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Thread: The More I Sit...

  1. #1
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    The More I Sit...

    The more I sit, the more I learn to smile. It is hard at first, but when I remember to soften my body, my next step is to remember to smile gently within and without.

    This makes all of the remaining tension melt away.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: The More I Sit...


  3. #3

    Re: The More I Sit...

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    The more I sit, the more I learn to smile. It is hard at first, but when I remember to soften my body, my next step is to remember to smile gently within and without.

    This makes all of the remaining tension melt away.
    Hi Amelia,

    Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh often teaches that one should sit Zazen with a slight "Buddha smile" on one's face, much as one sees on some statues of Buddha ... which can result in a sensation of a Buddha's Joy while meditating ...



    There is actually some science behind this, as the brain mirror's the sensation of the muscles in the face. In other words, physically smiling "fools" and triggers the brain to feel that, since there is a smile in the facial muscles, the brain should feel a sensation of happiness.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/18/scien ... nted=print

    I have tried it, and it seems to work.

    One thing I would caution is that Shikantaza is not about always needing or seeking to feel happy, peaceful, blissful, etc.. (I might term it a kind of Greater Joy and Happiness about all of life in its richness and many colors, which includes sometimes feeling happy and joyous, sometimes sad, sometimes in between). So, we do not try or need to feel any particular way in our Zazen, and certainly do not run after sensations of peace, happiness, bliss (which we consider like candy ... we cannot eat sweet candy all the time, but must have a balanced diet which includes the not sweet vegetables!) During Zazen, we let all emotions drift from mind without clinging onto any of them. This is true both during Zazen, and in all of life, when we should not need to feel one way all the time, should take life as it comes in all its richness. To truly be at Peace (Big "P") means a Peace which embraces all of daily life, sometimes peaceful and sometimes not. There is a time for all ... sometimes candy, sometimes vegetables ... sometimes joy, sometimes tears ...

    In fact, Thich Nhat Hanh says that this is the real meaning of a Buddha's smile ... it is rather bitter-sweet ... He writes ...

    When I was a novice, I could not understand why, if the world is filled with suffering, the Buddha has such a beautiful smile. Why isn’t he disturbed by all the suffering? Later I discovered that the Buddha has enough understanding, calm, and strength; that is why the suffering does not overwhelm him. He is able to smile to suffering because he knows how to take care of it and to help transform it. We need to be aware of the suffering, but retain our clarity, calmness, and strength so we can help transform the situation. The ocean of tears cannot drown us if karuna [Compassion] is there. That is why the Buddha’s smile is possible.
    "Look at the Buddha's smile. It is completely peaceful and compassionate. Does that mean the Buddha does not take your and my suffering seriously? Doesn't the Buddha see my suffering? How can he smile?

    "When you love someone you feel anxious for him or her and want them to be safe and nearby. You cannot simply put your loved ones out of your thoughts. When the Buddha witnesses the endless suffering of living beings, he must feel deep concern. How can he just sit there and smile?

    "But think about it. It is we who sculpt him sitting and smiling, and we do it for a reason. When you stay up all night worrying about your loved one, you are so attached to the phenomenal world that you may not be able to see the true face of reality. A physician who accurately understands her patient's condition does not sit and obsess over a thousand different explanations or anxieties as the patient's family might. The doctor knows that the patient will recover, and so she may smile even while the patient is still sick. Her smile is not unkind; it is simply the smile of one who grasps the situation and does not engage in unnecessary worry.

    "When we begin to see that black mud and white snow are neither ugly nor beautiful, when we can see them without discrimination or duality, then we begin to grasp Great Compassion. In the eyes of Great Compassion, there is neither left nor right, friend nor enemy, close nor far. In the eyes of Great Compassion, there is no separation between subject and object, no separate self. Nothing that can disturb Great Compassion."
    http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 60,0,0,1,0

    Gassho with a Smile ... Jundo

  4. #4
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: The More I Sit...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Thich Nhat Hanh often teaches that one should sit Zazen with a slight "Buddha smile" on one's face, much as one sees on some statues of Buddha ... which can result in a sensation of a Buddha's Joy while meditating ...
    Yes. I got the idea from a teaching of Mantak Chia's called the Inner Smile technique. Same thing. Same science. The essays I have read detailed the many different ways smiling tricks the brain into happiness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    One thing I would caution is that Shikantaza is not about always needing or seeking to feel happy, peaceful, blissful, etc....
    Of course. I learned this from another hobby of mine. I would get caught up in the excitement of my inspiration and get so overwhelmed with happy thoughts that it was kind of draining and also kind of addictive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ...I discovered that the Buddha has enough understanding, calm, and strength; that is why the suffering does not overwhelm him. He is able to smile to suffering because he knows how to take care of it and to help transform it. We need to be aware of the suffering, but retain our clarity, calmness, and strength so we can help transform the situation. The ocean of tears cannot drown us if [Compassion] is there...
    This is why I smile. :wink:

  5. #5
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: The More I Sit...

    _/_

  6. #6

    Re: The More I Sit...

    Nice thread! Thank you!

    Gassho, Jikyo *smiling*

  7. #7
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The More I Sit...

    I think I gotta try this smiling zazen thing. I get accused all the time of looking so dour and serious, even when I am in a good mood. I try to remember to smile more often, but now I know I just need to train my face better

  8. #8

    Re: The More I Sit...

    Lovely post!

  9. #9
    Member miheco's Avatar
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    Re: The More I Sit...

    Sometimes just reading about the smile, well you know what I'm going to say, It brings on a smile.
    Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy
    Thich Nhat Hanh
    Lord Buddha, do I need smiles these days, as my mom's Alzheimer's progresses, and the evenings bring on very disturbing psychotic events, sometimes known as sundowning episodes, it's difficult to smile while I try to soothe her into a calm. It doesn't always turn out good and I feel so sorry she sometimes goes to bed angry and sobbing.
    But once she is safe in bed and I close the door to her room, I smile because of the privilege I have in helping her along this difficult, long (9 years now)) final journey.


    Gassho,
    Jintai

  10. #10

    Re: The More I Sit...

    Hi.

    Thank you for these wonderful teachings.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  11. #11
    disastermouse
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    Re: The More I Sit...

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    The more I sit, the more I learn to smile. It is hard at first, but when I remember to soften my body, my next step is to remember to smile gently within and without.

    This makes all of the remaining tension melt away.
    Where did the tension go?

    Chet

  12. #12
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: The More I Sit...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Where did the tension go?
    That's a damn good question, which makes me wish to rephrase as such:

    "This makes all of the remaining tension spread itself comfortably throughout my body so I barely notice it."

    Because energy cannot be destroyed, perhaps I must focus on turning the tension into something better... But what comfortable thing can tension be turned into?

  13. #13

    Re: The More I Sit...

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Where did the tension go?
    That's a damn good question, which makes me wish to rephrase as such:

    "This makes all of the remaining tension spread itself comfortably throughout my body so I barely notice it."

    Because energy cannot be destroyed, perhaps I must focus on turning the tension into something better... But what comfortable thing can tension be turned into?
    I often find that one cannot release tension, or any thoughts and emotions, by trying to do so. One does not relax by "trying to relax", but rather by letting go and relaxing. It sounds strange perhaps, but it is much the same as the difference between "trying to swim by remembering to move my arms and legs in sequence" versus just relaxing, settling in and swimming.

    This is a crucial reason why, in Shikantaza, we do not try to force things to happen, trying to force thoughts and emotions to change or halt ... but rather, we let things go and let them be, allowing all to drift easily from mind.

    Gassho, J

  14. #14
    disastermouse
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    Re: The More I Sit...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Where did the tension go?
    That's a damn good question, which makes me wish to rephrase as such:

    "This makes all of the remaining tension spread itself comfortably throughout my body so I barely notice it."

    Because energy cannot be destroyed, perhaps I must focus on turning the tension into something better... But what comfortable thing can tension be turned into?
    I often find that one cannot release tension, or any thoughts and emotions, by trying to do so. One does not relax by "trying to relax", but rather by letting go and relaxing. It sounds strange perhaps, but it is much the same as the difference between "trying to swim by remembering to move my arms and legs in sequence" versus just relaxing, settling in and swimming.

    This is a crucial reason why, in Shikantaza, we do not try to force things to happen, trying to force thoughts and emotions to change or halt ... but rather, we let things go and let them be, allowing all to drift easily from mind.

    Gassho, J
    Sometimes not so easily, Jundo! But I get your point.

    Do people really try to do battle with their minds? How long can you keep that up without total frustration and exhaustion?

    Not to advocate a theistic sensibility - but I really do think the mystic Christians have an easier time of this because really, all they have to do is show up in their meditation. They just go there and surrender any results to Mr. God and therefore there may be fewer herculean battles with the mind. It's just a thought. Then again, they've got the sin and guilt thing.

    To me, meditation often feels like a constant process of gentle 'unhooking'. You get carried off by that - 'Oh' and then unhook. Then you get carried off by the next thing. Pretty soon you're unhooking before the hooking. Or I should say, unhooking becomes automatic and there seems to be less 'gravity' to suck your attention into a thoughtform or anything with which to identify. The big trap is to become identified with Mr. Super-Unhooker-Zen-Guy-Meditation-Master-Or-Want-To-Be-Master. Or his alter-ego, Mr. ZOMG-This-Is-So-Frustrating-I'll-Never-Get-It-What-Am-I-Missing-What's-Wrong-With-Me.

    Zazen is sometimes paradoxical because in one sense, it is the withdrawal of energy or intention from any particular thing - and yet is complete and totally energetic engagement in the reality of each moment - which is, quite simply, everything! These things are not at odds with one another, although they may seem it.

    (het

  15. #15

    Re: The More I Sit...

    Thank you for your smile, and for passing it on!

    Smile, though your heart is aching,
    Smile, even though it's breaking.
    When there are clouds in the sky-
    You'll get by.
    If you smile through your fear and sorrow,
    Smile and maybe tomorrow
    You'll see the sun come shining through
    For you.
    Light up your face with gladness,
    Hide every trace of sadness.
    Although a tear may be ever so near,
    That's the time you must keep on trying,
    Smile, what's the use of crying?
    You'll find that life is still worthwhile,
    If you just smile.


    Maybe Charlie or whoever wrote the lyrics was a real Zen master in disguise...

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