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Thread: Mindful breathing during Zazen

  1. #1

    Mindful breathing during Zazen

    Hello All,

    Do you tend to focus on your breathing, or allow emptiness?

    Gassho,

    Lu

  2. #2

    Re: Mindful breathing during Zazen

    Hi there
    There are lot of very very good discussions on this already i would suggest searching breath and zazen ... oooh and shikantaza on the forum!

    Oh for the question at hand ill say that in shikantaza we sit with what ever. breath (following or counting) is fine at first - though some may disagree or agree...its up to you! that is not shikantaza. That is breathing and as you know it takes care of its self (heh until it doesnt any more!). So once you have a solid practice following breath could be set down. Shikantaza is the radical departure from trying to do something. you sit with what ever. Happy, sad, angry, bored,worrying about doing it right/wrong...just noticing the "bubble" and letting it go. Each thought rising up, letting it go and returning.


    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Getting rid of is not shikantaza. Breathing concentration techniques from yoga are of very little help here.
    Just being present is easy, you have done nothing else since you were born. What is difficult is not to add to its simplicity. But even though, the ten thousand thoughts are part of it. As Stephanie says, just notice without judging . Please, don't try to achieve anything special and don't expect any result.
    *


    Gassho
    Shohei

    *quoted from here:http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewto...kantaza#p34180

  3. #3

    Re: Mindful breathing during Zazen

    Shohei,

    Thank you! I actually tried to delete my posting after I had the opportunity and -scrolled- down the forum threads!

  4. #4

    Re: Mindful breathing during Zazen

    Hi Lu,

    Generally, in Shikantaza practice, we teach counting the breaths, or observing the breath, merely as a way to settle the mind for beginners. (After a few weeks or months, the training wheels come off, and we begin open, spacious sitting centered on everything and nothing at all.) On the other hand, different teachers, even within the Soto school, will teach somewhat different perspectives on this, and observing the breath can even be a lifetime practice for some! (There was a post on another thread today about this):

    viewtopic.php?p=34862#p34862

    However, generally, we do not do anything with the breath, except to allow it to find its own, natural , easy rhythm. Master Dogen (the founder of the Soto lineage in Japan) did not really say very much about breathing. In fact, I often think that he could have said more (breathing is so important in the martial arts, for example). But, Dogen did not really seem to say much more than "know that long breaths are long, short breaths are short ... and that they are neither long nor short'. And breathe from the tanden [the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel], ... in other words, breathe deeply ... but know that they come and go no where.

    About breathing during zazen, Dogen Zenji said in The collection of Dogen Zenji's formal speeches and poems (Eihei-koroku), vol. 5: ...

    In the Small Vehicles [of which Dogen disapproved}, there are two elementary ways (of beginner's practice): one is to count the breaths, and the other is to contemplate the impurity (of the body). In other words, a practitioner of Small Vehicles regulates his breathing by counting the breaths. The practice of the Buddha-ancestors, however, is completely different from the way of Small Vehicles. An ancestral teacher has said, “It is better to have the mind of a wily fox than to follow the way of Small Vehicle self-control.” Two of the Small Vehicle schools (studied) in Japan today are the precept school (Shibunritsu) and the school based on Abhidharma-kosa (Kusha).


    There is also the Mahayana way of regulating breathing. That is, knowing that a long breath is long and that a short one is short. The breath reaches the tanden and leaves from there. Although the exhalation and inhalation are different, they both pass through the tanden. When you breathe abdominally, it is easy to become aware of the transiency (of life), and to harmonize the mind.


    My late teacher Tendo said, “The inhaled breath reaches the tanden; however, it is not that this breath comes from somewhere. For that reason, it is neither short nor long. The exhaled breath leaves from the tanden; however, it is not possible to say where this breath goes. For that reason, it is neither long nor short”. My teacher explained it in that way, and if someone were to ask me how to harmonize one's breathing, I would reply in this way: although it is not Mahayana, it is different from the Small Vehicle; though it is not of the Small Vehicles it is different from Mahayana. And if questioned further regarding what it is ultimately, I would respond that inhaling or exhaling are neither long nor short.

    http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/how ... zazen.html
    It is, after all, goalless "just sitting".

    We usually just let the breath settle into a natural rhythm. I find that 2 or 3 breaths per minute is a sign of a very balanced Zazen. Let it come and go so naturally that you forget you are breathing.

    I gave a "sit-a-long" talk on this as part of our "Zazen for Beginners" series, and I hope that you will have a look at that whole series (with Taigu too) when you have a chance ...:

    viewtopic.php?p=41798#p41798

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: Mindful breathing during Zazen

    Jundo,

    Many thanks for your thoughtful reply. The video was very useful.

    Gassho,

    Lu

  6. #6

    Re: Mindful breathing during Zazen

    However, generally, we do not do anything with the breath, except to allow it to find its own, natural , easy rhythm. Master Dogen (the founder of the Soto lineage in Japan) did not really say very much about breathing. In fact, I often think that he could have said more (breathing is so important in the martial arts, for example).
    You know, it's funny. I've been around the martial arts for decades (sandan myself), yet I always hear masters talk of the breathe as being something one must develop (as it seems in Aikido), or that one already possesses naturally. Ha! I guess it's the same as shikantanza - whatever one finds works best is the best for you!

    -Jim

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