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Thread: Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part X)

  1. #1

    Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part X)



    Last time, in our series on Zazen for Beginners (we are all always beginners), I used the analogy of clouds of thoughts and emotions drifting through an open, clear, boundless blue sky.

    I said, in Shikantaza “Just Sitting” Zazen, we do not resist the clouds, do not attempt to silence the thoughts and emotions forcefully. Instead, we just return our attention again and again to the clear sky, and allow the clouds to drift out of mind. Be focused on “everything and nothing at all,” just as the sky covers all the world without thought or discrimination.

    What is more, I said, we do not think of the clouds as “bad” while the clear sky is “good” … We never say “this cloudy day is not good because there is no blue sky today.” When the sky is blue and empty, let it be so. When the sky is cloudy, our mind filled with thoughts and distractions, let it be so. Drop all judgment of Zazen, and of all of life, as “good vs. bad.” Nonetheless, though we reject nothing as “good” or “bad” Zazen, we do not stay in the clouds. Not at all! We allow the clouds to drift from mind and return our attention again and again to the blue.

    In doing so, a surprising thing happens …

    Though we do not reject our thoughts and emotions, do not try to change them, suppress them, judge them or push them away… “bad” thoughts will change, will be experienced quite differently, and sometimes fully drop away. To illustrate this process, I will talk about sitting with three common thoughts and emotions that may fill our heads during Zazen or at any moment of life: anger at someone, greed for something, and fear about the future.

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



    Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-28-2013 at 01:15 AM.

  2. #2

    Re: Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part X)

    Hi,

    Thanks so very much. You have explained this so well.

  3. #3

    Re: Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part X)

    I really needed to hear this today. My mind keeps grasping at objects I think I need in order to be happy. The acquisition of more 'things' or 'stuff' is not going to bring contentment...yet it's something I need to reflect on again and again or else that grasping, needy mind resurfaces. This teaching is a big help. Thanks!

  4. #4

    Dealing with negative thoughts during zazen

    Jundo:
    Something bothers me slightly about this talk and the prior one. The thing that bothers me is that, although you advise no resistance to the clouds that come up into consciousness while meditating, you talk about turning from the clouds (negative thoughts and emotions) to the blue sky. Also, in an earlier talk, the video shows you metaphorically blowing intruding thoughts away. Perhaps these metaphors give the impression of more resistance and active doing than is intended?

    I admit I am a big nit-picker. And this is a very subtle and difficult point to convey exactly. In reading the books of the great twentieth-century sage Krishnamurti, for example, I feel it is easy to get the impression that his approach to dealing with negative emotions is a more active process than he is really suggesting ( believe he is suggesting an attitude very much like that of Shikantaza).

    Perhaps you mean just not giving these negative thoughts and emotions energy; or, if they are very strong, just sitting with them as an undivided activity (I see Pierre Turlur mentions this phrase as one of Dogen's in one of the Youtube videos) until their energy subsides?

    Pleas comment on this subtle point.

    Thanks,
    Dave

  5. #5
    Hi Dave,

    It is a very good question.

    Shikantaza is not really active or passive. I would say that, yes, at those moments in the middle of a sitting in which we find ourselves tangled in thoughts, thinking about the guy who cut us off in traffic yesterday or the electric bill due to be paid tomorrow, we do gently let them go ... open the hand of thought ... lightly blow them away ... and return to sitting in the quiet, vibrant clarity between thoughts.

    At the same time, we do not actively wrestle our thoughts and emotions, fight, try to stamp them down by force. We drop all resistance to the thoughts, all tension, even as we turn away from thinking them.

    Our sitting should not be numb, energyless, bump on a log, completely passive, dead headed ... but should have a certain spark of life, vibrancy, energy to it. We settle into a quiet, still center that is nonetheless vibrant yet not too vibrant, not numb yet not over stimulated, manifesting a spark of life but not burning the house down.

    It is a middle way. I sometimes compare this to Ai-ki-do, the martial art which emphasizes ... not wrestling with the opponent ... but using the opponents energy to simply drop our own resistance, step out of the way, and allow the opponent to go past by his own force and weight. Another description is Wu-wei-wu ... non-action action.

    I hope that helps.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6

    "Opening the hand of thought" - a reply to Jundo's answer

    Jundo,

    Thanks for your answer. "Opening the hand of thought" is a deft phrase to describe this process of letting go of our thoughts. It brings to mind the fact that thought is literally a grasping or apprehending accompanied by bodily tension. "Opening the hand of thought" and letting go of it is then a process of relaxing, not pushing.

    Dave

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Schauweker View Post
    Jundo,

    Thanks for your answer. "Opening the hand of thought" is a deft phrase to describe this process of letting go of our thoughts. It brings to mind the fact that thought is literally a grasping or apprehending accompanied by bodily tension. "Opening the hand of thought" and letting go of it is then a process of relaxing, not pushing.

    Dave
    Opening the hand of thought is a saying by Uchiyama Roshi, and my top book recommendation for folks new to Shikantaza ...

    http://books.google.com/books/about/...d=fOU_1vlGN9UC

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Jundo, my meditation has been sporadic over the past week, and when I do finally get a chance to sit my mind races, but everytime I sit, I hear your voice in my head "there is no bad zazen"

    And, so I sit, with my racing mind, even if it's only for a few minutes. And something happens, because I get up, I feel more peaceful, and when it is time to sleep I drift off into such a deep, peaceful sleep. So thank you, even my "bad" zazen much be doing something "good"

    gassho

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    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    Gassho Emmy

    Shawn

  10. #10
    How does one allow thought or emotions drift away when not sitting in Zazen. For example, when the emotion of anger or retaliation arises during a heated argument? Could one follow the same practice to bring back the blue sky (and not cause harm to oneself and others)?

  11. #11
    Hi Eugene,

    Yes, learning to take this Practice "off the cushion" is vital. You will find a couple of talks about that later in this series of "Beginners" talks, but really such is at the heart of all our Practice everyday around here.

    I sometimes compare sitting on the "Zafu" to a flight simulator like pilots use, and getting up from the Zafu is taking to the air. One becomes better, in many life situations, at letting go and seeing right through our passing thoughts and emotions.

    Here are some recent discussions on anger. Yes, there is many things one can do in the heat of anger to allow such to pass. It is okay to just bite one's tongue if one needs, or follow the breath for a time. Feeling anger is one thing, acting on the anger ... with words and, even more, with fists ... is another. Anger can really "take us over" from the most primitive parts of the brain, and at those times it might be necessary to bite the lip, grit the teeth and "white knuckle" the urge or emotion until it passes. Other times, one can gently let it go simply, without grabbing the hook.

    However, this Practice allows us ... more and more ... to be trained in simply "letting stuff go" without biting the hook.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ying-With-Fire

    We also touch upon this during our ongoing Precept reflections for Jukai. We will come to "To Refrain from Being Angry" in a few weeks. Please look for that.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
    How does one allow thought or emotions drift away when not sitting in Zazen. For example, when the emotion of anger or retaliation arises during a heated argument? Could one follow the same practice to bring back the blue sky (and not cause harm to oneself and others)?
    Hello Eugene,

    Thank you for the questions ... all I can give is an example that happened to me. After 28 years I went back to school and was quite nervous and intimidated about it. The short and sweet of it all is, I found that this wonderful practice allowed me to "just be" and be "ok" with just being in the moment of that nervousness and intimidation. To not push or run away from it; to embrace it and than watch it fade away.

    Today when I am in class, I notice the feelings are no longer there - if they do arise, I know they will fade ... they come, they go and that is ok. Just some of my simple ramblings.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  13. #13
    Thanks so much Shingen.

    Just knowing these feelings will fade away is already a big encouragement.

    eugene

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
    Thanks so much Shingen.

    Just knowing these feelings will fade away is already a big encouragement.

    eugene
    You are very welcome Eugene.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

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    Member Nandi's Avatar
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  16. #16
    Member Nandi's Avatar
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    Excellent explanation - I can relate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    It is a middle way. I sometimes compare this to Ai-ki-do, the martial art which emphasizes ... not wrestling with the opponent ... but using the opponents energy to simply drop our own resistance, step out of the way, and allow the opponent to go past by his own force and weight. Another description is Wu-wei-wu ... non-action action.

    I hope that helps.

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17
    My question is more about the physical part of my sitting. I am a senior, with artificial knees and weak back and neck muscles, so I have been meditating in a chair with support for my back and head. Feet are flat on the floor. In my younger years, while practicing Vipissana meditation, I did sit on the floor and go through the physical and mental adjustments needed. That is not possible now. Have you any suggestions, or am I OK?

    Thank you.

  18. #18
    Hi Frayda,

    My simple rule of thumb is that, if a position feels comfortable and balanced, so that one can basically forget about the body, then it is a good posture. If that is the most comfortable and balanced way you can sit, then sit that way.

    Taigu's videos in this series should be very helpful to you. I will also ask him to comment.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Hi Frayda,

    You are perfectly ok as Jundo says. Go with what is comfortable. Support is fine. Form a beautiful mudra as an endless gift from the universe to all and yourself.
    Just be with whatever arises. And please don t judge.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  20. #20
    Hi Jundo

    Thanks very much for this talk. It spoke to me very strongly. I am having to contend with fear quite a lot of the time at the moment - and sometimes it has been overwhelming. Yet I have found sitting with fear, allowing myself to feel it fully, while still very painful, is also in some way releasing. It no longer overwhelms me and gradually, very gradually it dissipates. Even when it still remains very strong at the end of a sitting, somehow the dynamic has changed and I find that I can get on with my day without the dark shadow that it sometimes casts.

    I still have a long way to go with all this but these few experiences have given me heart. Your talk confirmed my sense that it is possible to live differently and to deal with our demons in a very different way - not wrestling with them but maybe just giving them some space to be heard (without getting into conversation with them). I hope this makes sense and please correct me if I have misunderstood.

    Gassho,

    Biffo

  21. #21
    Hi Biffo,

    Yes, this sounds right. There are many variations on this these days, and Buddhist Practice can be very helpful with fear (I know, because I am a naturally born scaredy cat). Just recognize the fear, allow, recall that the "mind theatre" within our heads always colors our world with various emotions that will pass with time ... let it be, release. When afraid, just be afraid ... and somehow the fear becomes smaller and may even fade away.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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