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

  1. #1

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



    We continue our video series on how to do Zazen, and how to allow the thoughts and emotions that appear during Zazen to drift from mind.

    I often use the analogy of clouds (of thought and emotions) drifting in and out of a clear, blue spacious sky (a mind open and clear of thoughts).Our mind in Zazen may be compared to the sky; We are open, clear, spacious, boundless, bright, like the clear blue sky… Our attention is focused on everything and nothing in particular, just as the sky covers all the world without discrimination… Thoughts, like clouds, often come and go.

    Clouds drift in and out, that is natural. However, we bring our attention again and again (10,000 times and 10,000 times again) to the open, blue sky between, allowing the clouds of thought to drift away. More clouds will come, and so we repeat the process endlessly, once more and once more bringing our attention back to the blue sky… to the open spaces between thoughts.

    However, this is important to bear in mind:

    We do not try to “silence the thoughts forcefully” in Shikantaza. It is more that we allow the thoughts that naturally drift into mind to naturally drift out of mind, much as clouds naturally drift in and out of a clear blue sky. In this way, return again and again to the open, clear blue sky. Although we seek to appreciate the blue, open sky between the clouds, we do not resent or despise the clouds of thought that drift through our mind. We are not disturbed by them, we do not actively chase them out, neither do we welcome them, focus on them, play with them or stir them up. We allow them to pass, and return our focus once more to the quiet blue. 10,000 times and 10,000 times again.

    As in the real sky, both blue expanse and clouds are at home there. We should reject neither, not think the blue somehow “truer” than the clouds. In fact, some days will be very cloudy, some days totally blue … both are fine. 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, let it be so. You see, even when hidden by clouds, the blue is there all along. Both the blue sky and the clouds are the sky … do not seek to break up the sky by rejecting any part of it. (In other words, do not think one good and the other bad). WE DO NOT SEEK TO BREAK UP OR RESIST ANY PART OF THE SKY, CLOUDS OR BLUE… It is all the unbroken sky.

    Nonetheless, though we reject neither, we allow the clouds to drift from mind and return our attention again and again to the blue. Throughout, we are awake, aware and alert, conscious and present… we are not in some mysterious or extreme state. Nor are we dull, feeling lifeless or listless, for we should feel as illuminated, vibrant, boundless and all encompassing as the open sky itself.

    The clouds of thought and the clear blue are not two, are simultaneously functioning and whole … a single sky. This is our way in ‘Just Sitting’ Shikantaza Zazen. When you see the clouds, be as if you are thereby seeing the clouds as blue. When you see the blue, you may also see the blue as clouds. In fact, as you advance in this practice, you will find that the blue sky illuminates, shines through the clouds … is the very enlightening lightness of floating clouds themselves ... and we can come to experience both together… both thoughts and silence… as one.

    Master Dogen called that “thinking not thinking,” or “non-thinking.”

    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; 01-10-2013 at 12:24 AM.

  2. #2

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

    Thanks for this,

    I was aware that you mentioned that there is no incorcorrect way to do za zen in the way It is not supposed to be anything. However, towards the end, you had mentioned that we should feel a certain. Amount of energy. What if we keep falling asleep during the sitting? Is this seen as being incorrect?

  3. #3

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray
    Thanks for this,

    I was aware that you mentioned that there is no incorcorrect way to do za zen in the way It is not supposed to be anything. However, towards the end, you had mentioned that we should feel a certain. Amount of energy. What if we keep falling asleep during the sitting? Is this seen as being incorrect?
    Hi Ray,

    If you have a physical condition or illness that causes one unavoidably to fall asleep in Zazen ... then we just sit with that, sit with what is.

    However, if one is healthy, then one should not fall asleep during Zazen (even though it all happens to us once in awhile ... especially those folks who may be holding down 3 jobs these days! :shock: ). EEG tests have shown that Zazen can place us into state of brain waves very close to the border of sleep, so it is very easy to slip over. However, just breathing, eyes open, alert (even though not caught in thoughts and emotions) ... no, one should not sleep during Zazen. When I get sleepy during Zazen, I sometimes stretch the spine and neck upwards just a bit (not too rigidly), adjust the posture, take some deep breaths ... that helps. If at home and not disturbing others, yes, one can switch to Kinhin walking Zazen if needed.

    Here is some more that me and other folks have written on the subject of sleep and Zazen, including how not avoid drowsiness. It includes a rare picture of the stick that Zen monks used to use to prop their heads up so that they could sleep in Zazen.

    viewtopic.php?p=58021#p58021

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

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

    Thanks jundo,

    I will try this.

    Gossho,

    Ray

  5. #5

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

    I have a question about this, I interpreted this as "mindfulness of awareness in midst of transiting thoughts, or feelings. or sound or w/e" would that be correct?

    I was "doing" this the other day, eyes half open but something odd occured. While my eyes were half open "things" started rearranging themselves. Objects' borders would get finnacy and whatever was in my field of view was seen as another object. It only happened after I stopped "playing with the clouds" enough. Is this a hypnogogic state that I should "snap" out of during meditation? I did that yesterday as I was really confused about it, I wasn't asleep, quite aware that stuff was being interpreted as other stuff, just "watching the clouds" but I stopped since I wasn't sure what to make of it.

    It's nothing threatening, I knew that at any time I could come to and it would go away which it did but should I allow this if I really feel that I'm not falling asleep?

    Cheers,
    Greg

  6. #6

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Sleeps
    I have a question about this, I interpreted this as "mindfulness of awareness in midst of transiting thoughts, or feelings. or sound or w/e" would that be correct?
    I would not worry able how to label it, and just let thoughts come and go without latching on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sleeps
    I was "doing" this the other day, eyes half open but something odd occured. While my eyes were half open "things" started rearranging themselves. Objects' borders would get finnacy and whatever was in my field of view was seen as another object. It only happened after I stopped "playing with the clouds" enough. Is this a hypnogogic state that I should "snap" out of during meditation? I did that yesterday as I was really confused about it, I wasn't asleep, quite aware that stuff was being interpreted as other stuff, just "watching the clouds" but I stopped since I wasn't sure what to make of it.

    It's nothing threatening, I knew that at any time I could come to and it would go away which it did but should I allow this if I really feel that I'm not falling asleep?

    All manner of sensory "tricks" can occur during Zazen. Some are quite interesting, as seems this one. We may note them, but do not particlarly encourage them in our little corner of Buddhist meditation. Here is what I usually post on such topics ...

    In Zen Practice, we have to be careful of certain games the mind will play during Zazen once in awhile ... including unusual visual and auditory sensations, brief periods of paranoia or panic, memories arising from deep down in our subconscious. We are not used to the stillness and quiet of Zazen, and it lets certain memories, emotions, fears and like psychological states rise to the surface ... or allows some things (spots in our eyes that are always there even though not usually noticed, background sounds) to be noticed that are usually blocked out by all the noise and busyness in our heads, senses and around us.

    Once, during a Sesshin, I became irate inside because I felt the monk at Sojiji sitting next to me was "encroaching on my space". I once had a little Buddha pop out of the wall and chat with me for several minutes (I pinched myself ... he stayed!), and felt like I was floating in the air. It is common during Sesshin, because of the strains involved, the "sensory deprivation", to experience such things as emotional swings, hearing becoming so sharp you can be disturbed by an ant walking across the room, strange bodily sensations such as feelings of floating or being giant sized, and paranoia. I think what you describe fits into this category.

    If it is just once in awhile ... and if you are aware of this, and it was not too overwhelming ... then I do not think it cause for worry. If it becomes too overwhelming, break off that sitting and take a little time off until you cool down. If it becomes a regular event, or too profound, that may be a sign of something else that needs to be approached. But, once in awhile ... I would not be concerned.

    We tend to call such things "Makyo", defined as follows (by Daido Loori Roshi). He speaks of hallucinatory like experiences ...

    In Zen, hallucinations are called makyo. It is not unusual for practitioners sitting in meditation for long periods of time to experience makyo. Some people feel like they are levitating, others see visions of the Buddha bathed in light, some hear sounds or voices. This in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when we confuse these experiences with enlightenment. When students come to me in dokusan to give me elaborate description of their makyo, a common response from me could be something like, “Oh, don’t worry about it—it will go away. Maybe you’re not sitting straight.” In other words, don’t attach to it. But if a dream is real, why isn’t makyo real? Are dreams, makyo, enlightenment and delusion the same, or are they different?
    We learn from all these experience ... we learn how the mind is like a theatre, and creates our experience of the life-world.
    I also posted this once ...

    Sensory deprivation, and really paying attention to objects of sight that we usually do not pay attention to (the patterns on the carpet, for example) can have such an effect. These things usually are connected to the mechanics of the visual sense, and often beyond our control. It is just an optical illusion.

    A dry as toast, but good book on the topic is Dr. Austin's Zen and the Brain ... he has a discussion of all manner of hallucinations here (from about page 373).

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=w ... DyJTKBdEnA

    Seeing patterns on the carpet or wall you are looking at, and floor undulation, is kind of like this effect produced by a bad carpet:

    http://www.moillusions.com/2007/11/wavy ... usion.html

    Another common effect is to see "spots in the eyes". Most are there all along (floating impurities, early cataracts and such of the eyeball itself), but we just do not notice them until we sit still. Many are just the "cones and rods" of the eye that were there all along. The cones and rods of color, for example, are always present in our eyes, but we do not give them notice so often in day to day life. In Zazen, what is always there just stands out sometimes, and the brain plays some tricks by seeing "connect the dot" patterns.

    The eyes contain cones and rods for color that we usually do not notice (but, if you look at any object closely, you will see little dots of color, much like the picture tube of a color tv):

    http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/retina.html

    The sensory deprivation effect at staring at the white surface just brings the little dots to our attention, and they play pattern tricks in the brain.

    Like a new pair of glasses, the brain will adjust and soon not notice the dots as much. Maybe we are subconsciously looking for the patterns, and thus noticing the patterns. If we just forget about them, they usually go away.

    However, visual hallucinations are common in Zazen. Not a worry, nor of any particular importance other than as an amusement, possibly with a small lesson about how we create the world through the senses:


    Hallucinations and Illusions

    Kornfield (1979, 1983) noted that there was a strong correlation between student reports of higher levels of concentration during insight meditation, when the mind was focused and steady, and reports of altered states and perceptions. He reported that unusual experiences, such as visual or auditory aberrations and hallucinations, and unusual somatic experiences, are the norm among practiced meditation students. Walsh (1978) reported that he experienced hypnagogic hallucinations, and Goleman (1978-79) reported visionary experiences during deep meditation. Shimano and Douglas (1975) reported hallucinations similar to toxic delirium during zazen.

    ... Earlier, Deikman (1966a) reported that during meditation on a blue vase, his subjects' perception of color became more intense or luminous, and that for some of them the vase changed shape, appeared to dissolve, or lost its boundaries. Maupin (1965) reported that meditators sometimes experience "hallucinoid feelings, muscle tension, sexual excitement, and intense sadness."

    The contemplative literature contains numerous descriptions of the perceptual distortion produced by meditation. It is called makyo in Zen Buddhist sources, and is characterized in some schools as "going to the movies," a sign of spiritual intensity but a phenomenon that is regarded to be distinctly inferior to the clear insight of settled practice. In some Hindu schools it is regarded as a product of the sukshma sharira, or "experience body," in its unstable state, and in that respect is seen to be another form of maya, which is the illusory nature of the world as apprehended by ordinary consciousness.

    In a similar manner, St. John of the Cross described the false enchantments that may lure the aspirant in prayer, warning that "devils may come in the guise of angels." [51] In his allegory of the spiritual journey, The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan described Christian's losing his way by following a man who says he is going to the Celestial City but instead leads him into a net. In all the great contemplative manuals, one is taught that detachment, equanimity, and discrimination are required for spiritual balance once the mind has been opened and made more flexible by prayer and meditation. Illusions and hallucinations, whether they are troubling or beatific, are distractions—or signposts at best—on the way to enlightenment or union with God.

    http://www.noetic.org/research/medbiblio/ch4.htm
    Move along folks ... nothing to look at here! :-)

    Actually, it is all a fine lesson in how the body-mind-self-world are all interconnected.
    What you are seeing is a fine lesson on how objects are all interconnected. Truly, in this world, one things does blend into another, and only the mind cuts it apart into pieces. Learn that lesson, and return to just sitting.

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7

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

    Thanks! you covered a lot of other stuff that I didn't think to mention that does come up during meditation that is pretty much related to this. I want to note in particular the "spots" or floaters that try to be "understood". Last month whilst camping, late at night this subject came up with my friend. I asked her if she ever see's "spots flying around", she said she did and we talked about them. Apparently, between the ages of about 18 and 25 they develop and aren't frequently reported because as you said, there is a lot of "chatter" that allows you to not notice these things. It's the eye losing fluid slowly that causes "dead spots" and that's what you see.

    But yeah, similar things have happened before, not often but before now I used to stop simply because I had no idea what I was dealing with. Sometimes I heard sitting described as a same if not similar thing as "letting yourself fall asleep" and it is well noted that meditation does bring one close enough to a state if not "deeper" then sleep, it would be a "side feature" of simply being in that area.

    Cheers,
    Greg

  8. #8

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

    I keep coming back again and again to this teaching. It has really helped my focus in meditation, though I catch myself trying to lift my chin as if I'm looking intensely at the blue sky. Not only thoughts and emotions arise during meditation, but also physical sensations like tingling feet. I guess that physical sensations are clouds as well, and I just let them move on out of view.

  9. #9
    Hi Jundo,

    Really liked the talk. It helped to clarify a few things for me.I find myself sometimes (in and out of zazen) getting frustrated with my practice. I guess I sometimes had the underlying assumption that too many thoughts were a bad thing and tried to drive them away.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by simon View Post
    Hi Jundo,

    Really liked the talk. It helped to clarify a few things for me.I find myself sometimes (in and out of zazen) getting frustrated with my practice. I guess I sometimes had the underlying assumption that too many thoughts were a bad thing and tried to drive them away.
    Do not drive them away or forcefully push them out ... neither grab them, cling to them or stir them up. If finding oneself doing any of that, simply open the hand of thought and let them go.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Senior Member Nandi's Avatar
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    Thank you for the visual - it helped to put everything into "perspective"... so to speak.


  12. #12
    Member Roland's Avatar
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    Thank you for the talk and the video. I found it quite... liberating.

    Gassho,

    Roland
    Last edited by Roland; 03-22-2014 at 11:44 PM.

  13. #13
    Of the videos so far, I've found this one to be one of the most helpful. The clouds and sky analogy helped me as great deal.
    --Doug

  14. #14
    Clouds and sky is helpful. I remember at one sangha, they used the analogy of logs and stream. Might work for some, but made me think of the old video game Frogger.

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