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Thread: Zazen and Fatigue

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Zazen and Fatigue

    When you’re really dog tired, as I am today, is it better to get some sleep first before sitting? I really think I’ll just nod off on the zafu today if I sit: now, what kind of ZZZZZzzzzzzzzazen would that be?

  2. #2

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Speaking of fatigue, here is a new one for me. A local Zendo had a sunrise sitting yesterday (which was really nice, by the way,) and featured two thirty minute periods of Zazen with ten minutes of Kinhin in between. I had a nice, firm Zafu, high enough that my legs were comfortable, but somehow in my left hip I was sitting right on my sciatic nerve.
    A softer Zafu is generally too low, I don't like "stacking," and I never had this before, but it was quite painful. Any thoughts?

  3. #3

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Hi Soen
    Being alert and awake is important in sitting, is it not? Sitting at a set time day in and day out is important too, eh?
    Which one would you sacrifice?
    Personally I would sit at the right time and practice, including the sleepiness in it all.
    One thing I have discovered is that even when very tired some of that tiredness is mental and lifts through/after meditation.
    All the best
    Rich

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Hi Rich, thanks for that.
    I always sit at 7am before work, before breakfast, even before my morning shower. However, a heavy work load of late has meant late evenings and early starts, so, I was working when I normally sit and gettting home late. I sat anyway, and as you suggested some of the tiredness lifted. However, at other times I was almost nodding off. It seems to me that it is best to sit when rested, but if that is not possible at times, well, just sit anyway! Accept that conditions are not perfect.

    As for advice on painful sitting, some light yoga and pre-stretches are very helpful in advance of a long sit. But best of all is not to force your body to do what it doesn't want to do. Experiment with posture until you find the one right for you. And even then, sitting can be a little painful from time to time. Personally, yoga has helped me with that a lot ... only a few yoga positions, mind you, not a whole yoga programme to build into my already busy life!

    Time for bed...

    Gassho,
    Soen

  5. #5

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    As for advice on painful sitting, some light yoga and pre-stretches are very helpful in advance of a long sit. But best of all is not to force your body to do what it doesn't want to do. Experiment with posture until you find the one right for you. And even then, sitting can be a little painful from time to time. Personally, yoga has helped me with that a lot ... only a few yoga positions, mind you, not a whole yoga programme to build into my already busy life!


    That's the thing... I stretch and all- it wasn't like a cramp or anything. I was sitting on my sciatic nerve and no readjustment worked.

  6. #6

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Hi,

    I just posted something on this and repost it here ...

    viewtopic.php?p=41974#p41974

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The great teacher "Homeless Kodo" Sawaki Roshi said about sleep and Zazen ...

    Eat in order to do zazen, sleep in order to do zazen. This means that eating and sleeping are also part of zazen.


    In other words, we must be properly fed and rested (not too much, not too little ... ours is the Middle Way) in order to sustain our Practice properly. Get rest.

    Of course ... that is if we can. Sometimes, more easily said than done these days. If you do find yourself unavoidably tired (because of your 3 jobs), but also feel your Zazen unavoidable (which it should be most days), follow the words of Uchiyama Roshi ...

    Another time you might be tired. Then you have to remind yourself that you are practicing zazen right now, and it is not the time for sleeping. This is correcting your attitude, correcting your posture, really opening the eyes and returning to zazen. This is called “Awakening from dullness and fatigue.”
    That is for day to day practice. Find the time which suits you best, morning or evening maybe afternoon, and sit consistently then. Sit with a bit of sleepy Zazen when it happens. If too sleepy, and literally falling of the Zafu, go get some sleep.

    If in a Sesshin or other intense retreat, it may be a somewhat different story, and we may wish to push ourselves a bit harder (pushing hard with nothing to attain ... but non-attainng!), Remember the words and actions of Master Dogen's teacher, Master Nyojo (Ryujing)

    When staying at Tendo Monastery in China, while the old master Nyojo was abbot there, we sat zazen until about eleven o’clock at night and got up at about half-past two to sit zazen. The abbot sat with the assembly in the sodo, never taking even one night off.

    While sitting, many monks fell asleep. The abbot walked around hitting them with his fist or his slipper, scolding them and encouraging them to wake up. If they continued to sleep, he went to the shodo1, rang the bell, and called his attendants to light the candles. On the spur of the moment he would say such things as; “What is the use of sleeping? Why do you gather in a sodo [monk's hall]? Why did you become a monk and enter this monastery?”

    One time, his immediate attendant said, “The monks in the sodo are tired and sleepy. They may fall ill or lose their aspiration because of the long hours of sitting. Please shorten the time of zazen.”

    Angrily the abbot replied, “We must never do that. People without bodhi-mind who temporarily stay in the sodo would sleep even if we sat for only half an hour or less. Practitioners with bodhi-mind who aspire to practice are happier the longer they are able to sit and therefore, practice much harder. ”
    http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/common_ ... 02-25.html
    In bed by 11, up for Zazen at 2:30! Rujing seems like a heck of a drill sargent at the Dharma boot camp!

    But on most days ... the advise is to get sleep sufficient to allow Zazen. It is best to sit in the mornings upon awakening, or at night just before bed. But you can pick another time when not so tired too. Then, take a bit of the sleepy zazen when it happens, if its too sleepy go get some sleep and sit on waking. If falling asleep during Zazen (although discouraged), just do that ... I promise not to beat you with my slipper (and hopefully it will not happen most days ... even Jundo falls asleep on the "sit-a-long" now and then, if you look closely! ops: ) .

    If you sit Zazen and it is ZZZZzzzzz, just perfectly ZZZZzzzz!

    By the way, just adjusting the posture, opening the eyes a bit more and taking some breaths can help. I stretch my neck just a bit when tired during Zazen, and it seems to help ... as if a tiny string running from the top of my head to the ceiling were given a light tug. Or, one can return to following the breath for awhile. Monks in China and Japan have always had a close relationship to tea and caffeine (in moderation!). At more Sesshin I have attended in Japan or the West, tea and coffee (in moderation!) are always somewhere around.

    Master Keizan wrote (in his Zazen Yojinki about the year 1400) ...

    Although we shouldn’t be too anxious about bodily comforts, inadequate clothing, food and sleep are known as the "three insufficiencies" and will cause our practice to suffer. ...

    ... If dullness or sleepiness overcome your sitting, move to the body and open the eyes wider, or place attention above the hairline or between your eyebrows. If you are still not fresh, rub the eyes or the body. If that still doesn’t wake you, stand up and walk, always clockwise. Once you’ve gone about a hundred steps you probably won’t be sleepy any longer. The way to walk is to take a half step with each breath. Walk without walking, silent and unmoving.

    If you still don’t feel fresh after doing kinhin, wash your eyes and forehead with cold water. Or chant the Three Pure Precepts of the Bodhisattvas. Do something; don’t just fall asleep. You should be aware of the Great Matter of birth and death and the swiftness of impermanence. What are you doing sleeping when your eye of the Way is still clouded? If dullness and sinking arise repeatedly you should chant, "Habituality is deeply rooted and so I am wrapped in dullness. When will dullness disperse? May the compassion of the Buddhas and Ancestors lift this darkness and misery."
    A bit of Kinhin, for a few minutes, can be good when very tired.

    There was a master who sat with a heavy object on his head, which would fall with a crash whenever he started to doze ... and another who kept jabbing himself with a needle ... but I don't recommend that! :shock:

    Also, brain wave studies have shown that Zazen may have some of the benefits of sleep, and may be a "sleep substitute" to some degree. Brain waves during Zazen are often in state otherwise found during sleep, or which are similar to brain waves in that peaceful place we encounter right before falling asleep while in bed ...

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=3457896

    ... which is also another reason that we can easily slip over the line into ZZZZZZZZzzzzzz.

    Gassho, and Good Night, Jundo
    I also posted something on when to move ... when to just sit and bear it ... with itchy noses, achy legs, spiders on one's arm, earthquakes and such.

    viewtopic.php?p=41976#p41976

  7. #7

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Also, some other comments and past threads on sleepy legs and such ...

    viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2968

    Several folks have reported positive results from a little light Yoga, as Soen recommends.

  8. #8

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Maybe sleeping during zazen is sometimes not a big problem.

    http://www.serve.com/cmtan/buddhism/Sto ... umber.html

    /Rich

  9. #9
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    One of the few things that will cause me to abandon a zazen period in progress is falling asleep on the cushion.

    That said, it has been valuable to sit while the bodymind is falling asleep. It is interesting to have an eye of awareness on what happens as the mind shifts from the waking to the sleeping state... the hypnagogic imagery, the strange irrational thoughts that start to pop up, the dreams that start happening before you're even asleep...

    http://www.praxispath.co.uk/5-theory/pd8.html

  10. #10

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    One of the few things that will cause me to abandon a zazen period in progress is falling asleep on the cushion.

    That said, it has been valuable to sit while the bodymind is falling asleep. It is interesting to have an eye of awareness on what happens as the mind shifts from the waking to the sleeping state... the hypnagogic imagery, the strange irrational thoughts that start to pop up, the dreams that start happening before you're even asleep...

    http://www.praxispath.co.uk/5-theory/pd8.html
    I have dozed but never deep enough to fall off the cushion I suspect that daytime dreaming and thinking about your life is the same mechanism as sleep dreaming. I feel that I pay way too much attention to daydreaming and thinking and usually at inappropriate times. So practice is a lifetime affair with two steps forward and one step back.

    /Rich

  11. #11

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Hello friends,

    My Kammathana teachers often talked about this; perhaps it was a problem among the Bhikkus.

    One of the methods that they suggested (apart from vigorous kinhin) was to sit on a ledge, armed with the knowledge that a tumble would be rather unpleasant. (Naturally, I don't think this is always a good idea, but I have been known to commandeer our coffee table and sit on the edge.)

    Much metta,

    Perry

  12. #12

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    I have done zzzzzzzzzzazen a few times usually when I am ill or not taking good enough care of myself. need a sleepy smiliey -Gasho Andrea

  13. #13

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    I generally sit in the morning right after waking up, and before breakfast. To avoid simply dozing back off, I will do some rigorous stretching to get the blood pumping and to work the muscles. This also wakes me up. I then do some walking meditation before finally sitting for an hour or so.

  14. #14

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    This is a little more of a unorthodox method but it has produced (sometimes comical) results for fatigued Zazan. My girlfriend and I will sit back to back, while she is doing homework or on the computer, I will sit for meditation. As a dancer, she has amazing posture for sitting meditation so I do my best to keep my back aligned with hers. As soon as she notices that I start slouching forward, she delicately pulls my shoulders back up.

  15. #15

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    Quote Originally Posted by Andao
    This is a little more of a unorthodox method but it has produced (sometimes comical) results for fatigued Zazan. My girlfriend and I will sit back to back, while she is doing homework or on the computer, I will sit for meditation. As a dancer, she has amazing posture for sitting meditation so I do my best to keep my back aligned with hers. As soon as she notices that I start slouching forward, she delicately pulls my shoulders back up.
    Wow, that's awfully nice of her. Asked my wife to watch my posture once 'cause I was a little sleepy, and she went and grabbed one of my bokken to use as a kyosaku. Decided not to sit that time because she seemed a little bit too enthusiastic standing there with a sword in her hand.


  16. #16

    Re: Zazen and Fatigue

    You could try "Dream Yoga".

    http://www.upaya.org/dharma/tag/lucid-d ... ream-yoga/

    Since I retired I try to go for the 6 a.m. Mon. thro. Fri. hour long sit at the Portland Zen Center. Being in public tends to put me on my best behavior, such as it is, and elicits my best effort...also such as it is. While I've had "noddy samadhi" at home, the Zendo lends focus for me. I don't know much about the dream-yogi mentioned above but it sounds like you can have your cake and eat it.

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