Zazen Practice serves to free us from the reactive patterns of thoughts and emotions ... angers, fears, resentments, all kinds of harmful mental conditions we fall into ... you name it! For sure!

    Buddhist Practice has several elements, but two of the most important are quieting of the thoughts and emotions, and insight into the arising and workings of those thoughts and emotions (which create how we experience life). In our "Just Sitting" Zazen, we constantly experience thoughts and emotions arising, and we also experience what happens when we allow those thoughts and emotions to quiet.

    So, for example, during Zazen we might experience thoughts and emotions arising such as "I hate such and such" or "Oh, that makes me angry" or "What if I get sick tomorrow and lose my job?" ... you name it. And then, as we allow all that to settle and drift out of mind, we experience a view and place of stillness free of all that the hate, anger, fear, judgment, friction, division etc. etc.

    And we learn to carry this new skill and viewpoint from the Zafu, into the rest of our day to day life.

    Now, one word of caution: Some Buddhist schools (some of Southeast Asian traditions, for example), will emphasize that we need to extinguish the emotions in order to be liberated from that. The Mahayana, and especially Zen teachings, emphasize more that to have thoughts and emotions is just human (and, in fact, we would be cold rocks if we lacked human emotions). Instead, in our way, what is important more is not falling into being a prisoner of excess emotions, chained into believing all our thoughts without ability to see through them, losing balance in life.

    We don't just run after quiet and stillness in our thoughts and emotions, but learn to find the quiet and stillness that is even amid the chaos of life. The quiet is there within the noise, if you can learn to hear it.

    I'm no rock. I often say that I still, even now, start to get angry or fearful sometimes (hey, I'm married with a kid, and I have a sometimes stressful job! :roll: ), but (compared to how I was before all these years of Zen practice) ... I now "catch" the fears, anger and other emotions much earlier as they arise, learn to spot the seeds, know how to see through them (as bits of mind created theatre which I am playwriting) and return to balance. You should have known me 20 years ago! :evil:

    So, I can attest that our simple, elegant and direct method of just allowing the thoughts and emotions to quiet and fade, finding stillness and balance during Zazen, is VERY effective.

    We learn to tame the wild ox of our unruly thoughts and emotions.



    Gassho, Jundo

    PS.:

    Quote Originally Posted by will

    In that movie about Dogen that Jundo posted the one thing that stood out (probably just for cinematic effect) was when the monk tried to smooth Dogen's brow.

    W
    I believe in that scene (not having viewed the movie yet) that Dogen's teacher was showing him how to sit Zazen with the eyes OPEN. We sit with the eyes 1/3 or 2/3rds open. We are looking at everything and nothing in particular, but we are not closing our eyes to the world.

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    jundo and others-
    thanks for the comments. yes, it seems that when i look at the core of all the tibetan methods i talked about, it's just sitting. its amazing that a very advanced tibetan practice of dzochen is 'do nothing'! i agree that it is impossible to extinguish emotion. that idea doesn't even seem buddhist to me. it's not middle way. however, lately i have been so aware of how caught up i get in thoughts and feelings, which prompted my question. the more i sit and the more i remember to practice during the day, the easier it is to 'let in and let go'.
    on thing i always get hung up on in sitting is 'what to come back to when i get caught in monkey mind'...but there's nothing to come back to, right :? ...everything is constantly changing. thoughts?
    craig

  8. #8

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    I believe in that scene (not having viewed the movie yet) that Dogen's teacher was showing him how to sit Zazen with the eyes OPEN. We sit with the eyes 1/3 or 2/3rds open. We are looking at everything and nothing in particular, but we are not closing our eyes to the world.
    I see. Watched it again.

    G,W

  9. #9

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    I don't know if this relates to the original topic of reactive patterns or not, but the most tangible "outward" effect I have had from zazen yet came very unexpectedly after a recent week-long Soto sesshin in Austin...

    ...I have bitten my nails literally ever since I can remember, and being female albeit not cutesy in the conventional sense, this has always bothered me, as I felt it detracted from my appearance. Yet, I could never quit. I would find myself biting my nails with no memory of having started. It was really gross and frustrating. I had tried many times to quit, with a bit of success a few times, but always eventually started back. After this last sesshin, I randomly found by the end of the week that I had not engaged in this habit all week. And a few days later, still hadn't. Now almost two months later I still haven't done it even once. As far as I can tell, this lifelong compulsive pattern has been undone.

    I can't explain this other than to say that the intensive zazen practice in some way "deprogrammed" this reactive pattern that has been with me as long as I can remember. I didn't try to quit. It just stopped. I consider it miraculous. Don't know if that in any way relates to what you mean by reactive patterns, but I'm chalking this one up to the awesomeness of shikantaza. If it can undo an annoying and (mildly) self-destructive physical habit I've had all my life, I figure there's hope for destructive emotional habits as well.

  10. #10

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Some people are full of reactivity. Reacting to the slightest thing, perhaps an idea or a sound. Maybe something someone said. The thing is, is that the more you try to get rid of the reactivity, the more it grows in a sense. Part of this practice is looking at our reactivity and just letting it come and letting it go. When it comes and goes and there's no attachment to it, we kind of drop it. However; this dropping doesn't come instantly for some people. You have to practice not doing anything. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming, and all we can see is our reactivity and our wanting to let it go, or try to get rid of it. The thing is. Just let it be. You might not understand what it is, or where it comes from, but if you can just sit and let it come and go letting attention come back to what is happening Now, eventually it diminishes and gets taken over by alertness, or awareness (a dropping so to speak). It comes and it goes. In there somewhere amidst all the chattering and tensing is this moment. There's really nothing we can do about it.

    Gassho

    Will

  11. #11

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Some people are full of reactivity. Reacting to the slightest thing, perhaps an idea or a sound. Maybe something someone said. The thing is, is that the more you try to get rid of the reactivity, the more it grows in a sense. Part of this practice is looking at our reactivity and just letting it come and letting it go. When it comes and goes and there's no attachment to it, we kind of drop it. However; this dropping doesn't come instantly for some people. You have to practice not doing anything. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming, and all we can see is our reactivity and our wanting to let it go, or try to get rid of it. The thing is. Just let it be. You might not understand what it is, or where it comes from, but if you can just sit and let it come and go letting attention come back to what is happening Now, eventually it diminishes and gets taken over by alertness, or awareness (a dropping so to speak). It comes and it goes. In there somewhere amidst all the chattering and tensing is this moment. There's really nothing we can do about it.

    Gassho

    Will

    i'm one of those folks to whom dropping doesn't come easily and it has been quite overwhelming!! :| practice is all i can do.

    elizabeth, great example there. i hope that shikantaza can just undo my keen like of donuts!
    craig

  12. #12

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Maybe just sit upright in the presence of donuts - don't resist them, but don't lean towards them either.

  13. #13

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Quote Originally Posted by ellbogen
    Maybe just sit upright in the presence of donuts - don't resist them, but don't lean towards them either.
    that means i'll have to go buy some donuts to sit with. and i do have an issue of leaning forward
    maybe i can just go sit at dunkin donuts or krispy kream. they can be my sangha 8)

    peace
    craig

  14. #14

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Perhaps you could find a Tibetan teacher who could supply you with a donut-related visualization so you wouldn't actually have to buy any.

  15. #15

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Quote Originally Posted by ellbogen
    Maybe just sit upright in the presence of donuts - don't resist them, but don't lean towards them either.
    Teaching of the Day! Thank you .

    Gassho, Jundo (in week 4 of diet)

  16. #16

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Quote Originally Posted by ellbogen
    Perhaps you could find a Tibetan teacher who could supply you with a donut-related visualization so you wouldn't actually have to buy any.
    Oh that's just too funny.

    Being a Zen Buddhist in Tibetan clothing in my local sangha I would have to agree that there seems to be a visualization for everything.

  17. #17

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Tobiah was circling the Bodhi tree one day when he came upon a donut lying on the grass. Grasping the hole of the donut he sighed in epiphany and was instantly enlightened. This is the meaning of 'grasping and not-grasping'

    I'm so sorry I just couldn't stop myself...I need a dose of laughter at least once a day, even if it is a bit irreverent. :twisted:

  18. #18

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobiah
    Tobiah was circling the Bodhi tree one day when he came upon a donut lying on the grass. Grasping the hole of the donut he sighed in epiphany and was instantly enlightened. This is the meaning of 'grasping and not-grasping'

    I'm so sorry I just couldn't stop myself...I need a dose of laughter at least once a day, even if it is a bit irreverent. :twisted:
    Hi.

    Donut in swedish is "munk" which is the same as a Monk.
    So, the story can also be read like this:
    Tobiah was circling the Bodhi tree one day when he came upon a Monk lying on the grass.
    Grasping the hole of the monk he sighed in epiphany and was instantly enlightened.

    I made another funny!

    May the force be with you
    Fugen

  19. #19

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    ^^ :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Much needed giggles! Merci!

    Gassho, Shohei

  20. #20

    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    OMG fugen I laughed so hard I cried- your point on that one!

  21. #21
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: zazen and reactive patterns

    :lol: :lol:

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