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Thread: Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Zazen for Beginners (Part XII)

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  1. #1

    Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Zazen for Beginners (Part XII)

    Rev. Taigu continues his comments for “beginners” on allowing sitting to just sit … to open, to blossom …

    He talks a bit about legs flowing into the ground, the hands in mudra, the gently closed mouth, where the head is let to head … and other bits of the whole … directing, not ‘doing’ …

    CLICK HERE for today’s Sit-A-Long video.

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Okay, well I"m about 2 years late in this conversation, but I confess I was sitting with a wrong posture. I was not holding my hands in the correct position. I just tried zazen in the correct position and it made a huge difference!! Jundo, I sincerely hope I don't come back as a goat now, you've got me worried If I must come back as a goat, can I at least belong to a vegetarian!!!

    gassho,
    Treena

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Emmy View Post
    Okay, well I"m about 2 years late in this conversation, but I confess I was sitting with a wrong posture. I was not holding my hands in the correct position. I just tried zazen in the correct position and it made a huge difference!! Jundo, I sincerely hope I don't come back as a goat now, you've got me worried If I must come back as a goat, can I at least belong to a vegetarian!!!

    gassho,
    Treena

    Never early, never late, right on time Treena.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Ah! Shokai! You've turned around!
    迎 Geika

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia View Post
    Ah! Shokai! You've turned around!
    Agreed ... Now that we have seen the frontside and the backside, do we get to see the middle side?

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  7. #7
    Thank you, senseis, for this wonderful teaching and discussion.

    Gassho,
    Matt

  8. #8
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Thought I would share this from Shunryu Suzuki- roshi, from a lecture 1965:

    Suzuki-rōshi:
    Oh, cosmic mudrā. Cosmic mudrā, you know, and your question [are] related. Cosmic mudrā is—this is—to sit is to participate. This is not right word, but to—to participate—self-use of big existence—one whole existence including everything. So this is, you know, one sole existence, the symbol of one big existence including everything. So it is symbol of our practice.

    Gassho
    C

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Thought I would share this from Shunryu Suzuki- roshi, from a lecture 1965:

    Suzuki-rōshi:
    Oh, cosmic mudrā. Cosmic mudrā, you know, and your question [are] related. Cosmic mudrā is—this is—to sit is to participate. This is not right word, but to—to participate—self-use of big existence—one whole existence including everything. So this is, you know, one sole existence, the symbol of one big existence including everything. So it is symbol of our practice.

    Gassho
    C
    I am not always sure when reading Suzuki Roshi what parts are insight and profundity, and what parts are just his struggles with English vocabulary and grammar ... but all lovely nonetheless!

    This quote (as opposed to some of his talks in Zen Mind Beginners Mind and such) seems 80% the former, but something good always comes out even if unintended wording.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-05-2013 at 02:48 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I am not always sure when reading Suzuki Roshi what parts are insight and profundity, and what parts are just his struggles with English vocabulary and grammar ... but all lovely nonetheless!

    This quote (as opposed to some of his talks in Zen Mind Beginners Mind and such) seems 80% the former, but something good always comes out even if unintended wording.

    Gassho, J
    I know what you mean he can seem a bit difficult to understand. To me what I get form this is that we use Cosmic Mudra as a symbol of our practice as in "all is one", but that we also DO it in order to participate with everyone in our practice. ( and not just NOW) I thought this latter part was especially worthwhile.

    Gassho C

  11. #11
    great vid!
    Last edited by atropis88; 02-07-2014 at 05:28 PM.

  12. #12
    Member Nandi's Avatar
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    Two things: "Rigidity in the jaw is will" and "the shape ( as in shape not condition) of the body while sitting"

    This morning I completely understood the meaning.........


  13. #13
    Junior Member raytash's Avatar
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    Thank you, Taigu and Jundo for your very special videos on Zazen for Beginners. I have wanted to post since I arrived here a few weeks ago but questions are often answered by reading the comments and the videos. And just watching and sitting. I do have a few questions, though. How high is the cushion supposed to be? It is a Cosmic Cushion (As a beginner, I fell for the novelty). I usually use the back side. I have taken the hulls out to lower it so it is about 4". I am 5'3" and weigh 98#. I sit on the edge so that my abdomen curves out and down slightly. I cannot yet sit in full Lotus so I sit in the Burmese position but I feel out-of-center and drift left or right depending upon which leg is in front as I can feel the change in my back. Should I be working on getting into the Lotus position as it seems to be the most stable? The one foot keeps sliding out of position and it very uncomfortable. I am not flexible enough to position them fully on my thighs. I will try but will use the Burmese until I am comfortable. I also attempt your excellent suggestions to keep the mind still or quiet. I tried placing my mind in my left hand in mudra. And the visuals of a sleeping mind in my hand becomes a whole story. I had read Pema Chodron's suggestion to use "stay" as I do with my dogs. This works for awhile but then I go visual again and my mind has its two second commentary until I return to center again. The "blue sky" is wonderful except that I picture no clouds and the thoughts enter anyhow. Concentrating on my breath and counting becomes a rote. Is it just a matter of "letting go" and relaxing into it with each session? And to ignore my "thoughts" that tell me "I should try...etc.?" My mind travels to ask you questions at that time too. Gassho. Ka

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by raytash View Post
    Thank you, Taigu and Jundo for your very special videos on Zazen for Beginners. I have wanted to post since I arrived here a few weeks ago but questions are often answered by reading the comments and the videos. And just watching and sitting. I do have a few questions, though. How high is the cushion supposed to be? It is a Cosmic Cushion (As a beginner, I fell for the novelty). I usually use the back side. I have taken the hulls out to lower it so it is about 4". I am 5'3" and weigh 98#. I sit on the edge so that my abdomen curves out and down slightly. I cannot yet sit in full Lotus so I sit in the Burmese position but I feel out-of-center and drift left or right depending upon which leg is in front as I can feel the change in my back. Should I be working on getting into the Lotus position as it seems to be the most stable? The one foot keeps sliding out of position and it very uncomfortable. I am not flexible enough to position them fully on my thighs. I will try but will use the Burmese until I am comfortable. I also attempt your excellent suggestions to keep the mind still or quiet. I tried placing my mind in my left hand in mudra. And the visuals of a sleeping mind in my hand becomes a whole story. I had read Pema Chodron's suggestion to use "stay" as I do with my dogs. This works for awhile but then I go visual again and my mind has its two second commentary until I return to center again. The "blue sky" is wonderful except that I picture no clouds and the thoughts enter anyhow. Concentrating on my breath and counting becomes a rote. Is it just a matter of "letting go" and relaxing into it with each session? And to ignore my "thoughts" that tell me "I should try...etc.?" My mind travels to ask you questions at that time too. Gassho. Ka
    Hi Ray (please sign a name to your posts, and add a little human face picture, because it helps us stay human with each other).

    The cushion, like any chair, should basically be judged by your own sitting. If it feels balanced and comfortable, and you can sit the 30 or so minutes feeling supported and unbothered ... then it is good! Perhaps choosing a good bra or pair of shoes is about the same ... no one size and shape fits all. Experiment by removing the stuffings until it feels right. Just remember that, generally, we sit in the forward half or third of the cushion (the spine should rise from the center of the cushion or a bit in front of that). Also remember that the body and cushion settle and change during a long sitting, and that is fine. Best not to move too much during a sitting, but fine to shift weight slightly left or right, back or forth during a sitting in order to adjust.

    Now that being said, not sure what is a "cosmic cushion". All Zafu are "Cosmic Cushions"! (Although, don't forget, they are also basically just something to sit on, and we don't need to fetishize our chair too much). Is the "cosmic cushion" this thing that looks like a fortune cookie? Not sure how to sit on that from personal experience, so just give it a try.

    http://www.sunandmoonoriginals.com/s...n-Zabuton.html

    You could try the Lotus, attempting to have the knees resting nicely on the ground as described here in our Guide to Basic Sitting ...

    https://sites.google.com/site/jundot...edirects=0&d=1

    But if it does not begin to feel comfortable in a few days or weeks, maybe go back to Burmese and simply adjust your weight back and forth, right and left slightly to find the good place (in fact, try that even now in Burmese). Remember, this is not about having to hold one rigid position and being afraid of slipping off. Adjust, much as a pilot may slightly adjust the controls on the autopilot once in awhile between letting the plane get back to doing the flying.

    Now, most importantly ... our way is not about trying to make or keep the mind still or quiet! It is more like letting water settle on its own by our not messing with it. No need for a phrase to focus on. The clouds are not a problem, although we try not to grab them or stir them up. We are not trying for a "peaceful silent" state of mind by force, but rather a sensation of clarity and peace with blue sky and clouds. Blue sky free of thought clouds is good, sky with clouds is still the same sky present. Blue sky free of clouds is good and we sometimes experiences that ... but it is not a matter of needing to attain so all the time, and more a matter of seeing the blue which always shines through the clouds of thoughts and emotions (and not drowning lost in the fog and clouds), the clarity and light present even when seemingly hidden to our eyes. Ultimately we realize that blue sky is even present on the most dark and stormy days.

    Please look at this essay ...

    Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen

    ...

    "there is good Zazen, and bad Zazen ... but never any bad Zazen"

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...nd-Wrong-Zazen
    Also this recent post on the proper attitude of Shikantaza Zazen ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post139056

    Let me know how it goes.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-16-2014 at 04:59 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Junior Member raytash's Avatar
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    Hello Jundo,
    Your description of the mechanics of sitting and your download guide is comprehensive and informative. Yes, the Cosmic Cushion is from Sun & Moon, Sage Meditation, and does resemble a fortune cookie. I have used the front side as well as the back and have yet to decide which side is best for me. I did make one adjustment in my sitting on the cushion and that is to move to the floor onto a 1" cushion instead of sitting on a bench that is heavily padded. The floor allowed me to try out an attempt at half lotus, which turned out to be the most comfortable position thus far. Next stop, full lotus as soon as I can coax my other ankle to make the turn. I do rock from side to side until I feel settled. Like a tree in a breeze. Thank you for the advice. I am most interested in achieving the proper position so that I can relax into the best part of meditation without thinking about doing it right.

    Now for the important stuff: I copied and pasted to my Word program the essays you recommended, namely the discussion on good and bad Zazen and the proper attitude of Shikantaza Zazen. These are very juicy and meaty (food analogy) and I will need time to digest them. I will feast (I am taking lessons on analogies from you!) on those essays more thoroughly. Meanwhile, as a rank beginner, I daily try some new things, eg., breath, stay, space, nothingness, blue sky, and today's attempt, non-thinking and in between thinking to focus on. At least I have gotten to the point where I am no longer wondering when the timer will go off. Instead I find myself surprised at the pleasure (wrong word but adequate until I find the more appropriate one) I am having and disappointed at the termination.

    Is that wrong? Am I entertaining myself rather than meditating? Thoughts arise and sometimes I get carried away but return to the "non-thinking". I don't count the times but don't pay any attention to that either. I feel fully present and aware of what I am doing/non-doing and cognizant of returning to my "center". I find that an anchor or hook is more of a diversion than just no-thought. I do not feel any brilliance as you mention or a light going off, just a sense of being in the right place in that non-thought, which is very difficult to hang on to. It is like being on a side of a cliff where I can enter into a small sliver of glass. I am aware of the cushion but am not. It is only when I become "aware" of what I am doing or what is happening that my thoughts come back. Maybe I am just being that Bozo on a Bus ride. After reading this, I sound like a Bozo.

    I don't know much about Buddhism and there seems to be a plethora of knowledge I need to attain. I look forward to reading and learning more but I do not want to become so jaded that I question everything. I like this part of the beginning of hunting and gathering but I am not sure how to proceed.

    Gassho Jundo and much gratitude. Ka

  16. #16
    Hi again, Ka,

    First, please do not feel like you must sit in the Full Lotus to have the full benefit! I have seen many folks blow out their knees in Full Lotus, and really believe that thunder thighed, less flexible modern folks might have more trouble with it than the lithe, thin legged folks of old Japan and India. The Burmese, or even a Seiza Bench or a chair if needed, can be fine, balanced, nurturing of good sitting. However, go for it ... some like it. (I still try to sit so every few weeks, but tend to the Half and Burmese).

    Your experiments in posture and mental approaches sound fine and natural. You find what works for you (both in body and in mind). The following description by you actually sounds like pretty good Zazen to me!

    Thoughts arise and sometimes I get carried away but return to the "non-thinking". I don't count the times but don't pay any attention to that either. I feel fully present and aware of what I am doing/non-doing and cognizant of returning to my "center". I find that an anchor or hook is more of a diversion than just no-thought. I do not feel any brilliance as you mention or a light going off, just a sense of being in the right place in that non-thought, which is very difficult to hang on to. It is like being on a side of a cliff where I can enter into a small sliver of glass. I am aware of the cushion but am not. It is only when I become "aware" of what I am doing or what is happening that my thoughts come back. Maybe I am just being that Bozo on a Bus ride. After reading this, I sound like a Bozo.
    Sometimes I feel great pleasure or rapture too. It is just that, in our crazy-wise way of sitting Zazen, we do not need or try to linger there. Same with moments of "brilliance, a light going off" which happens too ... great spiritual moments. We let these come (if they come), we savor and learn, we let them go. Other days, we might feel "off our game" or "lost in thought" or blue or the like, anything but pleasant or brilliant. Yes, we look forward to getting "back on our game" and "finding our way" again. But, in the meantime, all Good Zazen, even the bad Zazen days! We learn that it is all the Big Bus Trip.

    We are learning that Blue Sky is Present even when hidden by clouds ... no problem. Clarity of the Mirror is present no matter what clutter is reflected in it ... no problem. Our Practice is not to ONLY attain Blue Sky all the time with no clouds (although it sometimes is so), not to have only Mirror with nothing shown in it. (Some types of meditation, in contrast, try to only feel rapture, only have Blue Sky, only Empty Mirror or some other like state. Shikantaza is more subtle than that).

    Understand?

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-18-2014 at 04:59 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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    Junior Member raytash's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jundo.

    I sat in half lotus throughout today's mediation but just at the last 5 minutes, my leg went into a painful cramp. I finished in Dandasana. I want to try to sit in Full Lotus but my legs may have different ideas.

    At the beginning of meditation, after a few breaths, sometimes I am in a bad place or not. I find that if I relax into what is happening, I can usually let go of whatever enters. Sometimes there is an active problem but it disappears after a few minutes. Once or twice, I did have difficulty and left meditation for later in the day. I don't look for problems or joy or clouds or blue sky. Or a clear or dusty mirror. Maybe that will come as I progress.

    Suzuki's book, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" has been my favorite book and I often return to it. The prologue about the "original mind" is one that I reread often. At this point in my practice, which is very early, I try to reach that part of me. Words are inadequate to describe that sense and perhaps that capability comes with experience. It is that part of me that opens when I reach that fraction of a nanosecond of non-thinking. It is that part of me that I want to be with in my mediation. Is that grasping?


    Having tried other forms of Buddhism, it seems that there are more disagreements, "shoulds" and obligations that I find cumbersome and detrimental to what I feel meditation is all about. On another forum, I found that criticism of the various practices runs rampant and is confusing. Finding the right fit for me seems to be right here in Shikanstaza. I am comfortable in feeling the freedom to be me or who I know I am. Then perhaps I can know the cosmic connection that others speak of.

    Quote Originally Posted by MyoHo View Post

    Dogen said the original truth is all arroud us. Thinking about this and listening to a great talk by Taigu on the Genjokoan, I found that where you place your attention while sitting can be many. The whole world or even universe is constantly and tierlessly teaching us and showing the way. This is why there is no magic manual that works for everyone. In my case, listening to everything arround me and at the same time to whats inside me, reveals something that can only be described as a huge cosmic symphony. I dont know if you like modern classical music ( the incomprehensive bashing of a piano and such) or Jazz? In that kind of music you must let go of your traditional ideas of melody and rithm. It sounds like incomprehensible noise without a clear order or rithm untill you cultivate a taste for it and really pay attention. If you keep looking for sweet, midle of the road music in a modern classical piece, you get bored and frustrated by the terrible noise.

    When I sit, I listen to all sounds of the world and try to join in with the rithm of my breath. Soon there no longer is a me or you, an inside or outside. You are just part of this one whole, great and amazing no-thing. Airplanes, fighting neighbours, a bird singing, a car passing in the street and yes, also all those thoughts that come in our mind are noises too. Now your thoughts are just musical notes of the astounding and eternal symphony composition that is reality. Dropping the urge to make sense of it all, without judging or distinguishing whats what inside and outside, the whole thing turns out to be you all allong.

    Gassho

    Myoho
    I have yet to consider meditating to music. Music, especially the classics, predominately opera, has always put me into a trance of sorts. I can listen to the Magic Flute or Turandot all day long. I don't feel I am meditating though.



    I realize I am ego-based here. Does this leave as I practice more?

    Jundo, I try and do understand and am grateful for your teaching. Your analogies are perfect and very helpful.

    Gassho,
    Ka
    Last edited by raytash; 10-19-2014 at 04:28 AM.

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