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Thread: Stuck on Breathing

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Stuck on Breathing

    Hi,
    K2's post "Brain Music" (Hello and welcome ) has made me notice something. Jundo describes Shikantaza as being "focused on everything and nothing at all". When I sit, I seem to be hanging up on my breath. During those small periods of time when my mind is thought free, I seem to be hyper-aware of my breathing. I don't try and focus on my breath, but I always seem to come back to it. At times, I am so focused on the stillness between the inhale and the exhale (especially on the exhale) that it feels like I have to remind myself to inhale.

    Has anyone else experienced this? Is there something I can do to not be so focused on breathing? Am I over thinking?

    Thanks,
    Ron

  2. #2

    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Quote Originally Posted by rculver
    Has anyone else experienced this? Is there something I can do to not be so focused on breathing? Am I over thinking?
    Yes, yes, and yes.

    I sat watching my breath for a number of years before switching over to Jundo's instruction nigh on two years ago. I went through periods where I was falling back toward breath-oriented practice. Somewhere along the way I realized that trying to do it right was keeping me from doing it right, so I gradually was able to stop trying so hard and simply sit (however it turned out). Some sittings are peaceful and clear, many are thoughts churning up other thoughts, some are simply battles to stay awake. Somewhere in there, the habit of watching my breath will periodically resurface. I notice it and see what happens. Sometimes it stays with me the entire sitting, most of the time, however, it disappears once I have noticed it.

    My advice, be cool with doing zazen wrong. It is the only way I've found to do it right.

    Peace,
    Bill

  3. #3
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    My advice, be cool with doing zazen wrong. It is the only way I've found to do it right.
    Thank you Ron and thank you Eika for your wonderful insight. Noticing a tendency is enough. When we overdo something in sitting, well just see it and resist the temptation to correct it for what correction arises from is a set of habits. Enjoy just being there. Don't be too serious about it! You may invite the mind to focus on something else, spine, left hand, sounds, and expand the focus like a ripple on the surface of the water, including more and more without excluding anything, so no need to suppress breath awareness just allow this awareness to grow and expand. And if you find yourself back to the breath, noticing is enough. Something like that.

    gassho


    Taigu

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    To practice our way is good, but you may practicing with a mistaken idea. Still if you know, "I am making a mistake, but even so I cannot help continuing with my practice," then there is no need to worry. If you open your true eyes, and accept the you that is involved in a wrong idea of practice, that is real practice.
    Shunryu Suzuki, "Not Always So"

    Thanks,
    Ron

  5. #5
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Ron, kinda in the same boat you are, except I thought I was doing the right thing as he explaied it, somehow the point of focus was just misintepretted. But I reminded myself, I didn't sit zazen wrong. I just didn't practice shikantaza as Jundo does. As that is my intent to practice as is the Way of Treeleaf, I am going to switch points of focus since i better understood what was meant this time around. Butt that doesn't mean I was meditating wrong..just different.

    On the same note, I kinda miss focusing on the seika tanden. But that's probably because that was a concept i was more familiar with.

    Dave _/_

  6. #6

    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Quote Originally Posted by ZenDave
    On the same note, I kinda miss focusing on the seika tanden. But that's probably because that was a concept i was more familiar with.

    Dave _/_
    Well, as Taigu said ... perhaps sit with the seika tanden** as it is experienced to encompass more and more without excluding anything ... everything and nothing at all, the whole catastrophe.

    And everything and nothing at all certainly breathes and holds the tanden. No big, no small ... and one includes all, all in one.

    If one thinks the seika tanden is a particular place under the belly ... and all else is to be excluded ... well, then it is only that.


    ** (for those who do not know, the "tanden" or "hara" is a traditional spot below the navel where attention is placed in some forms of Shikantaza and similar meditation

    http://www.aetw.org/d_seika_tanden.html

    )

  7. #7
    disastermouse
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    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    The monkey mind wants to do something (anything, really). For me, the best way is to do two things.

    A) Go with curiosity and the attitude 'what happens when I don't try to control anything?' The mind get's quiete because you put it on awareness and not on a task.

    B) Then I usually go to Lin Chi's 'what at this moment is missing?' which achieves much the same thing.

    Chet

  8. #8
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Thank you Chet. Spot on. The task is the distraction. And these two questions are real jewels or pebbles. As you like it.

    gassho


    Taigu

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Thanks for the help.

    Ron

  10. #10
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Thanks for that, Jundo. Actually James Deacon is an acquaintance of mine. I'll have to tell him he just got linked on a buddhist page as opposed to a Reiki Ryoho page for a change.

    Sitting with the hara teaches us the hara is us and everything and not simply a spot below the navel. It's said that to sit with it as the focus will do the expanding for you over time, in a manner of speaking.

    but that's probably getting a bit off topic for Treeleaf, so i'll hush ( if ever you want to see a true ,undisputed blabbermouth in action..that is a topic sure to do it).

    Dave _/_

  11. #11

    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Hi Ron,

    Just wanted to weigh in here too.
    For whatever it's worth, I'm currently making the transition from breath-oriented, Theravada-style Vipassana meditation to shikantaza.
    I'm personally "in the thick of it" as it were. So I definitely get where you are coming from.

    I too find myself drawn back towards focusing on the breath (probably out of habit and because there's not much else to listen to) but what I discovered was that to "get out of my own way" I simply included the sounds and feelings of my breathing as part of the "everything" I was aware of. ("... and nothing in particular").
    After all, there's a door to look at, the carpet, the AC humming away, the phone call I have to make later... Lots of other stuff besides breath.
    That's the only way it's going to work, actually, because if you try to dismiss your attention on your breathing, you'll be focused on it again!
    (Sort of like the old "Don't think of a pink elephant" gag. Of course, you immediately think of pink elephants...)

    This morning, for example, I sat through 60 minutes of pure chaos.
    This happens from time to time and if you follow the instructions of Vipassana style meditation, you're supposed to combat this by increasing concentration.
    This would, of course, mean focusing more intently on the breath. Again, that would be a task assigned to the mind. NOT zazen.
    But for today, I "just sat". It's simple (but kinda not).
    I didn't "endure" it, I didn't react to it, I just sat with it. Bing, bang, boom.

    Eventually, one pervading thought occurred to me:
    There is a part of you that accepts everything. EVERYTHING.
    Call it buddha-nature, call it God, call it whatever you want. You are capable of it. Period, end of sentence, full stop.
    You ARE capable of this.
    This part of you accepts and contains the other part that doesn't accept. Cool, actually!
    It's "radical acceptance", unconditional acceptance; and it's there, quietly in the background. ALWAYS.
    So when you acknowledge and accept that part that doesn't accept, you include all things and "transcend abundance and scarcity." (I'm quoting Genjo Koan)

    OK, that being said, I am NOT an expert here so if I've missed the mark entirely or I "stink of zen", PLEASE call me on it. Because I'm learning as I go too, y'all...
    It just seemed pretty clear to me after this morning's sit but I may have my head temporarily up my keester.
    I'm willing to accept that too!

    Gassho,
    -K2

  12. #12

    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Quote Originally Posted by kliffkapus

    Eventually, one pervading thought occurred to me:
    There is a part of you that accepts everything. EVERYTHING.
    Call it buddha-nature, call it God, call it whatever you want. You are capable of it. Period, end of sentence, full stop.
    You ARE capable of this.
    This part of you accepts and contains the other part that doesn't accept. Cool, actually!
    It's "radical acceptance", unconditional acceptance; and it's there, quietly in the background. ALWAYS.
    So when you acknowledge and accept that part that doesn't accept, you include all things and "transcend abundance and scarcity." (I'm quoting Genjo Koan)
    Fast learner!

  13. #13

    Re: Stuck on Breathing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by kliffkapus

    Eventually, one pervading thought occurred to me:
    There is a part of you that accepts everything. EVERYTHING.
    Call it buddha-nature, call it God, call it whatever you want. You are capable of it. Period, end of sentence, full stop.
    You ARE capable of this.
    This part of you accepts and contains the other part that doesn't accept. Cool, actually!
    It's "radical acceptance", unconditional acceptance; and it's there, quietly in the background. ALWAYS.
    So when you acknowledge and accept that part that doesn't accept, you include all things and "transcend abundance and scarcity." (I'm quoting Genjo Koan)
    Fast learner!
    Now to put into Practice!


    Though all this may be true, flowers fall even if we love them, and weeds grow even if we hate them, and that is all.

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