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

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  1. #1

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



    Like me (Jundo Cohen), Rev. Taigu Turlur is also teacher at Treeleaf Sangha. Born in France in 1964, he started Zazen early — at age 13! — and received Shukke Tokudo ordination in 1983 — at age 18! — from Rev. Mokudo Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage, and Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2003. A lifelong student and servant of sewing the Kesa (Buddhist robes), he now resides near Osaka, Japan.

    Taigu will be speaking in our series “Zazen for Beginners” (because we’re always beginners) on sitting with the body … as body-mind are not two.

    Taigu writes …

    Sitting with our body-mind is the very heart of our tradition. How to sit? You will find on line a lot of information about it. People tell you what you should be doing or what you should not. In some Zendos, firm hands may correct your posture so it looks as if it gets closer to what they imagine to be the real thing. In some instances, Zen practice may nurture in us an army-like attitude, alongside we may display some arrogance and intolerance and sit like huge stones, filled with tensions and knots.

    I would like to invite you to something slightly different.

    Tricks and methods can work to a certain extent. We may receive very helpful instruction and guidance, but eventually, we are alone and it is within and with this body-mind of ours that we sit. The problem is that everybody is different and you cannot correct somebody’s sitting from outside. The activity of sitting is to allow the flower of the Dharma to blossom, to let sitting sitting us and not to force the body into a rigid-fixed composure.

    I am not an expert at sitting. I have no diploma about body-work or the like. Although I started sitting more than thirty years ago, it feels like yesterday. So please, take my words with great caution. I would like to provide a few directions and invite you to start where you are with who you are. Beware of not cultivating a particular thought or of toying with a certain idea during sitting, for instance, the picture of the flower blossoming is just a metaphor to give you a flavor or the balanced way to release the lower part of the body into the ground, it is not supposed to be present in your mind during sitting itself. Sitting itself is free of any clinging, so in Shikantaza, following the breath, counting the breaths, or focusing on a koan are not required. It is coming to a place where through not-doing and not-knowing one enjoys the complete and vast scenery of things-as-it-is. Sitting is to realize , not just intellectually, but through our whole body-mind that nothing is lacking, that our being is imperfectly perfect. Sitting is to strip the doing and thinking habits, which is what we can truly call karma, and return to our true home, always where we are. And please, just be humble, forget your knowledge and experience, drop your bag at the gate of sitting, if you keep the weight of a straw or even a tiny thread, it’s extra. To be a beginner is to come to sitting as a beginner. It is open to everybody. As Master Dogen guided in
    Fukanzazengi

    In general, a quiet room is good for Zen practice, and food and drink are taken in moderation. Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down?

    Usually on the place where we sit we spread a thick mat, on top of which we use a round cushion. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture. To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh. Let clothing hang loosely and make it neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other.

    Just sit upright, not leaning to the left, inclining to the right, slouching forward, or arching backward. It is vital that the ears vis-à-vis the shoulders, and the nose vis-à-vis the navel, are caused to oppose each other. Let the tongue spread against the roof of the mouth. Let the lips and teeth come together. The eyes should be kept open. Let the breath pass imperceptibly through the nose.

    Having regulated the physical posture, breathe out once, and sway left and right. Sit still, “Thinking that state beyond thinking.” “How can the state beyond thinking be thought?” “Non-thinking.” This is the vital art of sitting-zen.

    What is called sitting-zen, sitting-meditation, is not meditation that is learned. It is the Dharma-gate of effortless ease. It is the practice and experience that gets to the bottom of the Buddha’s enlightenment. The laws of the Universe are realized, around which there are no nets or cages. To grasp this meaning is to be like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger before a mountain stronghold. Remember, true reality spontaneously emerges, and darkness and dissipation vanish at a stroke.
    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
    Junior Member
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    Many thanks! I mostly sit on a bench but your instruction here is very useful. The relaxed, "flowering", base of shikantaza is a breath of fresh air to my zen studies. Again, thanks.

  3. #3
    Thank you Taigu.
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  4. #4
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    beautiful talk, thank you. So, is it ok to sit with my back up against a wall and a pillow behind to help support my back? I have been meditating this way for quite awhile due to having a very bad back and hips. I have been practicing facing a wall and sitting on a pillow, but I am finding it hard to concentrate on nothing, or zazen, as I keep thinking about how much pain is in my back.

  5. #5
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Dear Emmy,

    It is much better to lie down in you case. We should not let the wall support our spine, because in the siiting position we might gradually collapse and not respond properly to gravity. As we lie down, we use gravity to expand the bodymind.

    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.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu. I will continue to sit for short times, and then lie down instead of sitting up against a wall. My back thanks you also

  7. #7
    I couldnt sit about a year ago for a several week, and found this posture adequate,



    please note the support below the head.
    Gassho
    Myoku

  8. #8
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    thank you, Myoku. That is exactly what I started doing, along with the head support. I can sit for short times, about 10 min, and then I lay down like this for the rest. Much easier.

    metta,
    Treena

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Emmy View Post
    thank you, Myoku. That is exactly what I started doing, along with the head support. I can sit for short times, about 10 min, and then I lay down like this for the rest. Much easier.

    metta,
    Treena
    The one aspect about reclining is ... don't fall asleep.

    However, even the Buddha reclined when he needed ...

    Last edited by Jundo; 06-08-2013 at 11:44 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  10. #10
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Thank you Myoku, the semi supine, thisposition, is key in Alexander Technique work and is nothing but zazen practised in a reclined position.

    gassho


    T.
    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.

  11. #11
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Hi all,

    Just wanted to endorse Myoku's position for reclined zazen. I find that keeping the hands clasped on the stomach as well as the legs bent up into the air and support for your head help to prevent falling asleep and actually leave you in tune with you body in a really cool way.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Ordained Priest -In-Training & Shuso (Head Seat) for November - Ango 2014
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please take what I say with a grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho View Post
    Hi all,

    Just wanted to endorse Myoku's position for reclined zazen. I find that keeping the hands clasped on the stomach as well as the legs bent up into the air and support for your head help to prevent falling asleep and actually leave you in tune with you body in a really cool way.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

    Thank you everyone, thank you Dosho, you are right. I have been doing this, and then spending maybe 10 min in a sitting position each day. It has been very helpful in zazen, easier to let go of thoughts when my back is not hurting.

  13. #13
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Please now as you lie down cultivate these directions: neck free, head forward and up, back lenghtening and widening, knees going away from the body...don t do these, think them and don't do them, and meanwhile allow them as you return to the awareness of the landscape of bodymind. Directions are meant not to be done, movements to be inhibited.
    And shoot to the best Alexander Technique teacher next door. This might change your life forever if you are humble enough to question it all.

    In gassho

    Myoku, Myozan, Shohei, Hans, Fugen Dosho all the priests here and treeleaf people would immensely benefit from AT, this way to sit is and use the bodymind is just wonderful. If only people would give it a go...


    Taigu
    Last edited by Taigu; 06-11-2013 at 10:13 AM.
    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.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Myoku, Myozan, Shohei, Hans, Fugen Dosho all the priests here and treeleaf people would immensely benefit from AT, this way to sit is and use the bodymind is just wonderful. If only people would give it a go...
    Thank you Taigu, I have been looking into the Alexander Technique when you had mentioned it before.

    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.

  15. #15
    Member Jamie's Avatar
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    "Blossom into now"

    Thank you Taigu

  16. #16
    Like the idea of not achieving any super posture but just releasing the weight of our body into the ground! Thank you for the teaching!

    Ajin

  17. #17
    I am just watching this video again and find the metaphor of a flower could actually impress on the conscious mind in such a powerful way that it always takes a while for the image invoked to fade away even though I do not intend to cling to it (or at least not very consciously).

    I am also wondering about what it means by 'thinking that state beyond thinking' and 'nonthinking' in the quote from Fukanzazengi..Does it mean being aware of the goings-on without trying to control, judge, deny, or cling to them? They all sound very interesting to me.

    Gassho,
    Ajin

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by 124578k View Post

    I am also wondering about what it means by 'thinking that state beyond thinking' and 'nonthinking' in the quote from Fukanzazengi..Does it mean being aware of the goings-on without trying to control, judge, deny, or cling to them? They all sound very interesting to me.

    Gassho,
    Ajin
    Yes, but words alone do not come close enough any more than a metaphor for a flower can hold a living flower. Please sit an find out for your "self".

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  19. #19
    Thank you for this lesson Taigu Sensei.

    Gassho,

    Josh

  20. #20
    Junior Member Edward E's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu. I watched this video last night and was much more relaxed and comfortable sitting this morning. I never realized how much I tightened up my bottom and legs while sitting until I heard your advice to let gravity take them to the floor.

    Gassho,
    Eddie

  21. #21
    I really appreciate the observation that "We are not trying to achieve a super posture". This thought really helps me to relax.
    Thank you.

  22. #22
    Thank you so much Taigu Osho! Best Zazen instructions I've heard in 20 years!

  23. #23
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Still helps me!
    迎 Geika

  24. #24
    I often feel uncomfortable meditating, and I've read a few people (not here) say how you're supposed to work through it, etc. Especially when it goes beyond the physical discomfort to my mental discomfort -- feeling ashamed of being "fat" and other body issues. So this quote, "what we can do is to find out for ourselves how to feel at home in this body" made me feel a lot better. One day I'd like to feel at home in my body.

    - June

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