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

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  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.

    A classic Zen analogy is 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; 04-24-2015 at 02:42 AM.

  2. #2
    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.

  3. #3
    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

    #SAT TODAY!

  4. #4
    Thank you for the visual - it helped to put everything into "perspective"... so to speak.


  5. #5
    Member Roland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium
    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.

  6. #6
    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.

  7. #7
    Shinyo
    Guest
    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.

  8. #8
    I like very much the simple non-approach

    Elgwyn
    Gassho
    Sat today

  9. #9
    Blue sky, sitting practice, cloud formation--all thoughts float as in air. Mind is preseny.

    Elgwyn
    Gassho.
    Sat today.

  10. #10
    I am not ready to go to Jukai, and not even sure how to pronounce the name. I am ready for study and sitting, and this I will undertake for more information with the precepts, and more practice with sitting. I have the book The Mind of Clover and if you do not mind after I sit longer and reread Zen Mind, Beginner Mind, and think about it for a while, I will read that book and follow along with comments here on Treeleaf Zendo so thank you very much,

    Elgwyn
    Gassho
    sat today.

  11. #11
    Hi Elgwyn,

    Just live gently now, being beneficial and avoiding harm as one can to self and other (not two, by the way).

    And Sit.

    That is the way.

    A good and peaceful, content New Year to you.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  12. #12
    I went to an Introduction to Zen at a center once. But, I feel like each time I go through an introduction course I learn more. Thank-you Jundo.

    _( )_ Gassho

    Sat today

  13. #13
    I was a happy camper to use my Hangout last night, and I am ready for Zazenkai come Friday. I am grateful for the assistance and it was with a priest, and I am not remembering his name. Please help me if anyone knows his name so I can properly thank him.
    Elgwyn
    sat
    Gassho
    _/|\_

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Elgwyn View Post
    I was a happy camper to use my Hangout last night, and I am ready for Zazenkai come Friday. I am grateful for the assistance and it was with a priest, and I am not remembering his name. Please help me if anyone knows his name so I can properly thank him.
    Elgwyn
    sat
    Gassho
    _/|\_
    Glad I could help you Elgwyn, it was great chatting with you. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sattoday
    RINDO 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.

  15. #15
    Finished Zen Mind, Beginner Mind, and now I am reading The Compass of Zen, about 1/2 way through. Enjoying reading. I would like to see about Jukai in a year. I have a great book on Jukai and the precepts when I finish my current reading. I am volunteering for the local senior center, and The National Alliance on Mental Illness, and my friends say they see no anger in me. I am reasonably happy these days. My wife sees the improvement.
    Elgwyn
    sat
    Gassho
    _/|\_

  16. #16
    Al sounds like positive stuff....we'll done!
    Sat today

  17. #17
    Yes. Thank you. Would you like to be friends on Treeleaf ?

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Elgwyn View Post
    Yes. Thank you. Would you like to be friends on Treeleaf ?
    We are all and already friends on Treeleaf. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    SatToday
    RINDO 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.

  19. #19
    Elgwyn
    sat today
    Gassho

  20. #20
    I am new to shikantaza. I've spent more time breath counting. I am having some difficulty unlearning the focus on the breath. Breath counting seems more like a rhythmic moment to moment thing. Is shikantaza to be approached more like a constant, steady stream rather than a moment to moment thing? I find that besides letting the clouds pass by, I am also having to let the breaths pass by too. It's getting a little crowded.

    Gassho
    Sat today
    James

  21. #21
    Hi James,

    I am an "if it works for you, don't fix it" fellow, but would ask you to try sitting with "open spacious awareness" too. Here are my reasons, and it is discussed a bit more in a later "always beginners" lesson.

    Last time, I spoke about how there is no “bad” Zazen, even on those days when the mind is very cloudy with thoughts and emotions. But in fact, there are a couple of things we can do to settle down when the mind is really, really, really, stirred up with tangled thoughts, wild emotions and confusion.

    We can count the breaths, for example, counting from 1 to 10 at each inhalation and exhalation, then coming back to one and starting all over when we reach ten (which we rarely do) or lose track. Or we can simply follow the breath without counting, for example, observing effortlessly as it enters and exits the nose. These are excellent practices, and will calm the mind (itself a form of Shikantaza that some people pursue, even for a lifetime!). HOWEVER, for reasons I will discuss, I recommend such practices only as temporary measures for true beginners with no experience of how to let the mind calm at all, or others on those sometime days when the mind really, really, really is upset and disturbed. AS SOON AS the mind settles a bit, I advise the we return our attention to “the clear, blue, spacious sky that holds all“, letting clouds of thought and emotion drift from mind, focused on what can be called “everything, and nothing at all” or “no place and everyplace at once.” I will explain why in today’s talk.
    Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part XI)
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-%28Part-XI%29

    You may also find this helpful ...

    In fact, all forms of Shikantaza have an "object of meditation", a place to focus or place the mind to build a degree of concentration and quiet the thoughts (hopefully to soften the border and pass through "object" and "subject"), while dropping all effort to attain and releasing all judgments. At Treeleaf, ... as our central "objectless" object of meditation, I recommend open, spacious sitting centered on everything and nothing at all ... sitting with open, spacious awareness ... sitting with the whole world but without being lost in trains of thought (which I also sometimes describe as having the mind focused on "no place and everyplace at once"). That open stillness is our "object of concentration" (I emphasize such because it makes it clearer that Zazen is not a tool, and makes it easier to take our Practice off the cushion and into the rest of the world, than simply following the breath or focusing on a part of the body).

    Suzuki Shunryu Roshi encouraged placing the attention on the breath, but if you listen to him, he is really describing an objectless, goalless sitting too. Breath is not a tool. Zazen is not a method to get somewhere faster. Here he is explaining this ...
    Different ways Shikantaza is taught
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post129523

    Go back and forth if you need (although there is ultimately no place to go "back and forth" to). Shikantaza is a "no moments moments" thing perhaps, beyond count or measure.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  22. #22
    The clouds and blue sky analogy and "everything and nothing at all" are very helpful. Thank you.

    Gassho
    Sat today
    James

  23. #23
    Thank you again for this very informative talk. The discussion threads which follow are also very useful. Going back to an earlier discussion about non-judgmental sitting I had been concerned that I was using the blue sky-clouds analogy as a visualisation and therefore a 'small-mind' discrimination. Beginning to see the bigger picture that is not a picture at all -perhaps even starting to grasp the two-fold-truth-in-language (or maybe becoming a wee bit too sure of myself - keep it humble!). Many thanks again to all.

    Cathy
    Gassho
    Sat today
    Gassho,

    Cathy

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Catherine View Post
    Thank you again for this very informative talk. The discussion threads which follow are also very useful. Going back to an earlier discussion about non-judgmental sitting I had been concerned that I was using the blue sky-clouds analogy as a visualisation and therefore a 'small-mind' discrimination. Beginning to see the bigger picture that is not a picture at all -perhaps even starting to grasp the two-fold-truth-in-language (or maybe becoming a wee bit too sure of myself - keep it humble!). Many thanks again to all.

    Cathy
    Gassho
    Sat today
    Hi Cathy,

    Perhaps it is simplest to say that, rather than "thinking about" the sky or "visualizing" the sky or any such thing, one experiences being the sky ... boundless, clear, timeless, unobstructed as the dark and light clouds of life (which we are too) float by.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  25. #25
    While sitting I have thoughts and I let them go. Then I just watch the now and I get an alert wakefulness that lasts very briefly. Just a sort of flash. Then I think; good thing I cut the grass before it started raining...I should make soup tomorrow. All this dull headed sleep walky stuff. Then I let that go and come back to the now and just watch and there is another bit of awakened clarity. But it does not last very log. Then I start over again. I know I shouldn't rate one versus the other but shouldn't my practice eventually get more clearer and less thought filled?

    Gassho,
    James
    Sat Today

  26. #26
    Thank you Jundo. That is helpful.

    Gassho,

    Cathy

    Sat today.
    Gassho,

    Cathy

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