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Thread: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

  1. #1
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    This is to echo what was said by Chet and Jundo the wonderful thread about shadows.

    Let me again and again repeat a few words of caution: sitting with too much tension and will to be upright is really muscle building. In my modest opinion, the right thing does itself, which means that one grows a zazen like a tree or a plant would grow, slowly expanding, naturally going up. It is much better to start with a fairly relaxed sitting and allow the body-mind to go up rather than freeze the whole thing into a military pose that eventually collapses. Most of the agression that I met in the Zen world came from people sitting like in a soldier parade, chin in and rigid back. This is a tendency that Mike is aware of as I am too. People displaying anger should watch the way they sit, as they get tense they just get the whole picture far worse, thinking that they get it right, do the right thing and so forth they are being a pain to themselves and the world. In other words, yes sitting like a concrete pole is not the gate of ease and joy,it is hell's gate. For twenty years I sat in that style and developped a highly agressive style. Nowadays, I feel sometimes sorry for what I have done and what I have told people. But I also feel very happy to have met this possibility to sit at ease, in a painless and open way, to have really understood how rigid and deluded I am. Investigate your sitting and notice how much you overdo things. That's why Alexander technique is important for me as an eye opener and not a new gimmick. And they are many other ways to look at it. Yoga is great ( but still too much doing...) And the chances are that you are still overdoing it. The level of resistance to what is happening in our life, our resistance Kannon as reality, or our over-enthusiasm to practice everything in the right way...Overdoing. Let's look at it. Please, this is important.

    Correcting somebody's sitting is really the wrong direction ( as it always done in Zendo). To correct one's sitting is the wrong direction ( due to false sensory appreciation ). So what to do? Read and undesrtand Dogen, look at Ryokan playing and sleeping, look at small children or animals and don't worry. Worry no more. The moonlight floods the room, flowers and women are sweet, mud is beautiful too. Worry no more.

    gassho


    Taigu

  2. #2

    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Thank you Taigu! This is a very helpful teaching for me right now!

    Gassho Chum!

    Jonathan

  3. #3
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    What a message; I fall into the martial-sitting category quite frequently. It's something I'm not often happy about, as it's a reflection of my stressed-out side. Thank you.

    gassho,
    Shujin

  4. #4
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Seeing into it is half the cure. Unfortunately, as you may guess, most of us are blind to this...And the vicious circle cannot be broken. And this is no thrill, no metaphysics or philosophy, but the real work. As you can guess, it is ot easy to hear and accept, most people don't want to look straight into the mess. And the people needing this the most are often shying away.

    gassho

    Taigu

  5. #5
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    One more thing: the act of trying to fix anything is of course totally useless, even more, it make things worse; needless to say, we are stuck. But not completely. In Zen we have what we call mushotoku, dropping any endgaining, any goal. This is the way forward, wish for the release and forget the wish. Forget the self itself. Forget, that is to say allow the old guy to disappear, the old skin, old thoughts, dusty habits and likes and dislikes. You precisely do this in sitting like a mountain not minding about being a mountain. You don't sit zen. You let zazen sit you.

    gassho

    T.

  6. #6
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Chugai,

    I am sooooo glad to hear that my words and pointers could be of any help.

    keep on the good work of undoing the self.


    gassho


    Taigu

  7. #7
    disastermouse
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    One more thing: the act of trying to fix anything is of course totally useless, even more, it make things worse; needless to say, we are stuck. But not completely. In Zen we have what we call mushotoku, dropping any endgaining, any goal. This is the way forward, wish for the release and forget the wish. Forget the self itself. Forget, that is to say allow the old guy to disappear, the old skin, old thoughts, dusty habits and likes and dislikes. You precisely do this in sitting like a mountain not minding about being a mountain. You don't sit zen. You let zazen sit you.

    gassho

    T.
    Whenever I get adamant about teachers being unnecessary, I need to remember how helpful input like this would have been during those first four years I sat on my own. I never really sat 'militaristically' in the sense of the rigidness of my posture, but my attitude back then was 'anti' everything. My posture was probably loose, but my mind was very rigid - and still is sometimes.

    Thank you, Taigu.

  8. #8

    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Sometimes,while in zazen I suddenly start worrying about my posture. Am I doing it right? Is the chin really levered? The backbone straight enough? And these worries distracts me from zazen itself. Next time it happens I'll recall your words, Taigu

    Deep gassho

    Rimon

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    I had the fortune to begin my sitting with your teachings in the beginner series here, so right off was shown the advice of not being too rigid, but even yet it is an often needed reminder. It is hard not to wrestle with the bones, muscle, and mind while on the cushion.
    Thank you Taigu.
    Gassho.

  10. #10

    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Hiyas, Thank you all for this.

    Gassho
    Shohei

  11. #11

    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    This is the way forward, wish for the release and forget the wish...allow the old guy to disappear...
    If we used mantras in this tradition I would be repeating this for the rest of my life.

    Thanks Taigu.

    gassho
    greg

  12. #12
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    This thread is very helpful for me. Thank you, Taigu, and everyone that has posted here.

    Reading Taigu's description of overdoing has made me realize what I was doing in trying to quit tango. In my mind, I was trying to "fix" the issues I had with tango, and I mistakenly thought that giving it up would make my struggle with it go away. Resisting the dislikes, the people in the tango class I wanted to fix because they caused me suffering.

    Now I get it...dropping it was a goal -- the false goal of fixing it, which is not skillful means.

    Zazen can sit me, and tango can dance me.

    There's so much struggle against myself in everything, all the time. How great to let myself just fall away, until there's just zazen, or tango, or dish-doing. So new to my brain...sometimes I grasp it, sometimes not.

    gassho
    Julia

  13. #13
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Dear Julia,

    Thank you for your great post.
    It is Ok to experience it, forget it, falll back into old habits and redescovering it again. I suggest you could write down "Tango can dance me" or something like that on the fridge, above the kitchen sink of your desk...Just as a reminder. An altar is also a reminder and we sometimes need reminders.


    Hi Chet,

    Yes, teachers are useful at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. You came a long way and like everyone of us, you have still a long way do go, walking this endless path of timeless practice. Sometimes situations are my teachers, sometimes my partner, sometimes Chet, sometimes my direct student, sometimes Jundo...Basically, we never stop having teachers, but our relationship to them gets free and open. In the retreat taking place in Bruxels next winter, I will ask the three priests to take responsability for the teachings so I can shut the F... up and sit and learn. And we can all do that.

    gassho

    T.

  14. #14

    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Thank you Taigu Sensei for another very profound post.

    I too enjoyed your sit-along-videos for beginners after I had started sitting daily again after a long, long break!

    I think what you say about not forcing yourself too much, not being too rigid, is very important. Don't you think there's a risk of being to loose about it too though? That there's a middle way? I was on a vacation recently and noticed a woman sitting on a rock by the beach, in the sunlight, with the face towards the sun, her hands on her knees in the index finger-to-thumb-mudra common in Yoga. It looked very relaxed and enjoyable, but I don't think it would have been easy to practice Shikantaza in that position, with the face up and the neck bent backwards. I would have had a hard time keeping my attention in the present moment and staying aware.

    Personally, I start my Zazen with a quick cradle stretch to loosen the hip rotators a little, so that I don't put too much pressure on my knees. Then I carefully lift my legs into position and spend a few minutes just trying to find my posture (I guess this process gets quicker and less conscious with time and practice). I try to roughly position myself correctly by angling the Zafu so the lower back is slightly curved and rock from side to side a few times to find the center of gravity. Then I imagine my back being lifted towards the ceiling by a string that is attached to the top of my head. What I also do at this stage is to focus on my breathing, making sure my breath is easy and unobstructed and that I am breathing from the Hara (diaphragmal breathing). If I lean to much to the front or back, curve my back or sit in an otherwise tense position, I will notice it right away in my breathing. I have noticed that when tense muscles in the legs, hips and back relax one after the other as I release the hand of thought again and again, I sway or lose my balance in small jerks. I have tried to use these small jerks to find my optimal position, so that even when my body relaxes, it stays stable. In my case I think I was leaning a little too much to the front, so now I consciously position myself more upright from the beginning. This has also helped with the numbness in the legs from compression of the sciatus nerve. In this position it felt natural to also slightly tuck in the chin a little.

    I have gone from a position that I thought was very relaxed and comfortable, but probably not very upright or stable, to a position that I would guess looks more 'militaristic', but that I find more stable, more comfortable and more natural. I also have more trust in my position now, so that I can more easily let go.

    At the moment I'm spending more time stretching than sitting, but I see it as an investment for a life of sitting.

    So, I agree that it is probably impossible to tell someone how they should sit, but that there are several clues that may help you figure it out for yourself and that if you listen to the body, it will help you find your position. And I'm sure my position will change many, many times in the coming years...

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  15. #15
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Thank you for this reminder Taigu, Chet and Julia.
    I don't know why but I make everything ...or everything makes me make everything... so complicated! It's like I need to keep going back to the begining to see how to keep everything simple.
    I'm now getting shikantaza!!! Sitting just sits!!

    As for posture well as long as my head and spine are balanced and relaxed and there is not too much strain on the hips or the base of the spine then this allows me to 'just sit'. I find that strains just distact too much!
    May be I should just man up a bit more!

    Thanks again Taigu.

  16. #16
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    A good old funny picture that conveys the spirit of being relaxed not maybe the actual sitting itself ...

    Attached files

  17. #17
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    The sit-along-videos were great. Really not what i was expecting when i first joined. I assumed it was going to be yet another one of those "militaryistic" teachings, but was pleasantly suprised by how gentle Taigu Sensei approached the subject. They were very helpful. Thank you to Taigu Sensei.

    Gassho,
    John

  18. #18

    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    Thanks to Taigu and everyone for this thread!
    Fooling oneself ... who isn't concerned? :lol:

    gassho,
    Jinyu

  19. #19
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Overdoing (and fooling oneself about nondoing)

    A great thread. Thanks. Imagine concentrating on every tiny movement as you drive your car. With all that hard mind, you'd certainly crash.
    Thanks Taigu.
    Gassho,
    Soen

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