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Thread: Too Much Zen?

  1. #1

    Too Much Zen?

    I've been reading this blog, as well as a few other Buddhist blogs, pretty regularly lately. I've been practicing zazen every morning. I read dharma books in my spare time. I think about Zen a lot. I'm not sure that this is so great.

    I am a beginner. I started meditating about eight months ago (I had some basic instruction and used breath counting, then a mantra, then watching my breath to get started). I read Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind more recently and it made a big impression on me. Very recently, I changed my meditation practice to a Zen/just sitting approach. It has felt natural and I like it very much. Again, this may not be so great.

    I find myself thinking about Zen a little bit obsessively. When sitting in the mornings, I get caught up in a thought from time to time; often these thoughts are about meditation itself. Ironic, I know. Sometimes I wonder what more I can do to deepen my practice, what more I can read, who else I can talk to, and so on.

    Shunryu Suzuki warns against getting too excited about Zen. I agree and understand why this is important, but I am excited about it anyway. I know Zen is "nothing special." It is simply a part of my day, a normal thing. Still, I have to admit that it seems pretty special to me right now.

    These are the classic signs of a phase. Is this just a passing interest for me? I don't think so, but who knows?

    I suppose I am writing this to see what you will say, what advice you will have... though I suspect that I know the answer... keep it up, simply practice, sit with my excitement without adding too much more fuel to the fire. And that sounds like really good advice, but right now I find it easier said than done.

    So I'm putting it out there. Zen is great. Zen is interesting. Zen is nothing special. Zen is ordinary. This is all true. Got any pointers for me?

    Jamie

  2. #2

    Re: Too Much Zen?

    I find myself thinking about Zen a little bit obsessively. When sitting in the mornings, I get caught up in a thought from time to time; often these thoughts are about meditation itself.
    This is part of the practice. You know "Study the self". Like I said, stuff keeps coming up until we know it for what it is. Thinking is only a small portion of our experience. It is our habit to concentrate on that. Keep sitting

    Gassho

    W

  3. #3
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Too Much Zen?

    What you're going through may be a "phase," but it is an inevitable one, and a good, and useful "phase."

    I'm at the point in my practice where I really miss the "honeymoon phase" where I was so fascinated by and in love with the practice itself. It's a lot easier to maintain discipline when the forms themselves are special or enchanting to you. When you have hopes, dreams, or visions about your practice.

    If you stick to it long enough, this phase will pass. Because the practice won't give you what you hope to get out of it. You will become frustrated with your inability to ascend to the heights of enlightenment you've imagined. That's when your real "will to the truth" will be shown: do you continue when it's no longer fun, or mesmerizing, or giving you what you want? Will you pursue the truth even when it means letting go of your most cherished dreams and ideals?

    If you're like me, and push yourself too hard, you will bring the honeymoon phase to a screeching halt and descend right to the bottom of the abyss of the "disillusionment phase." It's really not necessary, and less jarring and easier to ride out if you don't worry too much about liking the practice that you practice. Reality will assert itself eventually

  4. #4

    Re: Too Much Zen?

    Hi Jamie,

    Almost 30 years since I first stumbled into this Zen path, and it is still magical, still alive and wonderful. I still read lots of "Zen Books" and sit (putting the books down).

    So, I say that, as long as you have friends and loved ones that you see on a regular basis in a normal manner, are keeping your grades up in school or are not late for the office too much, see a movie with your date, have time for the rest of your life ... it's okay. You're probably not going overboard if you still have a pretty normal life. Unless one is intentionally seeking to live as a monk (and there may be weeks or months on this path where you will seek to cut yourself off from the world, sitting morning until night), you should seek with common sense to have balance in your life ... time for everything, everything in its place. It is all "Zazen" in its wider meaning, when perceived as such.

    Now Stephanie is also right too. This is kind of like a marriage or other long term relationship ... a lifelong road more than a sprint to the finish line. As in a marriage, the "honeymoon" may be followed by times when you think you are hitting a "rough patch" or are "bored" or fall out of love with the person you were head over heals about. That is when the real marriage and love affair begins, the real journey. The true depth of this practice is found there. You probably don't need to fall into the "pit of the abyss" that Stephanie describes (that's not necessary), but this practice of "just being and letting be" can have its ups and downs. (I have been married 20 years, it has had ups and downs ... and all was worth it. Same for Zen practice). Did you see the Brad Warner essay I posted awhile back? (One of my favorites)

    viewtopic.php?p=33606#p33606

    So, please aim for 30 or 50 or 1000 years ... and in the meantime, just sit as you can each day.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Too Much Zen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    You probably don't need to fall into the "pit of the abyss" that Stephanie describes (that's not necessary)
    It absolutely isn't! :mrgreen:

  6. #6

    Re: Too Much Zen?

    Thanks for the replies. Hopefully no "pit of abyss" for me and thankfully, "enlightenment" (whatever that is) has never been one of my interests. I think what I'm seeing is much more mundane. I'm interested in this new thing and I want to do it and think about it and talk about it as much as I can, yet Zen sort of demands to be kept at armís length. As I see it, it is this very demanding thing that requires you to put forth no "special effort." It's very paradoxical for me.

    Thank you also for the Brad Warner essay...

    So for now: I keep sitting.

  7. #7
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Too Much Zen?

    Quote Originally Posted by jgreerw
    I've been reading this blog, as well as a few other Buddhist blogs, pretty regularly lately. I've been practicing zazen every morning. I read dharma books in my spare time. I think about Zen a lot. I'm not sure that this is so great.

    I am a beginner. I started meditating about eight months ago (I had some basic instruction and used breath counting, then a mantra, then watching my breath to get started). I read Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind more recently and it made a big impression on me. Very recently, I changed my meditation practice to a Zen/just sitting approach. It has felt natural and I like it very much. Again, this may not be so great.

    I find myself thinking about Zen a little bit obsessively. When sitting in the mornings, I get caught up in a thought from time to time; often these thoughts are about meditation itself. Ironic, I know. Sometimes I wonder what more I can do to deepen my practice, what more I can read, who else I can talk to, and so on.

    Shunryu Suzuki warns against getting too excited about Zen. I agree and understand why this is important, but I am excited about it anyway. I know Zen is "nothing special." It is simply a part of my day, a normal thing. Still, I have to admit that it seems pretty special to me right now.

    These are the classic signs of a phase. Is this just a passing interest for me? I don't think so, but who knows?

    I suppose I am writing this to see what you will say, what advice you will have... though I suspect that I know the answer... keep it up, simply practice, sit with my excitement without adding too much more fuel to the fire. And that sounds like really good advice, but right now I find it easier said than done.

    So I'm putting it out there. Zen is great. Zen is interesting. Zen is nothing special. Zen is ordinary. This is all true. Got any pointers for me?

    Jamie
    Allow yourself to be excited - after all, you already are excited.

    Be prepared for the honeymoon to end and observe that too. Try not to identify with any of these energies.

    What am I even saying this for? You'll do what you'll do. Just keep sitting - the insight will help you detach from the infatuation and the disillusionment more readily. You'll probably still believe you ARE your thoughts and impulses and when 'Mara's emotional reinforcements' show up, you'll REALLY get hooked by those...but still....sit and you may at least be able to laugh a little when you get to the other side.

    Chet

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