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Thread: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

  1. #1

    Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Craig here again, intellectually trying to figure out zen. I know, it's a fools errand.

    Anyway, today as my mind was running amok while I attempted to sit zazen, I suddenly had this thought. If dukkha is caused by the discursive mind and it's thoughts/expectations, and zazen is where we allow the discursive mind to become it's most calm - wouldn't we be at our absolute happiest/most blissful while sitting zazen? If so, I would expect to read all sorts of posts like "I missed happy hour the other night because I was so caught up in zazen", or "my girlfirend is so upset with me because we never have sex anymore because I prefer to sit zazen."

    But I haven't seen those kinds of posts. I see more "I should really sit more regularly", and "I just returned to sitting zazen after a few years off". I will admit that although my time on the cushion is fine, I rarely (if ever) continue to sit after the chimes ring. Anybody care to offer an opinion on why this is so?

  2. #2
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    "Then it's goodbye, Sangsara for me
    Besides, girls aren't as good as they look
    And Samadhi is better than you think
    When it starts in hitting your head
    In with Buzz of glittergold
    Heaven's Angels, wailing, saying
    We've been waiting for you since morning, Jack
    Why were you so long dallying in the sooty room?
    This transcendental Brilliance
    Is the better part (of Nothingness
    I sing) Okay. Quit. Mad. Stop." - Jack Kerouac

    Apparently, it does happen.

  3. #3

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    No space for glitter, no space for gold. Only time alone with yourself, and isn't that what everyone wants least? Never have I ever said "I really want to talk about my delusions, my problems, my ignorance." On the contrary, it's always me me me, what I do well, what I do perfectly. Zazen? Pft, doesn't make me feel full enough, doesn't make me glow. I seem like a bump on a log to others, why would I want to do that? No bells, no lights, no naked figures writhing about. What's the point!

    Candy is only delicious until you feel sick, never wanting another piece to even cross your line of sight (for now). Water never seems to get old though, does it?

    Gassho
    Taylor

  4. #4

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Craig here again, intellectually trying to figure out zen. I know, it's a fools errand.

    Anyway, today as my mind was running amok while I attempted to sit zazen, I suddenly had this thought. If dukkha is caused by the discursive mind and it's thoughts/expectations, and zazen is where we allow the discursive mind to become it's most calm - wouldn't we be at our absolute happiest/most blissful while sitting zazen? If so, I would expect to read all sorts of posts like "I missed happy hour the other night because I was so caught up in zazen", or "my girlfirend is so upset with me because we never have sex anymore because I prefer to sit zazen."

    But I haven't seen those kinds of posts. I see more "I should really sit more regularly", and "I just returned to sitting zazen after a few years off". I will admit that although my time on the cushion is fine, I rarely (if ever) continue to sit after the chimes ring. Anybody care to offer an opinion on why this is so?
    Times of joy and bliss do happen. Yet in our Soto way, we neither run toward those nor run away. Such is the changing weather of the sky.

    However, I might suggest that you look more in the direction of vibrant (as opposed to cold and numb) equanimity ... wholeness ... complete at-home-ness ... such "wholeness" that nothing is lacking, nothing to add ... that all the pieces of this life-self-world are in harmony ... such that, sometimes, even the sense of separate "pieces" to become "whole" may fully disappear.

    We (in Soto Zen) tend to look upon running after permanent states of bliss as a drug, a phantasm, a dead end. Even should an abiding state of bliss be possible (I tend to think one should best seek that from the heroin pusher on the corner more than any guru), it is a removal from the wholeness and beauty of this life.

    Recently, we had a little discussion of how Shikantaza may resemble what is known in Buddhism as the "Fourth Jhana" of the Sutta ... considered the highest Jnana in this life (for higher Jhana are more "out of this world" states, while lower Jnana emphasize bliss) ...

    Richard Skankman's book makes one very interesting point that, perhaps, can be interpreted to mean that practices such as Shikantaza and the like actually cut right to the summit of Jhana practice. You see, it might perhaps possibly be argued (from some interpretations presented in the book) that Shikantaza practice is very close to what is referred to as the "Fourth Jhana in the Suttas" ... as opposed to the highly concentrated, hyper-absorbed Visuddhimagga commentary version. The Fourth Jhana in the Pali Suttas was considered the 'summit' of Jhana practice (as the higher Jhana, No. 5 to 8, were not encouraged as a kind of 'dead end') and appears to manifest (quoting the sutta descriptions in the book) "an abandoning of pleasure.pain, attractions/aversions, a dropping of both joy and grief", a dropping away of both rapture and bliss states, resulting in a "purity of mindfulness" and "equanimity". Combine this with the fact that, more than a "one pointed mind absorbed into a particular object", there is a "unification of mind" (described as a broader awareness around the object of meditation ... whereby the "mind itself becomes collected and unmoving, but not the objects of awareness, as mindfulness becomes lucid, effortless and unbroken" (See, for examples. pages 82-83 here))

    http://books.google.com/books?id=lQ_ZzF ... q=&f=false

    A bit of the discussion of the highest (in Buddhist Practice) "Fourth Jhana", and its emphasis on equanimity while present amid circumstances (and a dropping of bliss states), can be found on page 49 here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=lQ_ZzF ... th&f=false

    This is very close to a description of Shikantaza, for example, as dropping all aversions and attractions, finding unification of mind, collected and unmoving, effortless and unbroken, in/as/through/not removed from the life, circumstances, complexities which surround us and are us, sitting still with what is just as it is.
    Note, among other descriptions, the dropping of "bliss", and the emphasis on wholeness and equanimity, as one enters the Fourth Jhana.

    Gassho, J

  5. #5
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    No space for glitter, no space for gold. Only time alone with yourself, and isn't that what everyone wants least? Never have I ever said "I really want to talk about my delusions, my problems, my ignorance." On the contrary, it's always me me me, what I do well, what I do perfectly. Zazen? Pft, doesn't make me feel full enough, doesn't make me glow. I seem like a bump on a log to others, why would I want to do that? No bells, no lights, no naked figures writhing about. What's the point!

    Candy is only delicious until you feel sick, never wanting another piece to even cross your line of sight (for now). Water never seems to get old though, does it?

    Gassho
    Taylor
    Too far the other way. It isn't all pain, or discomfort, or dare I say, 'heroism'?

    Jack was a poet and a romantic. His weaknesses were wine and women. It's true he went too far in his expectations and burned out...but you can burn out just as easily the other way.

    I had a friend the name of whom I can't remember. I met him at the beginner classes at Kanzeon. He had a 'heroic' mindset and everything 'decadent' offended him. At one point, he ate only flour and water and he got very thin. He was ardently vegetarian. He only wore secondhand clothes. He worked with 'Food Not Bombs' and cooked vegetarian meals made from food reclaimed from dumpsters or that restaurants were throwing out.

    I ran into an ex-girlfriend of his about a year after losing contact with him. He too had burned out and had reverted to the Mormonism from which he'd rebelled.

    If in your practice, the angels sing - don't cling. If in your practice, nothing happens - don't cling. If in your practice you are uncomfortable - don't cling.

    If in your practice, the angels sing - don't push them away. If in your practice, nothing happens - don't push it away. If in your practice you are uncomfortable - don't push it away.

    It's not the shiny things in life that are the problem, it's the clinging. It's not the difficulties in life that are the problem, it's the pushing away of them.

    It's true that there's something a bit 'off' about the supposed 'bliss' of sitting zazen - and yet, it's true that sitting zazen can also be very peaceful and pleasant...and especially in the beginning, it's what may bring someone to the practice, so it's not all bad, is it?

    YMMV.

    Chet

  6. #6

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    I admit I was playing with words a bit :P haha I really do enjoy sitting for the most part. My whole point was something along the lines of, zazen may not be the most exciting part of your day or life, but! As Jundo said, we can't be blissed out all the time, either in meditation or samsara. Zazen is like water while seeking bliss is like candy. A flawed metaphor, I admit, but it fits in some ways I suppose.

    Gassho
    Taylor

  7. #7

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    But anyways, Craig, I suppose why zazen isn't the highlight of people's day, speaking from a beginner's standpoint, is that it's just ordinary. We come in looking for kensho, satori, anything! But, we don't find it. Sometimes bliss, sometimes not. Either way it's ok. The other day I was thinking about dropping off body and mind, what it should feel like, how much it should rock my world when it happens. Well I don't know if its happened, but after a year of meditation (including those magic esoteric Tibetan isms), nothing. But also not nothing, I'm more composed than I was a year ago, less apt to fly off the handle at silly things. But still, no magic.

    Sometimes we feel inspired to sit, after a good dharma talk or finishing a good book. Other times it's just another chore, like brushing teeth or folding laundry. If it's good - fine, if it's bad - fine. I don't have enough experience to say much more than I have.

    Humble newbie gasshos
    Taylor

  8. #8
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Is zazen the highlight of my day? God, I hope not!
    But it is the highlight of that moment.
    Zazen is just a part of my day, an important part, but going to work and all those other things are important, too, each a highlight in their own unique way.

  9. #9

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    But I haven't seen those kinds of posts. I see more "I should really sit more regularly", and "I just returned to sitting zazen after a few years off". I will admit that although my time on the cushion is fine, I rarely (if ever) continue to sit after the chimes ring. Anybody care to offer an opinion on why this is so?
    Because you don't believe in your empty mind 100%. Just try coming back to that 10000 times a day. When the chimes ring you are just moving to a differnet form.

  10. #10

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    hi everyone!
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Zazen is just a part of my day, an important part, but going to work and all those other things are important, too, each a highlight in their own unique way.
    I've nothing to add to what Alan Just said except perhaps an evidence, making / or letting each moment be an highlight is not always easy to do... but every place is a Zendo, isn't it?

    gassho,
    Luis

  11. #11

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    If dukkha is caused by the discursive mind and it's thoughts/expectations, and zazen is where we allow the discursive mind to become it's most calm - wouldn't we be at our absolute happiest/most blissful while sitting zazen? If so, I would expect to read all sorts of posts like "I missed happy hour the other night because I was so caught up in zazen", or "my girlfirend is so upset with me because we never have sex anymore because I prefer to sit zazen."
    When I began this practice, I thought that the ultimate goal was bliss and happiness. But now, not so much. Now I think that it is to be completely with the way things are now. Everything is perfect. Bad things are perfectly bad things, good things are perfectly good, and imperfect things are perfectly imperfect. All happiness and no sad can't last. It's too far in one direction, to extreme. We call this the Middle Way, not because we are indecisive and prefer inaction; think instead of a ball in a bowl. No matter what way you turn that bowl and move that ball around, no matter how much you disturb it, when you put it down and let it return to its natural state of stillness, the ball will always return to the middle, the center. The extreme sides can't hold it. Zazen isn't drug happiness, not euphoria. It's the happiness you get when you see a beautiful sunset, knowing full well that it was singular and you will never see a sunset just like that again. You are thankful to have seen it, sad that such beauty can't be there forever for all people to see, happy that you will remember it, while at the same time looking forward to tomorrow's sunset, even if tomorrow, it's supposed to rain. Zazen is a return to that, but it isn't meant to stop there. We need to bring that out into the world and make every day actions zazen as well.

    This practice is also taking life as it is, and perhaps not feeling euphoric about it, but being in harmony with it. That harmony, when you feel it and accept it, can bring you a measure of peace, even when things are not peaceful.

  12. #12
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Craig wrote:If dukkha is caused by the discursive mind and it's thoughts/expectations, and zazen is where we allow the discursive mind to become it's most calm - wouldn't we be at our absolute happiest/most blissful while sitting zazen?
    I think you might be setting up a duality here where discursive thought is turbulence and zazen is calmness. Zen is about a middle way beyond such dualities. Besides, there's lots of times when zazen isn't all that calm or absent of discourse; it's just the turbulence and discourse are treated differently while in zazen.

    Luis is exactly correct, and I thank him for pointing out my omission. I should've wrote that all the moments of the day are potentially highlights.

  13. #13

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    When I began this practice, I thought that the ultimate goal was bliss and happiness. But now, not so much... Zazen isn't drug happiness, not euphoria. It's the happiness you get when you see a beautiful sunset, knowing full well that it was singular and you will never see a sunset just like that again.
    Very well said, thanks. I think my issue is that I sometimes feel just the way you describe above - when I am walking, biking, hanging out in the park - but never while I am sitting zazen.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    A lifetime ago I wanted to find out what it was like to 'be natural' with no volitional activity (naive, eh).I just found that the world impels us into various activities, even those you don't want, like responding to your needs and the needs of others (delusion)! I just thought that there was no stillness or calm, or that there could be any stillness and calm in activity (duality).
    This was before I found out about zazen and began to practice.
    I miss it when I don't start the day with zazen and I have found that it is not an imperative but just something ordinary and at the same time simply wonder..ful. It now carries me though each moment of each day with something of a smile on my face (can't be too happy or people start to suspect somethings up!).

    Gassho Nigel

  15. #15

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    ... it's just ordinary. We come in looking for kensho, satori, anything! But, we don't find it. Sometimes bliss, sometimes not. Either way it's ok. The other day I was thinking about dropping off body and mind, what it should feel like, how much it should rock my world when it happens. Well I don't know if its happened, but after a year of meditation (including those magic esoteric Tibetan isms), nothing. But also not nothing, I'm more composed than I was a year ago, less apt to fly off the handle at silly things. But still, no magic.
    Ah, perhaps you mean that many folks are foolishly looking for "kensho, satori" as some beginners imagine it ... when they think there will be Hollywood Special Effects to accompany that, designed by George Lucas at his animation studios. Or, they imagine that all life problems will vanish ... no more flat tires on life's highway, no more cancer and no more wars. They think that they will be in a perpetual state of HAPPY BLISSED-OUT LALA LAND (not helped by the fact that some descriptions of "Nirvana" have tended to paint things that way ... probably written by authors who themselves were not permanently in such a state, but who had been in bliss sometimes, like all of us have sometimes ... and who themselves were not Buddhas, but who nonetheless did have an excellent command of adjectives to describe "Blissful Buddha Golden Heaven" as they imagined it must be.)

    Well, what one imagines is in the birthday present box ... under all the colored paper and bows ... and the actual present in the box are not necessarily the same. The actual present may be much more precious and lovely.

    Truly, I would say that the "gift" is to be so totally at home and whole with this life ... even with all its ups and downs ... so whole and undivided, that even "up and down" can be seen right through ... all resistance and separation and barriers dropped away. If one is looking for "magic" that looks like a cheap stage show "magic", or if one is only seeing the ordinary as merely "ordinary" ... one is missing the absolute fact the this ordinary world is anything but ordinary! THAT is the real miracle and magic!

    I am presently re-reading the most famous of all classical Zen texts ... the 'Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch'. I am comparing an early, simpler version from the 9th century with a later, more elaborate 13th century version. It is the work that is at the heart of our tradition. In no place in that work will you find an image of someone "blissed out" or running around like a crazy man yelling "Eureka Eureka". Instead, what one finds is a description of someone now totally at home in this reality ... even within/through/just as this complicated reality ... [my emphasis]

    "Good friends, since the past this teaching of ours has first taken non-thought as its central doctrine, the formless as its essence, and nonabiding as its fundamental. The formless is to transcend characteristics (of how this world appears) within the context of characteristics. Nonthought is to be without thought in the context of thoughts. Nonabiding is to consider in one's fundamental nature that all worldly [things] are empty ... whether good or evil, pleasant or ugly, and enemy or friend ... [The work goes on to emphasize that "nonthought", for example, is not a complete absence of all thought, but is being free of thought within thoughts]

    "The people of this world are delusively attached to characteristics (of phenomena) externally and delusively attached to emptiness internally. If one is able to transcend characteristics within characteristics and to transcend emptiness within emptiness, that is to be undeluded both externally and internally ...
    In other words, if one can do that ... if one can encounter the flat tires, cancer and wars of this life, but with a mind nonabiding, clear, transcending characteristics ... all is seen and experienced as before, yet is seen and experienced not as before.

    Gassho, J

  16. #16

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Many thanks to everyone. I really should finish reading that sutra ops: I still find myself questing after that "pure blue sky" that never ends. An occasional glimpse at the wonder of ordinary life. Sit sit and sit again. :idea: *Questing again* :roll:

    Taylor

  17. #17
    disastermouse
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    As Jundo said, the ordinary world is pretty extraordinary!

    It's bad form to talk about kensho in Zen, but when has that stopped me before? From my own perspective, I'll say this -

    It's not sufficient to wake up if you don't wake up again. And again.

    You don't wake up by becoming an enemy of the not-awake state. They are the same, equally empty.

    Don't chase kensho - it is right here, right now. There is nowhere to go.

    IMHO.

    Chet

  18. #18
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Self-sabotage is my answer to that question. I easily fall out of the habit of doing things that would be "good" for me in some way. My counsellor points it out and I don't know what to do about it. I just keep trying and re-trying.

  19. #19

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Sometimes zazen is what I want most during the day. Today for instance: This morning I sat the zazenkai from yesterday and I was filled with turbulent thoughts about this and that, very caught up in the clouds, often losing myself in my thoughts for long periods of time. So after I was done and now that I've gotten around the doing chores, I want to sit again. Mainly because I have an almost guilty feeling for being so wrapped up in thought. Sometimes zazen seems like redemption for all those times I wasn't mindful. Not a good approach to the entire thing.

    Actualize enlightenment in everything, from sitting to washing the car. Here's my "capping verse" :P

    Standing, I long to sit
    Sitting, I long to stand
    How strange.

    Zazen is life and life is zazen, working more to actualize that.

    Gassho

  20. #20

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Zazen can be very difficult for me at times. For instance, I'm going through some stuff right now, and I literally saw and felt the flash of anger I have at the situation during zazen last night. Then I was able to "sit" with it. That's the first time it has happened where I've actually witnessed anger like that as opposed to reactively displaying the anger to the world.

  21. #21

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Very well said, thanks. I think my issue is that I sometimes feel just the way you describe above - when I am walking, biking, hanging out in the park - but never while I am sitting zazen.
    Ahhh, I see a pattern. And this is actually tied into what Jundo and Chet both said. Notice that in all of your examples, that feeling appeared while you were doing something else and kind of "got caught" by that moment. It may be that during zazen you are looking for that moment. Going back to the sunset analogy, if you said, "I'm going to look at sunsets, every night, until I get that feeling of being overwhelmed by beauty!" You'd probably sit there every night saying, "that sunset was perfect.......or would have been had there been a little more yellow." or blue, or whatever. The point is, when you TRY to LOOK for it, you'll always find something wrong with it, but when it catches you while hanging out in the park, and you just look over at that naturally occurring sunset with out a discriminating mind, you just kind of go, "oh....look at that....." That is what zazen is. Remove the questing mind, stop trying to find this kensho / enlightenment / satori moment, and just return to that buddha-nature state of original MIND. Then, when you least expect it, you might just sit and go, "oh...."

  22. #22

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Very well said, thanks. I think my issue is that I sometimes feel just the way you describe above - when I am walking, biking, hanging out in the park - but never while I am sitting zazen.
    Ahhh, I see a pattern. And this is actually tied into what Jundo and Chet both said. Notice that in all of your examples, that feeling appeared while you were doing something else and kind of "got caught" by that moment. It may be that during zazen you are looking for that moment. Going back to the sunset analogy, if you said, "I'm going to look at sunsets, every night, until I get that feeling of being overwhelmed by beauty!" You'd probably sit there every night saying, "that sunset was perfect.......or would have been had there been a little more yellow." or blue, or whatever. The point is, when you TRY to LOOK for it, you'll always find something wrong with it, but when it catches you while hanging out in the park, and you just look over at that naturally occurring sunset with out a discriminating mind, you just kind of go, "oh....look at that....." That is what zazen is. Remove the questing mind, stop trying to find this kensho / enlightenment / satori moment, and just return to that buddha-nature state of original MIND. Then, when you least expect it, you might just sit and go, "oh...."

    I remember as a teenager sitting on a beach at dawn, trying to "really and totally" experience a sunrise. My effort was a wall. The more I tried to make the experience "wow" and "perfect like a postcard" as I dreamed ... the further it slipped from my hands, like beachsand through my fingers. It was not fulfilling, I left the beach feeling dissatisfied and rather empty.

    Now, I drop the effort ... drop all attempt to "really and totally experience" ... I stop "self checking" and "commenting/critiquing internally" ... thus to find the sunrise "real and totally experienced" all along. It was complete all along when I stopped trying to make it complete.

    As well, that is true even on rainy and cloudy days, when the sun can barely be seen. It is true even at night, far from the beach.

    (we are speaking both of literal sunrises here, and of "sunrises" as symbols for all of life)

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    Actualize enlightenment in everything, from sitting to washing the car.
    You cannot make enlightenment more enlightenment any more than you can make the sunrise more the sunrise. Sometimes, the way to "actualize" is by not trying so hard.

  23. #23

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    Actualize enlightenment in everything, from sitting to washing the car.
    You cannot make enlightenment more enlightenment any more than you can make the sunrise more the sunrise. Sometimes, the way to "actualize" is by not trying so hard.
    Gassho. A concept I still struggle with. Making something more than it is.

    But, of course, the following question: Should I not try to "be present"? Car washing is just car washing, but car washing is also zazen (but don't think of it as zazen)?

  24. #24
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    You are present. Where else could you be? Your distracting thoughts are also present - but what makes them distracting is your very desire for them not to be there.

    Be there, with the sunset and with the thoughts - all equally empty and also quite 'real'.

    You can't make reality more real

    Chet

  25. #25

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Gassho, Chet. So here's my understanding, please, everyone, check me if I'm off base.

    I sit here typing, only sitting here typing. In 5 minutes I will be zazening, only zazening. In the morning I will be waking, only waking. etc... Thoughts of "if only this" and "if only that" may and probably will come. But each moment is perfect in and of itsself. Rather than wishing for zazen while weeding, or wishing for kinhin while zazening, just do whatever need be done wholeheartedly. Nothing more to gain from any action than simply doing that action without deviation. Planting our feet on ground 10,000 times over and over whenever we find ourselves drifting away with the clouds again.

    P.s. Craig, sorry for hijacking this.

  26. #26

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor

    But, of course, the following question: Should I not try to "be present"? Car washing is just car washing, but car washing is also zazen (but don't think of it as zazen)?
    The answer is here, Daniel ... I mean, "Taylor" ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PycZtfns_U[/video]]

  27. #27

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor

    But, of course, the following question: Should I not try to "be present"? Car washing is just car washing, but car washing is also zazen (but don't think of it as zazen)?
    The answer is here, Daniel ... I mean, "Taylor" ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PycZtfns_U[/video]]
    In all seriousness, most moments of life, we can just go on about our business not trying to be "enlightened" or "buddha" or "zen" or "present" or "one with the universe" or "in the moment" or such. Just normal life. Just wash the car. Be the ordinary guy who has to wash the car in the ordinary way.

    You can always summon up the "enlightened in the moment zen present buddha" when needed and appropriate (when you get the hang of how to do that), like a sunrise you can call up at will. Then a moment of car washing will wash away all time and space! Truly, then all reality will feel like it is washing! Like turning on and off the hose.

    So ... turn on the music, get the soap and just wash the car without needing to make it a spiritual exercise (unless, of course, sometimes, you wish to do that!)

    Anyway, you are enlightened and buddha in any case, and it is "perfectly what it is", whether wax on, wax off. car dirty or clean.

    Something like that.

  28. #28

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor

    But, of course, the following question: Should I not try to "be present"? Car washing is just car washing, but car washing is also zazen (but don't think of it as zazen)?
    The answer is here, Daniel ... I mean, "Taylor" ...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PycZtfns_U[/video]]
    In all seriousness, most moments of life, we can just go on about our business not trying to be "enlightened" or "buddha" or "zen" or "present" or "one with the universe" or "in the moment" or such. Just normal life. Just wash the car. Be the ordinary guy who has to wash the car in the ordinary way.

    You can always summon up the "enlightened in the moment zen present buddha" when needed and appropriate (when you get the hang of how to do that), like a sunrise you can call up at will. Then a moment of car washing will wash away all time and space! Truly, then all reality will feel like it is washing! Like turning on and off the hose.

    So ... turn on the music, get the soap and just wash the car without needing to make it a spiritual exercise (unless, of course, sometimes, you wish to do that!)

    Anyway, you are enlightened and buddha in any case, and it is "perfectly what it is", whether wax on, wax off. car dirty or clean.

    Something like that.
    Gassho. I just found a Sawaki Roshi quote that I believes applies, "Living out the buddha-dharma means fulfilling your function completely without knowing that youíre doing it. A mountain doesnít know itís tall. The sea doesnít know itís wide and deep. Each and every thing in the universe is active without knowing it."

    It's hard to stop thinking about it and knowing it :?

  29. #29

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor
    Gassho, Chet. So here's my understanding, please, everyone, check me if I'm off base.

    I sit here typing, only sitting here typing. In 5 minutes I will be zazening, only zazening. In the morning I will be waking, only waking. etc... Thoughts of "if only this" and "if only that" may and probably will come. But each moment is perfect in and of itsself. Rather than wishing for zazen while weeding, or wishing for kinhin while zazening, just do whatever need be done wholeheartedly. Nothing more to gain from any action than simply doing that action without deviation.
    Before I head to bed (which I will do wholeheartedly), let me point you to one more old post.

    It seems to me that many people in Zen Practice have come to confuse "being present/mindful in the moment" (for example, "when drinking tea, just drink tea" ... a sometimes appropriate and lovely way to experience life) with "being at one with the moment" (allowing and merging with conditions of life "just as they are"). The two are not quite the same, and are often confused, and the latter is much more at the heart of this Path ...

    Hi,

    We recently had a thread or two on "mindfulness". My teacher, Nishijima Roshi, rightly comments that the word "mindfulness" is bandied about a bit too much in the Western Buddhist world, and is overplayed. People have a very idealistic, unrealistic image of "mindfulness" in Zen practice.

    "Mindful" can have a couple of different meanings in "Zen-glish". Some folks think it means (1) just to be aware of what they are doing in that moment, doing one action at a time. Some folks even think that the point of our practice is to be "mindful" of our every single activity all through our waking day, perhaps trying to live by doing one task at a time (when you eat, just eat ... when you walk, just walk). It is "being in the moment", and aware of the moment, one moment at a time.

    Some folks think that it is (2) to develop an awareness of our motivations, psychological reactions and emotions in each situation.

    Both those are good skills for Buddhists (especially 2), and I do not mean to say that we should not develop such abilities. But, on they other hand, they are only tools on our toolbelt, to be pulled out for use sometimes when appropriate. We are not to be that way 24/7, in each and every moment and situation.

    I recently wrote the following on the subject of "mindfulness" ... I had just come back from hiking in the mountains near here with our Sangha member Hans ...

    Hi,

    As I was walking down Mt. Tsukuba with Hans yesterday, on a really steep incline of small muddy stones, I had to be mindful of what I was doing right there ... all to avoid falling on my butt in the mud

    That's when I started thinking, "ah, yes, this is a time of mindfulness (type 1), there is balance of bodymind and I am present in this moment ... and I must tell the Treeleafers about it!" At which point, so filled with such wonderful thoughts was I, that I became distracted ... and slipped in the mud. (Fortunately, not enough so that butt hit stone). ops: ops:

    I think that there are times to be mindful in our practice in that way, and great lessons are to be learned there ... drinking a cup of tea as the only and perfect act in the whole universe of that moment, the same for "Oryoki" meals during a Sesshin, "just being" in the moment, when washing the floor "just washing the floor". I think it does have the simplicity that Will and Alberto describe, and I think it is much like the "Mindbodyfull-ness" that Harry coined ... Harry is a musician, solo-ing on stage and all that, so he knows something of the topic.

    But the one point I really really really wish to emphasize to folks is not to be too idealistic about what "mindfulness" is, or set it up as some unrealistic goal. I described it recently when I said this ...

    [Folks encounter lots of Zen teachings like the one mentioned by Master Seung Sahn, "when you eat, just eat. When you sleep just sleep..."] But I think that Master Seung Sahn's phrasing, like many Zen books and expressions, can sound rather idealistic if it implies that we must be "mindful" or in "Zen Mind" 24/7. My view is more balanced I think, namely, "when mindful of one thing, just be mindful of one thing ... when distracted, overwrought and multi-tasking, just be distracted, overwrought and multi-task". There is a time for everything, and we cannot be "mindful" each minute. All of it is life.

    However, one of the great fruits of our Zen Practice is that, even when we are distracted, overwrought and multi-tasking, feeling completely miserable and off balance ... and even when "Zen Mind" feels very far away ... we can still know it is 'there' even if we do not feel it at that moment [the blue sky always behind the clouds]. So I say, when feeling completely "miserable and off balance", just be "miserable and off balance" in that moment ... it too is a temporary state of mind.


    So, in other words, have a balanced and realistic view of life ... even a balanced view of sometimes or frequently being unbalanced, overworked, distracted and such.

    When falling on your butt in the mud because you were thinking about "mindfulness" ... JUST DO THAT! IT TOO IS A PERFECT ACT IN THAT MOMENT!!
    Let me mention, before we go, the other common meaning of "mindfulness" in Zen-glish that, I believe, is perfectly valid (type 2). That is to develop some recognition and awareness of the causes and conditions of our mental states, the arising and passing of the various thoughts and emotions that pop in and out of mind. For example, developing a sensitivity to feelings of anger as they begin to arise within us, and before they grab hold of us.

    I think that this is also a fundamental practice of Buddhism, right back to some of the first words out of the Buddha's mouth in Jetta Grove. It enables human beings to have some control over being prisoners of our thoughts and emotions, and we can more easily find balance and moderation, some self-control. So, it is a good awareness for a Buddhist. We come to see our experience of the world as largely a bit of theatre created by whatever emotions and ideas are floating through the brain at a given moment.

    However, this too (in our Zen view) is not to be taken to extremes. Mindfulness of this type is a useful skill, but only sometimes. Most of the time we can just think and feel without having to be particularly analytical about it, or focused on being aware of it. There is a time for everything.

    Gassho, Jundo

  30. #30
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    I'm glad that you made this distinction Jundo, because I just could not see myself trying to control every single second of my life by being "aware" of them. I think I would become rather paralyzed with fear of making a mistake. Surely when I drink tea, I am drinking tea; but I might also be looking across the pond at a flight of geese. I would not particularly like to have missed the geese while I enjoyed the jasmine green tea.

    This puts me in mind of the Eastern Orthodox monastic practice of Prayer of the Heart, or prayer without ceasing that St. Paul speaks about; which are equally part and parcel of the Hesychyst practice so well observed on Mount Athos or Russia. It is (without all the mumbo-jumbo, incense, candles and such) simply being aware of our living in the presence of eternity. Of course there were those who "over-exercised" this concept and went quite mad, or starved to death, or were eaten by bears :shock: ; but even better were those who applied the practices with what we call "economia", or in this sense, a modicum of reason and allowance for our imperfect understanding. So in that imperfect way they lived their simple lives reminding themselves that they lived in eternity, moment by beautiful moment.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  31. #31

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    Surely when I drink tea, I am drinking tea; but I might also be looking across the pond at a flight of geese. I would not particularly like to have missed the geese while I enjoyed the jasmine green tea.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    This puts me in mind of the Eastern Orthodox monastic practice of Prayer of the Heart, or prayer without ceasing that St. Paul speaks about; which are equally part and parcel of the Hesychyst practice so well observed on Mount Athos or Russia. It is (without all the mumbo-jumbo, incense, candles and such) simply being aware of our living in the presence of eternity. Of course there were those who "over-exercised" this concept and went quite mad, or starved to death, or were eaten by bears ; but even better were those who applied the practices with what we call "economia", or in this sense, a modicum of reason and allowance for our imperfect understanding. So in that imperfect way they lived their simple lives reminding themselves that they lived in eternity, moment by beautiful moment.
    Thank you for this Kyrillos. I have read "The Way Of A Pilgrim" with great interest, as well as the Philokalia. But I don't think I have ever heard such a beautiful and clear description of what the "prayer of the heart" is all about. I admire you for living in two worlds at one time, which of course is really just ONE world. Thanks again.

    gassho
    Greg

  32. #32

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Definitely all things in moderation. That is also what attracted me to Zen in the first place. It's also called the Middle way because we try not to get so caught up in one thing or another to the point that we forget that there is something else there too. No fun when you are standing on one end of a see-saw with nothing to help balance the other side. I try to balance my practice of zen with my every day life, which I try to balance with my practice of zen, which I try to balance with my everyday life....and so on....and so on.

  33. #33
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Indeed Brother Kyrillos,

    As an old Zen saying goes: boil the sound of pine trees in the pot...

    We may just watch everything as we drink tea, this over there is not excluded form the activity here and now. Drinking tea is drinking air, clouds, highways, fields, mountains...This moment is really big.

    Just like our sitting, not just a few inches of flesh balanced on a cushion. Where do sitting starts, where does it end?

    As we sit, everything is invited into it. The one and undivided being-time is our practice.

    gassho

    Taigu

  34. #34
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Hi JohnsonCM,

    As you say:

    I try to balance my practice of zen with my every day life, which I try to balance with my practice of zen, which I try to balance with my everyday life....and so on....and so on.
    Trying is extra. Trying is misleading, I am afraid. Allow your practice to flow into your life and let your life turn into practice, allow the moment where you cannot separate one from the other. That's practice. Otherwise you are pretty caught up in the trying and trying again.

    No fun when you are standing on one end of a see-saw with nothing to help balance the other side
    Well, we think that our practice is this:

    This is from the Mumonkan, the koan collection. This is the
    Fifth Case of that collection. It's called "Hsiang-yen: Up a
    Tree".
    The priest Hsiang-yen said, "It is as though you were up in
    a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands
    and feet can't touch any branch. Someone appears beneath
    the tree and asked, `What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's
    coming from the West?' If you do not answer, you evade your
    responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life. What
    do you do?"
    This is fun. Real fun. And this is your-mine-everybody's life.

    Ask trees, grass, birds about balance...they haven't a clue. They don't care about balance. It happens by itself.

    gassho

    Taigu

  35. #35

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Well, we think that our practice is this:

    This is from the Mumonkan, the koan collection. This is the
    Fifth Case of that collection. It's called "Hsiang-yen: Up a
    Tree".
    The priest Hsiang-yen said, "It is as though you were up in
    a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands
    and feet can't touch any branch. Someone appears beneath
    the tree and asked, `What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's
    coming from the West?' If you do not answer, you evade your
    responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life. What
    do you do?"
    This is fun. Real fun. And this is your-mine-everybody's life.

    Ask trees, grass, birds about balance...they haven't a clue. They don't care about balance. It happens by itself.

    gassho

    Taigu
    Everyday I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place and I'm never going to get it. This place is always moving and I don't know anything except for a moment or two.
    /Rich

  36. #36

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    First I'm thankful that this is an online zendo and that it's not an ancient zen school or I'd probably have received several whacks by now. lol

    But I can't resist asking questions, and I hope I'm not annoying because I ask so many, but I feel if I don't ask them I won't be following the dharma. I dont want to just nod my head in agreement if I don't "get" something. I read Buddhist literature, but it just isn't the same as the forum posts here. Every time something is posted it tests my understanding (I don't know if that's the right word) of the dharma.

    In any case, now I have another question about that koan. I mean if you don't answer you live (but you evade your responsibility), if you answer you fall to your death. Is there no answer? Is the answer outside of that dual way of looking at it (Is that what you meant Taigu)? We typically view our practice in a dualistic way, but this is pointing to another way not tied to yes/no, right/wrong thinking?

    **EDIT**
    Or is this how we view our practice from our "I" perspective, when in fact practice isn't this at all?

    Is this not living pointing to the death of the ego that if you answer in accord with the dharma it kills the false notion of self?

    Am I sort of on the right track, am I over-thinking it?

    Thank you all for humoring my questions

    Cyril

  37. #37
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Not bad Cyril, but who said the answer had to be wordy? The koan itself says "what do you do?" not what do you say :wink: ...How do you allow the non-dual to be alive in your life? How? How?

    The question won't be answered. It would be dead. The answer is alive, made of cells dancing away in your own Cyril way yet Buddha.

    Keep the question as it is ans sit it. Sit and live as it. Do shikantaza.

    gassho


    Taigu

  38. #38

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Thank you!!!

  39. #39

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by cyril
    In any case, now I have another question about that koan. I mean if you don't answer you live (but you evade your responsibility), if you answer you fall to your death.
    Just as a side note, I've seen this translated a few ways. Now a days, people aren't as concerned with evading responsibility as they were so long ago. The "modern day" version I've seen says that if you do not answer you will be killed and if you speak you fall to your death. A bit more sticky, but also a bit less.

    I have no answer, and because I would be stealing it, I cannot give you. However, Uchiyama Roshi once wrote something along the lines of, "When the time comes to die, why not just shut up and die?"

    Gassho

  40. #40

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    The priest Hsiang-yen said, "It is as though you were up in
    a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands
    and feet can't touch any branch. Someone appears beneath
    the tree and asked, `What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's
    coming from the West?' If you do not answer, you evade your
    responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life. What
    do you do?"
    Stop climbing trees!!! :shock:

  41. #41
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    too late ...

    Cracking a cheap joke won't get you anywhere, buddy

    T

  42. #42

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Is there another lesson in balance here? I would hope the passerby would recognize the gravity (:P) of the situation and go get a ladder, we can discuss Bhodidarma after he helps me down.

    Bringing practice into every part of your life doesn't mean walking around all day in some sort of wigged-out Zen-stupor. That's the troubling part of this koan for me: why's this guy looking for answers to philosophical questions when there's obviously an emergency overhead? There's a wide gap between dropping attachment and becoming so detached that you can't function.

    Look at it from the perspective of the other us, the person on the ground. If we laser-focus on practice/study/contemplation to the exclusion of all else, one day we'll be sitting Shikantaza and our friend's jaws will finally tire out... then they'll fall right on our head.

    Still no answer, and maybe I'm cheating, but more to consider.

  43. #43
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    one, two, three and ... My steps on this earth. I am walking on the edge of a cliff. It is not philosophical and no ladder will save me.
    Wake up Peter.

    gassho


    Taigu

  44. #44
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    By the way, your appreciation and understanding of shikantaza...read my previous post, please. Where does sitting start or end?

    gassho


    T

  45. #45

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Where does sitting start or end?
    Now.

    gassho

  46. #46
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Hi Peter,

    again, an answer...and a nice one.

    Not answering and being-opening-blooming is our gentle Soto way.

    take care


    gassho

  47. #47

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    too late ...

    Cracking a cheap joke won't get you anywhere, buddy
    Neither will climbing trees. 8)

    Which way is up? Which way is down?
    Are the roots in the ground or in the sky?
    And, by the way, who is climbing?

    fog.
    sitting here
    without the mountains
    (gary hotham)

  48. #48
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    too late means we all are in this tree...
    You don't even have to climb it.

    Take great care
    and please, practice humbleness ( a good one for people like you or me)


    gassho


    Taigu

  49. #49

    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    too late means we all are in this tree...
    You don't even have to climb it.
    oh. man, I was waaaay off. sorry. just having fun.

    you win. :wink:

    bows

  50. #50
    disastermouse
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    Re: Is Zazen the highlight of your day?

    LOL, the plight of the teacher!

    How does the tree taste, Taigu? How many times have you fallen to your death?

    We students of Zen are never satisfied with noble silence.

    *gassho*

    Chet

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