I am Scott and I'm new to Treeleaf and relatively new to Buddhism and meditating. I have two issues in meditating. When I first close my eyes and get relaxed, I get itchy, especially around my face. I'll go ahead and scratch, and it seems like once I scratch, I'm okay for the rest of the meditation. Is that fairly common? Also, I tend to keep my mind active. It seems like my mind wanders off in multiple directions when I meditate. I heard somewhere about counting breaths, which has helped to some degree. Does anyone have suggestions in how to still my mind? Thanks!
For the itching- I got in the habit early on of trying to ignore the itch. Most of the time it will go away, and I consider it good practice to try to notice the itch and then let it go mentally, after which if it just won't quit I will scratch. It's gotten better over time, not so much itching now.
Something I tried, again when I first started sitting, and still occasionally if I'm unable to get quiet in the head: count 4 normal-volume but slow inhale-exhales, then on number five inhale deep and exhale in steps- meaning, exhale for a 'beat' then pause, then exhale more, pause... about 5 times. By the last bit of pushing out with your abdominal muscles, all the air you can get out will be out. Then try to inhale calmly to refill. This method I learned from a book by Katsuki Sekida, who I think is of the Rinzai school, and therefore sometimes a little off as far as Soto is concerned. Jundo cautioned me against getting hung up on this kind of breathing exercise, which is why I only do it occasionally. Also, it doesn't always help.
Another thing you can do is let your mind do its thing, observe it, and let it go... 10,000 times or so :wink: Which is exactly what most zazen is, I think.
I think if you stick with it, it will get quieter and easier. Although sometimes it gets harder. P a t i e n c e...
I'm pretty new around here too and I would direct you to Jundo's series of talks for newbies.
It will get you headed in the right direction. They are also fun to watch!
There's a bazillion things I could say but just go watch Jundo's videos.
Too much advice is like too much medicine; after a point the cure will make you sick.
(Trust me on this one, I've read WAY too many books. Information overload leads to analysis paralysis!)
PS -- HAVE FUN. It's your brain; enjoy it...
You can't still your mind - the same way that you can't stir a bowl of water into stillness.
Originally Posted by rhinokitchen
Don't try to alter your mind or get into a different mindstate - instead, truly notice whatever mindstate you are currently in - since that's the only one that's real anyway.
Treeleaf Founder and Priest
I wanted just repeat much of the advice above, especially ...
Please see this posting on when to move/not move swat/not swat when sitting with a bit of pain, fly on your nose or the like.
Originally Posted by Tobiishi
Also, yes, please see the video series for beginners, then write me or everyone on this forum with anything more or to clarify ...
Do please try the simple method of counting the breaths that I describe in that series, although it is rather a temporary measure for beginners (in the way I encourage) for settling the mind. The more active method described by Sekida Roshi sounds like it might be very good for some folks ... but, again, I would rely on that as a short term or sometime measure.
Please see also this more detailed posting on the breath in the Soto School ...
I encourage that counting or following the breath should be practiced for perhaps a few weeks (or a few months at most) to build some ability to sit with focus and stillness (some teachers have people counting breaths for years and years which, while perhaps a wonderful way of practice, is not Shikantaza). "Counting/following" the breath is just training wheels on the bike, and soon the training wheels must come off and natural balance allowed.
Shikantaza is "radical non-doing", radical goallessness, to-the-marrow non-attaining. However, it is vital to know that "radical non-doing" is worlds away from merely "sitting doing nothing, attaining nothing".
Can't really say much on this. I've tried this technique and that. It really comes down to practice/sitting. We kind of teach ourselves, or not teach ourselves, along the way (Zazen has a way of doing that if it's consistently done). For a long time there was the wanting to try this or that when sitting, but it kind of just balances out.
Thoughts are somewhat of a habit. Something that we've been doing for years and years. Not the rising of thoughts, but the way we attach and react to them instead of opening up past them. Realize they are what they are.
Some people say count the breath or notice the breathe at the Tanden. You could just sit there until the period is over and keep doing that. You could open up to to sounds, touch and such. Eventually Zazen will work itself out.
The word practice denotes something that we continuously do to learn something. That's all Zazen is, but we're learning about nothing in particular. Self I guess.
A big "Thank you" to everyone who responded. For some reason, the link to the videos for newcomers led me to a "404" error, but I found them another way and have bookmarked them.
I would just like to add that thoughts or judgments about your thoughts should also be handled like all other thoughts. Sometimes I found myself thinking,"Darn, I'm thinking too much." or "Oops, I need to get back to the correct sitting position". I know attachments to these "corrective thoughts" should be abandoned in the sense that they be left alone to dissolve or float away... still I get frustrated from time to time and lose sight of this. I notice I don't do it so much as before. Never cured; consistent practice is key. Furthermore, if you notice thoughts, just notice all thoughts. If your posture is incorrect, just correct it. If your nose itches, just scratch it. Yet don't repel from these things and add to them; acceptance is part of the practice. (unless your hair's on fire! :lol: ). I hope this helps. Keep at it. Good luck, your on the right track!
I thought I'd post the link to the videos for beginners. http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/g ... editation/. You'll find the links at the bottom of the page. I had attended some Zen groups in the past, and I guess I had some expectations of how meditation should go. I'm learning to let go of the expectations. Thanks!