I did my first zazen since mid September finally returning to my breathing. I decided to start form scratch. the perfectionist OCD sufferer in me at my most analytical. I discovered that I can't obtain and hold the Burmese position due to an arthritic knee. I can sit on my stool or the entry way bench. The bench faces a sky blue wall. the perfect background for all the clouds rolling by!
I also discovered that due to weight gain I can not rest my wrist on my thigh and bring my hands together in the Mudra. Is it better to form each hand into o1/2 of the posture and let them not touch or should i do something else with them? And yes, the entire 20 minutes was filled with this kind of meaningless stuff.
I don't mind the stool I like the bench. The bench has my back to a wall so I maintain a straight back. The wall and the bench are concessions to the obsessive need to be right at doing something that has no "right" way. I know that. I try to control it bit, I felt it was a step in the right direction just to be on the bench.
what I realize is that I need affirmation. I need to know that I am doing it right. my obsessiveness does not include the prospect of "failure" it is too hard to face. At least, I have come to recognize the futility of perfection, its a goal that can't be obtained and shouldn't be that easy, not as easy as breathing.
I intend to sit on my stool or bench and rest my wrist on my inner upper thigh, each hand forming 1/2 half of a large not touching mudra. At least until someone tells me i'm wrong.
Sounds just beautiful to me
Originally Posted by mhoke46375
We sit how we sit, walk how we walk, sleep like we sleep. Even if you and I sat in the same posture, I would not be sitting like you. We carry ourselves into sitting, we just have to let it fall away. So for that reason, even if you and I sat in a different posture, I would be sitting like you.
Uchiyama wrote in "How to cook your life":
" Living out the true Self means to put away [the] ideas of upper or lower, success or failure, and to learn that everything we encounter is our life, our true Self"
So really, unless you believe you have failed, you can't. And even if you do believe you've failed you still haven't! I'm aware of the feeling, something nagging at you because it's not pristine. The loose stitches on my Rakusu come to mind "Oh if only I had sewn it a bit tighter,with a vertical rather than horizontal backstitch..." It really gets old, you know?
How is you sit is irrelevant, you could stand on your head for zazen in my opinion. It's your mindset, the cloud-watching that makes all the difference. So rest at ease in the posture that is wholly you.
The posture is important in zazen, but from what many of the masters have said, it is more to ensure that you don't end up putting your body in positions of excessive pain or positions that promote exessive sleepiness. Deshimaru Roshi and Master Dogen have both said that the most important aspect of shikantaza zazen is the state of the mind. This falls in with Shakyamuni Buddha's admonishion in the Dhammapada that "with our thoughts we make the world". These thoughts that you are having are trying to assert control and the OCD is making it easier for them to do that. If these are the positions that you can get into, sitting on a bench, a half-mudra with the hands, then that is what you can do. As for the thoughts, part of the obsession with the thoughts is the idea that you shouldn't be having them while sitting zazen.
Let the thoughts be, acknowledge them, and then let them go on their way. It will be difficult at first, and will likely require that you conciously be wary of when your mind starts to run away, but when ever you realize it is happening, breathe, the whole of existance in each breath, and allow the thoughts to be let go. According to Daido Lori Roshi, this is how you build joriki, which takes time when you are starting over again.
No worries. Remember, there is no bad zazen, even the bad zazen!
Hellos to you Marty,
and to Myoken ( soon to travel) and Chris
This subject comes up regularly--I am sure if you were to dig a bit in the old threads you would find yourself in good company. That might help you somewhat: to know you are not alone.
The topic of the cans and can'ts of the prescribed preferred posture also comes up on a regular basis and there is a wealth of commentary about this all over the place.
I can say a couple of things about this: the posture gives the mind, the ego something 'to do'
This is a kindness because the mind/ego really likes 'doing'
A kindness under one kind of situation can become an unkindness under another: people (mind/ego) can 'attach' to posture (for example) so strongly that when their health or a physical limitation requires a change they feel they are 'failing' to live up to the 'right' way and hence are 'unable' to do zazen.
Quite a number of seasoned senior zen students have in various formats raised this topic.
So for them, it is like a new beginning
Really each time I go to sit it is new, and each moment is a new moment to sit
The newness never stops
For some types of minds which really need to grind on something koan work can be of particular benefit (not that others can't or don't receive benefit)
But here, too, a kindness, can become something which a sitter will attach to...
And then of course comes the work of losing attachment to attachment and then the work of losing attachment to losing attachment....
You see, sitting is something for life, for the rest of your life!
No need to rush.
An open inquiring mind, a mind looking, observing
a mind observing itself as a judging mind and not judging the judging mind....
I can tell you sometime between 5-10 years into practicing zazen every time I sat down to sit, all my mind would think about were shoes and which ones I should buy--I would then have all the clothes in my closet appear and the pros and cons of the style of which shoe and what color would best to go with the most things would begin...
round and round and round
I just observed my mind
Shoe choice hell realm? Maybe
I was too ashamed of this 'trivial' subject matter of 'shoes' to tell my teacher (Jifu) at the time.
Now I am sure she would have kindly assisted me, but I didn't seek her help, I just kept sitting with shoes. Even if that was all I would ever sit with forever and ever... Eventually shoes went away...
But I believe there is wisdom beyond our 'knowing' and at this time in my life/practice in looking back on those days of sitting with shoes, I would guess that those shoes were doing me a kindness. I would bet you dollars to doughnuts there was something else under there too big for me at that time and shoes and whether or not they went best with different pants and dresses of brown, black or navy fabric was really the best thing for it (my mind) to grapple with at that time.
Even if everyone told me then or now 'sitting with shoes is wrong!' I don't think I could have done anything about it! I guess you could say I had given myself the 'What is the best pair of shoes koan!'
Even if everyone tells you what you are doing is right (or wrong)--observe observe observe your mind's movements: like looking at your newborn child or a box of puppies: with interest----open open mind.
Treeleaf Founder and Priest
Ditto, Ditto, Ditto to the above three very Wise posts. Take them to heart.
I would also add this into to pot, on "Right and Wrong Zazen" ...
I think that Zen Practice is the "Non-OCD." By that I mean that we are careful and attentive, sometimes so fussy and procedure oriented ... yet combining that thoroughly with letting go, going with the flow, and dropping all thought of "right way, wrong way" and "attainments". In that way, we get it right, and achieve Tremendous Attainments!
That is why we are not suffering from OCD, nor running to be free from OCD if life hands us OCD, nor are we ever free from OCD even when there is no sign of OCD in our lives. We are "Non-OCD" whether having OCD or not, and thus free and not suffering.
Keep us posted on how the "letting go" is going.
Brilliant posts and very helpful given my own experience in changing postures in the last two weeks.
This tells my story entirely. Thank you Keishin.
Originally Posted by Keishin
Taylor, your Uchiyama quote is spot on. Helped me a lot with my practice this evening.
Chris, I really appreciated the quote regarding our thoughts making the world... I have lived in a self-imposed prison for years whose bars were thoughts of my own creation.
Marty, thank you for raising this topic. My mind certainly got wrapped around what was right/not right, and the notion of "failure" to the extent that my mind chatter took over and what I was doing was not really practice. The recognition of OCD - like behavior is the manifestation of an interruption, or break in that behavior, or sequence of mind chatter/traffic. In other words, non-OCD behavior would not exist without its corresponding partner - sounds like you are on track to me - keep asking questions! I am identifying with and probably repeating much of what has been said already.