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

  1. #1

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


    Rev. Taigu offers a few more perspectives on the “sitting” of “just sitting.” He says:

    Sitting on a cushion is what we normally do. The actual flexibility of this cushion called a zafu makes it possible to position it at an angle which makes sitting much more comfortable. A zafu is a very personal item and one should search around to find the right thickness for the cushion. When putting hands together to form the zazen mudra, we usually put the left hand on top of the right, palms up and thumbs very lightly touching. If you are not using a koromo, which is a black robe with huge sleeves, then you may use a towel and put it on your lap to support the mudra.

    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

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

    Rev Taigu's explanation and demonstrations of posture are very clear and elegant. However, to me, they are rather forbidding.

    I am a 67 year-old male with a very sedentary full-time job and no real history of sitting before October last year. Previously I'd found the expectations of sitting meditation unmanageable, at least as I'd learned from Theravada and Tibetan practitioners. It wasn't until I read Joko Beck and Jakusho Kwong that I could put my fear (and apparent experience) of failure behind me. Since then I've been able to maintain a daily sitting of about 20-25 minutes and enjoy it.

    However, I don't sit in a half-lotus or Burmese position. That would be unthinkable for me! I tried something like it once recently and simply rolled back and almost banged my head. And I have lived for many years in places where people sit on the floor. I do it sometimes, but it's not a pretty sight, and it feels very uncomfortable. I shift about and put one hand on the floor (and get up as soon as decently possible).

    So when I sit, I sit on a fairly high cushion - a footrest, actually - and my legs are crossed loosely in front of me with my hands resting on my thighs, near or above the knees. I think my back is straight and I am quite comfortable.

    For a physically pretty inflexible senior citizen, my posture makes sense to me, but how would Zen teachers regard it? Is it acceptable?

  3. #3
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Zazen for Beginners (Part VI)

    Hi Adrian,

    Everybody is different.
    Acceptable or not is not the point.
    The point is...You know what I mean.
    You sit as you do. Let your knees make their way to the floor...Or sit on a chair. Whatever.
    Up. Up is the direction. Allowing weight to go down. Be light. LIGHT.

    As it is, as you are, already perfect.

    Gassho

    Taigu

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Zazen for Beginners (Part VI)

    Dear Taigu;

    Where were you twenty years ago when I went through so much pain to achieve the zazen posture i use today?? :-D

  5. #5

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Hi Adrian,

    Everybody is different.
    Acceptable or not is not the point.
    The point is...You know what I mean.
    You sit as you do. Let your knees make their way to the floor...Or sit on a chair. Whatever.
    Up. Up is the direction. Allowing weight to go down. Be light. LIGHT.

    As it is, as you are, already perfect.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Thank you Sensei.
    Gassho
    Adrian

  6. #6

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

    Adrian and Taigu,

    You have NO idea how happy I was to read this post and response. Due to bad knees and a bad back, sitting in any variation of the lotus position, and anywhere near the floor, is a no-go for me. As a result, I am a "chair sitter."

    The reason I am so happy is because almost everything I have heard or read about sitting emphasizes "lotus" and "floor." I actually felt guilty because I thought I was doing it wrong, even though I was doing the best I could. (Clearly I need more work on "guilty" and "wrong"...)

    At last I feel comfortable enough to ask: Could someone provide some posture pointers for chair sitters? Or am I still hung up on sitting "right?"

    Gassho,

    Stephen

  7. #7
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Zazen for Beginners (Part VI)

    Taigu thank you very much, this video is great I saw it two or three days ago and the difference between my sitting before and after is huge, it really helped me to drop things more easily. To tilt the Zafu and a support for the mudra are things that I did not find anywhere before and represented a barrier to my sitting, because the back and shoulder pain created from my previous "artificial" way of sitting, besides of the guilt mentioned by Stephen

    The worry about whether I'm doing right or wrong, and pain from the artificial position, made a 15 minutes sit a mental-physical torture ... These days, I can sit around half an hour without any discomfort, and more clear mind. Again, thank you very much

  8. #8
    Thanks Taigu,

    Your video provided so much useful information. I'm uncomfortable on a cushion due to medical concerns with my legs and elsewhere, but I try anyway because I get better spine alignment than I do meditating while sitting in a chair. After watching your video, I adjusted (removed some buckwheat hulls) from my favorite zafu and what a difference. I'm getting a better angle and the spine feels much straighter and more natural. Also, I now see that I've been holding my hands too low, so I found a little cushion to place in my lap and what a difference it makes to get the hands higher and closer to the navel.

  9. #9

    A meditation bench as an alternative to a lotus-type posture

    A meditation bench offers a very stable posture without the pain of the lotus posture.

    Don't get a pine meditation bench. They are not durable. Mine broke, and I am considering getting a Pi Meditation bench for my next one. The Pi Meditation bench is hardwood and has the two supports closer to the center rather than towards the edges of the bench, which I think will result in less bumping your legs into the supports.

    Dave

  10. #10
    Hi Dave,

    Welcome to Treeleaf!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Schauweker View Post
    Mine broke, and I am considering getting a Pi Meditation bench for my next one. The Pi Meditation bench is hardwood and has the two supports closer to the center rather than towards the edges of the bench, which I think will result in less bumping your legs into the supports.
    I have one of these and they are great. You can really sit directly on your sitting bones and get a very stable position quite naturally.
    Furthermore, you can vary the position of your feet and knees in case of pain after long sitting...

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Hi Adrian,

    Everybody is different.
    Acceptable or not is not the point.
    The point is...You know what I mean.
    You sit as you do. Let your knees make their way to the floor...Or sit on a chair. Whatever.
    Up. Up is the direction. Allowing weight to go down. Be light. LIGHT.

    As it is, as you are, already perfect.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Thank you Taigu ... Simply put.

    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.

  12. #12

    Thanks for your reply, Timo

    It's great to be here at Treeleaf. What a great resource.

    Gassho,

    Dave

  13. #13
    Thank you Taigu. I have never tried to change legs. I will start to alternate after each sitting.
    Lee

  14. #14
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    Started sitting with a thin pillow that I have borrowed from our dogs to rest the mudra as you show on your video Taigu. What a difference! Thanks for teaching me this .
    Gassho, Jakudo Hinton
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, “I”. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  15. #15
    Thank you for this. I enjoy your delivery in teaching. Very welcoming and forgiving.

  16. #16
    Junior Member Rick's Avatar
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    Thank you, Taigu. I am going to start using a towel to support the mudra.

    Gassho,
    Rick

  17. #17
    Best explanation I have seen so far. This definitely lowers the threshhold for me to start practicing sitting meditation, and more importantly with fellow practitioners (without being too self-conscious). Thanks so much.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
    Best explanation I have seen so far. This definitely lowers the threshhold for me to start practicing sitting meditation, and more importantly with fellow practitioners (without being too self-conscious). Thanks so much.

    Hi Eugene

    I am new here also; been sitting regularly since this summer. Best advice I can give you is to JUST DO IT. If you are making a mistake that's ok. Then you learn what you aren't doing as you go. Please feel free to join any of our online sitting groups on Google+ I promise we won't bite you if you aren't perfect. It helps to have others do it with you I find.

    "We are all beginners" - Taigu

    Gassho
    C

  19. #19
    Member Nandi's Avatar
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  20. #20
    Thank you! I found this very helpful. My legs are very stiff and out of shape and I've found some yoga stretches that help out immensely if anyone has the same problems I do.

    Bound Angle Pose: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/486
    Half Lord of the Fishes Pose: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/485
    Head-to-Knee Forward Bend: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/476

    I noticed an immediate difference, so maybe they can help others loosen up.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Myosha
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

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