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Thread: No Interruption To Shikantaza

  1. #1
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Lately I've been sitting facing my wife and child as they sleep. Last night I started sitting long before either of them were asleep. Our son refused to sleep. He kept getting up and crawling over his mother, crawling to the edge of the mattress to get at his toys and books, kept "talking" and laughing. I just sat. I didn't ignore them. That would have been impossible anyway. I just sat.

    Sometimes I laughed or smiled with them. At one point I got up to hold my son down while his mother changed his diaper, which he didn't like and he didn't hesitate to show his displeasure to us. Sometimes my wife and I would exchange words. While she sang to him while trying to rock him to sleep I got up and wordlessly held out my arms to offer to carry him. She gestured that it wasn't necessary and continued to rock him. I kept on sitting.

    The point I'm trying to make is that lately I'm beginning to loosen up the mental separation I have between Zazen and everything else. Sure, I have to practice Zazen and I have to do it a certain way, sit a certain way, etc. That's true. It's also true that everything else is Zazen. Shikantaza is just what? Just sitting.

    It was so different for me two years ago.

    Two years ago I decided it was time to stop merely reading Zen books and online Zen articles and time to put what I had read to practice. So I decided to try sitting daily for ten minutes every morning upon waking up (I tend to rise earlier than my wife so I figured that was the best time). I had read about counting the breaths as a practice for beginners so I decided to work with that.

    One morning I was sitting when my wife woke up earlier than usual. She started getting ready for the day, fixing the bed, changing her clothes, etc. Of course, she kept passing by me, which I found really distracting. I mean, there I was trying to count the breaths and my attention kept drifting to her and the sounds of her activity. I felt more and more annoyed. Especially when she would occasionally stop and watch me. The final straw was when she literally bent down in front of me and said something like, "hello" in a manner that I usually find cute and endearing. In exasperation I said something like, "I'm trying to concentrate here!"

    In Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" she describes an imaginary conversation she would have with her mind every time she would try to concentrate on her mantra. That's very similar to the conversation I kept having with my mind while counting breaths:

    Me: (inhale, exhale) One, (inhale, exhale) two...
    Mind: Wait, try breathing a bit more naturally, from the diaphragm
    Me: okay. (Inhale, exhale) one...
    Mind: NOT TOO DEEP!
    Me: right, right. (inhale, exhale) one, (inhale, exhale) two...
    Mind: Good, just eight more and then we're back to one. How many more minutes before the alarm rings? Hey! Bring your attention back to the breath! We're drifting here!
    Me: Okay. (inhale)
    Mind: Man, at this rate we'll never reach ten. We'll be stuck at one until the end of the session.
    Me: AND WHOSE FAULT IS THAT!?
    Mind: YOURS!
    Me: (inhale, exhale) One...

    *wife stirs in the background*

    Mind: She's awake
    Me: Yes. (inhale, exhale) One, (inhale, exhale) two
    Wife: Good morning!

    These days my mind is as noisy as ever. But that's okay now. Nowadays it's just:

    Mind: blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

    and that's okay - it's just the mind going "blah blah blah blah blah." Our son cries and it's just our son crying. I get up to pick him up, and it's just getting up. Life interrupts my Zazen, but where is this interruption?

    My allergic rhinitis likes to kick in during morning Zazen. So my Zazen is usually punctuated by "AAAACCCHOOO!" I like to call it Sneezingtaza™. Just sitting, just sitting, AAAHHH AHHHH, just sit - AAACCHHHOOO! Just sitting. Just sitting. Baby cries. Just sitting. Crying gets louder, baby is pissed off. Get up, put him back to sleep. Back to the makeshift zafu and pillows. Just sitting. Just sitting. Where is the interruption when life is just this, zazen is just This?

    There is no interruption to Shikantaza, even as I am interrupted. There are no distractions even as I am often distracted.

    _____________________________________

    You probably will be doing so, but I will say it anyway: please feel free to comment, correct, praise, object, agree, disagree, etc. Although I wrote this originally for my blog, I didn't want to just put it there and leave it at that. Sure, some people who read it may post their comments there, and they may even have good points, but it wouldn't be the same as having a conversation here at Treeleaf.

    Gassho, Rafael.

  2. #2

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Life interrupts my Zazen, but where is this interruption?

    My allergic rhinitis likes to kick in during morning Zazen. So my Zazen is usually punctuated by "AAAACCCHOOO!" I like to call it Sneezingtaza™. Just sitting, just sitting, AAAHHH AHHHH, just sit - AAACCHHHOOO!
    Ahhhhh! SHIKANTAZA!

    oh .. this post made me smile and cry at once ...

    i think i will insist everyone read it always ... and make it as naturally part of their being as sneezing ...

    he started getting ready for the day, fixing the bed, changing her clothes, etc. Of course, she kept passing by me, which I found really distracting. I mean, there I was trying to count the breaths and my attention kept drifting to her and the sounds of her activity. I felt more and more annoyed. Especially when she would occasionally stop and watch me. The final straw was when she literally bent down in front of me and said something like, "hello" in a manner that I usually find cute and endearing. In exasperation I said something like, "I'm trying to concentrate here!"
    Oh, how many times I hear about folks who are exasperated because life is "not peaceful enough" and interfering with their sitting, with their hunt for peace and meaning.

    Life never interferes ... even when it interferes.

    Nothing is exasperating ... even at its most exasperating.

    Life is never "not peaceful enough" ... even when anything but peaceful.

    Rafael, please just continue to practice in this way, go this way, now and forever. You will be fine.

    Nine Bows, Jundo

  3. #3
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Thank you, Jundo.

  4. #4

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    its amazing how now and again i see posts that are exactly what i have been thinking. ok, so for me, its not a wife or a kid, but my cat.....yep, a four legged feline zen master. she is a loner cat who doesnt come around unless its on her terms, and even then it is only for a second.....until the zazen bell goes off, and then.......she becomes my best friend :roll: :lol: she wont leave me alone. climbs up my torso, smells my face, kneeds my clothes, (and my flesh). its the most bizarre thing i have ever seen.



    so one day, it happened and i got super pissed off, (after all, i am trying to meditate here!! the nerve!!) and picked her up off my lap, set her next to me and said NO!!!!!! then she looked up with these pathetic eyes that said..."all i want is love!!!" and at that moment i realized it isnt all about me, and that i wasnt angry with the cat, but with the fact things werent how i wanted them. now i am learning to sit with it...its a challenge LOL



    thanks for posting!



    gassho,



    steve

  5. #5
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Has it made you stop wanting things to be different?

    Chet

  6. #6

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    nah, i still sometimes want things to be different, but i am learning to be ok with it how it is at the same time. :wink:

    steve

  7. #7

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I really needed to hear this! I have 3 small children (ages 3-6) and two young puppies and I get so frustrated that I can't get 15 minutes of peace and quiet!! You have helped me see that quiet is not necessary and peace is readily available.

    Jundo, thank you for bringing this to my attention!

    April

  8. #8
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Thank you Rafael.

    My limited understanding meets your big practice.

    gassho


    Taigu

  9. #9

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    I am a little confused now. I can understand that sitting zazen while noise and distractions are going on is fine - maybe even an advantage (learning to let those distractions go as we sit shikintaza). But what I am inferring (maybe incorrectly) from this discussion is "zazen in front of the tv with the family is fine. If something interesting comes on tv, take a break and listen, then go back to zazen. If the kids have a question, go ahead and answer it, then go back to zazen. If the dog wants to go out, get up, let the dog out, come back to sitting. etc."

    My limited understanding of shikintaza (from what I have read) is that we are trying to "be" our awareness and let go of small mind thoughts that tend to come up. This does not seem to be what is being described in this thread - this thread seems to be saying it is just fine to follow our small mind thoughts, act on those, then come back to zazen.

    If what this thread is really saying is "it's better to sit with interruptions than to not sit at all" - I can grock that. But if this thread is saying "interruptions are fine, getting up and down from zazen is fine, it doesn't matter" - then I am confused. Comments?

    Thanks,

    Craig

  10. #10

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    I am a little confused now. I can understand that sitting zazen while noise and distractions are going on is fine - maybe even an advantage (learning to let those distractions go as we sit shikintaza). But what I am inferring (maybe incorrectly) from this discussion is "zazen in front of the tv with the family is fine. If something interesting comes on tv, take a break and listen, then go back to zazen. If the kids have a question, go ahead and answer it, then go back to zazen. If the dog wants to go out, get up, let the dog out, come back to sitting. etc."

    My limited understanding of shikintaza (from what I have read) is that we are trying to "be" our awareness and let go of small mind thoughts that tend to come up. This does not seem to be what is being described in this thread - this thread seems to be saying it is just fine to follow our small mind thoughts, act on those, then come back to zazen.

    If what this thread is really saying is "it's better to sit with interruptions than to not sit at all" - I can grock that. But if this thread is saying "interruptions are fine, getting up and down from zazen is fine, it doesn't matter" - then I am confused. Comments?

    Thanks,

    Craig
    Some of your examples I can agree with, others not so much For instance: This morning during my sitting, the doorbell rang, and I was the only one available. Rather than let the person wait out my sitting, I got up and answered the door, showed them in, and told them my mother would be with them shortly. Then I went back to sitting. In the same sense, I had to excuse myself from an interview with Jundo today because the dog needed to be let in. Being very hot outside, could I let my dog wait? I think not. There's a manner of appropriateness and balance that needs to be established. If other's are suffering (in one form or another) because we just "can't be disturbed", then we are only being selfish.

    If, on the other hand, we are disturbed because we find something more "interesting", the TV perhaps, and decide that zazen is less important, we are only being lazy and making excuses. Sit your zazen in a quiet place, but if your child/dog/cat/partner walks through, let them walk through. If they need something, do it, then go back to sitting. For the most part we try to remain seated and still, for that is often when our mind is most still. But when we have to get up and move, well, get up and move! Don't begrudge it, don't thank Buddha for the relief in your knees. Just get up and move, then sit again when you're done moving. :mrgreen:

    Rambling again. In short: Life throws balls, frisbees, and occasionally rocks and baseball bats. If dodging it isn't an option, catch it. I don't think any zen master would fault you. Just make sure you know your reasons for moving aren't selfish!

    A gassho and a half
    Taylor

  11. #11

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor

    ...For instance: This morning during my sitting, the doorbell rang, and I was the only one available. Rather than let the person wait out my sitting, I got up and answered the door, showed them in, and told them my mother would be with them shortly. Then I went back to sitting. In the same sense, I had to excuse myself from an interview with Jundo today because the dog needed to be let in. Being very hot outside, could I let my dog wait? I think not. There's a manner of appropriateness and balance that needs to be established. If other's are suffering (in one form or another) because we just "can't be disturbed", then we are only being selfish.

    ......
    Taylor
    Another awesome thread Now I understand what Suzuki Roshi says in "Not Always So" about the koan about a man who climbs to the top of a 100-foot pole. "If he stays on top, he is not the enlightened one. When he jumps off the top of the pole, he may be the enlightened one." (p. 17 - 18)

    If we see life as interfering, then we are separating ourselves, and this is not our practice. We are life... life living us.

    "For instance, when breakfast is ready, my wife hits some wooden clappers.... When I don't answe, I am on the top of the pole. I don't jump off. I believe I have something important to do at the top of the pole: "You shouldn't call me. You should wait." Or I may think, "This is very important! I am here, on the top of the pole! Don't you know that?" ... That is how we create problems. So the secret is to say "Yes!" and jump off from here. " p 18 -19

    saying yes is being open and receptive doing what needs to be done, not doing what doesn't need to be done, but not adding any extra "ornaments".

    Gassho everyone

    Cyril

  12. #12

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    I am a little confused now. I can understand that sitting zazen while noise and distractions are going on is fine - maybe even an advantage (learning to let those distractions go as we sit shikintaza). But what I am inferring (maybe incorrectly) from this discussion is "zazen in front of the tv with the family is fine. If something interesting comes on tv, take a break and listen, then go back to zazen.
    I am going to offer a "both true at once" answer, like so many things in Zen Practice ..

    Okay, most days, we’d best sit Zazen in a quiet room, with little noise and few distractions. The reason is simply that a peaceful, still, quiet environment helps us allow the mind to become peaceful, still and quiet, with thoughts and emotions drifting away as the mind settles down.

    But, really, it takes two to tango with "distractions" ... things outside and, more importantly, your reaction inside to feel it is a "distraction" (the mosquito, for example, is just a mosquito doing his mosquito thing. It is your reaction that makes it a distraction). So, while we seek to sit in a "quiet room" ... we also, simultaneously, accept "just what is", sitting with what is. Really, there are no "perfectly optimal" rooms and situations and, even if they are, they don't last.

    Quiet room sitting ... good Shikantaza. Noisy neighbor and kids sitting ... good Shikantaza. There is no "bad Shikantaza ... even the bad Shikantaza". However, when you can, sit in the quiet room. Cat jumps in your lap, keep sitting ... with the cat.

    It is for this reason that maybe every two or three weeks or so, I recommend you sit Zazen in a truly disturbing place. At the below link, I am sitting Zazen in one of the busiest, brightest, noisiest parts of downtown Tokyo — to make the point that the true quiet room is within us as much as out. In fact, if we always need a calm and tranquil environment in order to reach the balance, stillness, ease, and freedom of this practice, then I believe Zazen loses much of its power. It is right at the eye of the storm that one can know stillness, and in the middle of chaos that we can taste peace.

    So, for that reason, I hope everyone will sit, once in awhile, in a truly disturbing, disagreeable, ugly, noisy, smelly, busy, and distracting place. In a stinking garbage dump, next to a construction site with jackhammers pounding, at an Ozzy Osbourne concert, in a game room, while crushed in a crowded city bus or parked in a parking lot off a busy highway.

    We can drop all thoughts of beautiful or ugly, moving or still, noisy or silent, chaotic or peaceful .. and just sit as what remains.

    Yet, most days ... we sit in a quiet room, tv turned off, dog outside, mosquito repellent working..

    Here are some links to a couple such "sit-a-longs" ...

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=15188

    This also leads to a couple of other threads on "sitting with disturbances" ...

    viewtopic.php?p=36597#p36597

    And mosquitoes, achy legs and such as our Great Teachers ...

    viewtopic.php?p=10701#p10701

    Gassho, J

  13. #13

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Thanks, Rafael, for this lovely post. I'm often in situations where a blaring television is on in the next room, and so forth while practicing zazen. When this first happened, I became agitated and extremely annoyed that -they- were interfering with MY time. I then realized reality is reality whether I choose to accept it or not. And if I'm sitting zazen with distraction, I just sit..and that's that.

    Gassho,

    Lu

  14. #14

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    I was reminded of something that happened this morning as I was sitting by what Steve wrote about his cat.

    I have a female greyhound, and usually she's lazy and sleeps while I'm doing my morning Zazen. This morning, however, she decided to peek into the bedroom and see what I was doing. I just kept sitting while she sniffed around for a minute and figured out what I was up to. Then she just returned to the living room and her bed. In the back of my mind somehow it all clicked that a) all beings truly are interconnected, and b) she knew what I was doing there on the cushion, so decided to leave me alone to sit.

    It was truly remarkable. It made me think that what she does when she lays on her bed all day long is probably no different than human Shikantaza


    Chris

  15. #15
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    I am a little confused now. I can understand that sitting zazen while noise and distractions are going on is fine - maybe even an advantage (learning to let those distractions go as we sit shikintaza). But what I am inferring (maybe incorrectly) from this discussion is "zazen in front of the tv with the family is fine. If something interesting comes on tv, take a break and listen, then go back to zazen. If the kids have a question, go ahead and answer it, then go back to zazen. If the dog wants to go out, get up, let the dog out, come back to sitting. etc."
    I don't know of anyone who claims to sit zazen in front of the tv with the family. I certainly wouldn't do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    If what this thread is really saying is "it's better to sit with interruptions than to not sit at all" - I can grock that. But if this thread is saying "interruptions are fine, getting up and down from zazen is fine, it doesn't matter" - then I am confused. Comments?

    Thanks,

    Craig
    Well, Jundo and Taylor's explanations say it very well. But I guess I'll attempt to explain in my own words (just take them with a grain of salt, okay?):

    On the one hand, we should sit zazen in a quiet room with as little external distractions as possible. On the other hand, Life is rarely a quiet room with as little external distractions as possible. On the one hand, yes we should just keep sitting zazen when distractions come up. On the other hand, sometimes getting up and dealing with the distractions is zazen.

    Anyway, my post wasn't about sitting zazen in front of the tv with the family. In fact, the other night was the more the exception than the rule since normally I do it when they're both asleep. And just to be clear: I'm not claiming that sitting facing your family (who are potentially distracting even while asleep) is better than sitting facing a blank wall. The reason I started sitting this way was to drive home to myself the lesson that Life is rarely ever as neat as a blank wall and rarely ever as quiet. Even when I sit facing the wall with my wife and child asleep, I can still hear them breathe, shift positions, snore, cry, whimper, etc. And while I normally do just sit with that, sometimes it is necessary to get up to change a full diaper instead of waiting for my tired wife (who needs more rest than I do) to do it.

  16. #16
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Quote Originally Posted by pcward
    I was reminded of something that happened this morning as I was sitting by what Steve wrote about his cat.

    I have a female greyhound, and usually she's lazy and sleeps while I'm doing my morning Zazen. This morning, however, she decided to peek into the bedroom and see what I was doing. I just kept sitting while she sniffed around for a minute and figured out what I was up to. Then she just returned to the living room and her bed. In the back of my mind somehow it all clicked that a) all beings truly are interconnected, and b) she knew what I was doing there on the cushion, so decided to leave me alone to sit.

    It was truly remarkable. It made me think that what she does when she lays on her bed all day long is probably no different than human Shikantaza


    Chris
    Our shelter-adopted cat "Alley" (RIP) used to love it when I would sit. She would somehow know what I was doing from the other end of the house, and unless she was asleep (Alley was a very lazy cat), would come up to my room. She would somehow find a way to fit all or part of her fat body on the zabuton :lol: and would sit with me, and purr. It was very strange, and yet comforting. She loved sitting with anyone who was being quiet and still. And she liked that zabuton so much that she would often seek it out as a lounge/nap spot when I wasn't sitting, and use the zafu as a pillow for her head :lol: Animals are amazing

  17. #17

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    I hadn't seen this thread until today and I am glad i saw it. Thank you everyone for your posts here. I find that all of it is something i needed to read.

    gassho,
    Corey

  18. #18

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Thank you for this thread. It has stirred emotions in me and made me smile. I appreciate that. I wish I had read this before now as well. Back in the States, my one year old daughter loves to sit on my lap while I am on my zafu. She also loves to steal it from me and take it to the living room and sit on it while she does various tasks like colouring or watching Yo Gaba Gaba! I once tried to move my zafu, while I thought she wasn't looking, back into my "quiet room" and she pitched a fit and ran over to grab it from me. I decided this was a good oportunity and sat on the couch and watched her sit on it for quite some time. I learn more from her than anything else in this world and it is those images I sit with now.

    "Do No Harm."

    ~Rob

  19. #19

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Hi everyone!

    First, Thank you all for this thread!
    It seems that we will always need Jundo to explain what Shikantaza is again and again... even if this can never be explained... anyway, it is always good practice and we always need the reminder!

    I'll "add my little stone to the edifice"... I think there is also a matter of respect in all that.
    I don't mean that we must regard zazen-shikantaza as something totally separated from our daily life, something more SACRED or whatever... but just to have respect for each moment of our life.

    In the way we behave we show respect to ourselves and to others, respect for what we live and the way we feel about it.
    I just see this "respect" thing as full acceptance and tolerance of what is. It is normal to be disturbed or bored sometimes, but to see and accept it as our practice, as it is in this moment, that's what I call respect for each moment.
    So, in this perspective, a "difficult" zazen needs to be respected as any other zazen. Not judge, not see as less good than another moment...

    Well, I hope you guys will understand what I tried to say...

    Gassho to everyone,
    Luis-Jinyu

  20. #20

    Re: No Interruption To Shikantaza

    Thank you for this wonderful thread.

    I am the only one who practices zazen in my household and I have only asked that I not be disturbed directly during zazen unless it is an emergency.

    For me a quiet room is often upstairs when the family is down stairs and down stairs when the family is up stairs. This means that I often sit with the tv going or the radio playing country (of all things) in the back ground. When it is time for my wife to get ready for work or she just wants to do something in the room I am sitting in (including vacuuming) she does so. If the kids are playing war and the battle happens to go through the room I am in it does so. Further more, we just recently rescued a poodle named Bingo and he likes to put his nose in the middle of the cosmic mudra when I am sitting .

    Such is the environment of my zazen most of the time and sitting in these conditions has actually helped my practice quit a bit. When I first started meditating years ago this sort of thing would drive me up a wall. I would in fact get very pissed off that my family could not respect me for just half an hour and keep the noise to a minimum. Now it is just life, I am no longer disturbed by all the things that arise within the environment of my practice. Now there is no difference between the birds singing out my window or the tv being on or my wife vacuuming the house. There is just sitting with whatever arises without getting stuck in anything in particular and when I get up from Zazen its just life living life.

    I humbly bow to you all and thank you for sharing.

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