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Thread: Disgruntled

  1. #1

    Disgruntled

    Hi, all,

    This is the first topic I've started here at Treeleaf, and I hate to say it, but it's going to be filled with complaining. And there you have it. I hope you'll read this anyway.

    I've been meditating for quite a while now, two or three years at least, in a rather undisciplined way. I sit wherever I'm comfortable, and I don't fall asleep, but I can get so relaxed I could just let my arms drop right off my body. I always felt centered and very refreshed after one of these sittings. However.

    Now I'm trying to sit zazen, using more, um, "correct" technique, and I can hardly meditate at all. My blasted back hurts. I hurt between my shoulder blades. I am distracted by every little noise, every little itch, my legs want to twitch and jump, I just cannot bear it. I have tried different cushions in my chair, different chairs, different positions, sitting up straighter, not sitting up so straight, just gritting my teeth and bearing it so I'll get used to it, all of that. I am just plain frustrated. I guess I am a fat, lazy American who sits in cushy chairs too much, and on top of that, I am getting old and I am far from being in good physical condition. But this mess just makes me want to throw up my hands.

    Suggestions? Quitcherbitchin? What? :wink:

    Thanks, y'all,

    Jane

  2. #2

    Re: Disgruntled

    As Taigu has mentioned elsewhere on the forum, don't concern yrself with the "correct" position. My body simply doesn't "do" lotus/half-lotus. I find it more important to have proper posture with the spine and the head and maintain an anchored butt and legs...whether that is seize or burmese or whatever.

  3. #3

    Re: Disgruntled

    First, you should always stretch when begining sitting shikantaza. It can be somewhat uncomfortable. That being said, there are many ways to sit shikantaza, and Aitken Roshi points out in one of his books that he knew someone whose back went out on them and went through and entire sesshin on her back. He also says that you should sit on the "forward edge" of your comfort, where it might be mildly uncomfortable but not painful and damaging.

    As for the concentration part, every sound, every itch, every "distraction" is really no distraction at all, because they are the stuff of life, and all of life is zazen. Just sit and experience it, each itch the entirety of the universe. Body posture is important so as not to fall asleep or hurt oneself, but beyond that, zazen springs forth from the mind, not the spine.

  4. #4

    Re: Disgruntled

    Hi, Jane
    we tend to do things only when we feel comfortable and in the way we want it to be done. Why wouldn't we? our ways are always better... :wink:

    Although I wouldn't say there is a 'correct' way to sit, there are some ways that are more helpful then others. But what you are describing is normal. The ego doesn't want to sit still, the ego doesn't want to fall away. it wants to stay in control like it always is. so it will do anything to make you give up and stop. You have to see this, recognize it, and let it go. ask yourself; "who is it that is distracted by every little noise?" who is it that says; "I just cannot bear it?" Is this voice you? or is it something else?

    Now of course if you are really uncomfortable, it is better to move and change position. This practice is not about beating ourselves to sit like soldiers. But at the same time we shouldn't move at every little thing...you have to find the balance...

    Just keep at it. Remember; it is not easy, nothing that is truly good for you ever is.

    Keep in mind: The mind can only be still when the body is still. The body can only be still when the mind is still. Just sit. drop all thoughts of distracting, uncomfortable, etc...just sit and see how it goes...

    just some ideas....

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Disgruntled

    Hiya
    Not much to offer really, but what little I can offer, requires more information from you

    I'll toss this out, Cushion or zafu can be height adjusted by adding or removing filling, this helps with the hips and which helps the back. Im not sure of what position your sitting but I did Full lotus until i put on weight, when i did it added to the thickness of my legs and lotus was no longer optimal for my body type (im a 6 foot tall 200lb guy currently) and so bending my legs so sharply put strain on my already weakened knees (snowboarder for 23 years). I switched to the next "correct" position, Half lotus as I thought was the requirement and this caused me the pain you are currently talking about. since half lotus causes me to twist a little to sit it, it put strain on my hips and morevoer my back and I had pain in the same places you described.

    Sitting "correctly" is comfortably all things said and done. Lotus was considered optimum for many reasons including the folks of yore could sit that way for long periods and it was very stable. I have discovered Burmese to be the optimal for me as it puts next to no strain on my hips, knees and thus my back is naturally straight(er) rather than "locked" into straight. If you feel you are forcing into a position and that you have to struggle to hold it, chances are it will not be sustainable and it will cause pain. We get enough of that daily and it we do not need add to it . You hit it big time there too... Sit in a chair if you need to sit in a chair! if Dogen had chairs and it was accepted seating method in his time and area I would venture to guess we would have a section in the Shobogenzo on the merits of sitting in and how to do so optimally in a chair

    This is to address the body bits!

    "I am distracted by every little noise, every little itch, my legs want to twitch and jump, I just cannot bear it."
    Now this I think Everyone who has sat Zazen can agree, they have run into in varying amount Through out practice. the good news is your not alone, beginner or long term practitioner (old beginner) it happens. The not so bad but not so good news is That is normal. that is part of zazen that we all run into.

    This seems to have real strength to "keep us from really meditating" because we are looking for something else, some other place we have to get. Then we are not sitting zazen (or being sat by zazen) we are going to work(late) in rush hour traffic or listening listening to a crying baby in a long que at the grocery store.

    This wanting X instead of what is really going on makes whats really going on seem extra annoying and X extra desirable. Doing this are Struggling against our selves its not the the world that has a problem its us.

    Accepting what is, as it is, whole and perfect in what it is, nothing to add or take away. Itchy nose... great its not going to fall of, its not going to drive you insane.
    Its just a trick of the mind - scratch that, body-mind, to get you to move. We tend to like motion its part, of the distraction tactic

    That said...who said you cannot scratch? It may be perfect, it maybe whole and still annoying so ...if its real, deal - scratch it, move it, cough snuff, what ever you need to do and get it over with. Then return.

    When you sit do not seek a bliss-ed out state, in fact do not seek. Just sit. if you catch yourself stuck in an annoyed state, notice it, let it go and move on (your mind does that on its own anyways). Find your self in a very calm and peaceful sit, great, enjoy and move on too! No need to seek and stick to things, or avoid them either, these are the basic causes of suffering!!

    All this said, and I will say I am no expert, and so many others will have some brilliant suggestions. I only offer what I do as it helped me and I hope it can help you too! After all Zazen is the gate of ease, it really shouldn't hurt

    Gassho
    Shohei

    **EDIT to say: ditto what Seiryu wrote!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Disgruntled

    Quote Originally Posted by Arquerin
    This is the first topic I've started here at Treeleaf, and I hate to say it, but it's going to be filled with complaining. And there you have it. I hope you'll read this anyway.
    I like it. It has a twist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arquerin
    I've been meditating for quite a while now, two or three years at least, in a rather undisciplined way.
    Ah, me too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arquerin
    Now I'm trying to sit zazen, using more, um, "correct" technique, and I can hardly meditate at all. My blasted back hurts. I hurt between my shoulder blades. I am distracted by every little noise, every little itch, my legs want to twitch and jump, I just cannot bear it. I have tried different cushions in my chair, different chairs, different positions, sitting up straighter, not sitting up so straight, just gritting my teeth and bearing it so I'll get used to it, all of that. I am just plain frustrated. I guess I am a fat, lazy American who sits in cushy chairs too much, and on top of that, I am getting old and I am far from being in good physical condition. But this mess just makes me want to throw up my hands.
    I have had this too. Here's how I figure it:

    When something rubs this hard against me, I now try to take it as a little hint from my ego that it might actually be working on me. It is producing friction-- it is causing some kind of change.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    Although I wouldn't say there is a 'correct' way to sit, there are some ways that are more helpful then others. But what you are describing is normal. The ego doesn't want to sit still, the ego doesn't want to fall away. it wants to stay in control like it always is. so it will do anything to make you give up and stop. You have to see this, recognize it, and let it go. ask yourself; "who is it that is distracted by every little noise?" who is it that says; "I just cannot bear it?" Is this voice you? or is it something else?
    Shikantaza changed me up. I am tons more patient than I used to be, and I understand the value of concentration. If I can enjoy staring at my wall for half an hour, I can enjoy pretty much anything. I can see more details around me. "Going with the flow," is a real concept and not just a catchphrase. I can feel the ease with which gentleness brings force. I know better when I am lying to myself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    Just keep at it. Remember; it is not easy, nothing that is truly good for you ever is.
    I am starting to suspect that this is true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arquerin
    Suggestions? Quitcherbitchin? What? :wink:
    Just go sit!

  7. #7

    Re: Disgruntled

    So I can tell already that I don't like you. hahaha I'm just kidding

    I get the same exact feeling. Right in my rhomboids (upper back in between shoulder blades) I feel a lot of tension like it's just really tight and it can get painful. But I realized that I hold a lot of tension there. When things are stressful I find that I somehow sit (not just in zazen but anywhere I'm at: e.g. the desk at work, etc), in an awkward position that causes me tension. It's not obvious but I definitely notice it. So I usually take a deep breath relax and start focusing on the tension rather than worrying about it.

    I don't know if that helps, but I sure as hell know it's annoying

    Gassho,

    Risho

  8. #8

    Re: Disgruntled

    Thank you all for responding. These are amazing responses that you've given me.

    And what am I going to do now? I'm gonna go sit! :lol: Whatever it is, is what it will be.

    Jane

  9. #9

    Re: Disgruntled

    Jane,

    Now, I know most people won't listen to what I am going to say: I have one and only one advice: find a good a good Alexander technique teacher. and start having lessons taking your zafu with you. Please, no strectching or correcting by yourself. I have been there Jane and had the good fortune to really experience painless and easy sitting after twenty years of real struggle.

    Give it a go, you won't regret it .

    gassho


    Taigu

  10. #10
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: Disgruntled

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Now, I know most people won't listen to what I am going to say:
    Why? It sounds like you belive it helps greatly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    find a good a good Alexander technique teacher.
    is it along the lines of posture training? Strength? Will try to find more info.
    Gassho ~ Dave.

    Edit** No sooner asked than found http://www.alexandertechnique.com/at.htm

  11. #11

    Re: Disgruntled

    Hi Jane,

    I just want to say ... make sure you sit with all the short "sit-a-long" talks for beginners (we're all always 'beginners"), including Taigu's fine talks on posture ...

    viewforum.php?f=20

    ... also these short essays on "how to do ... and non-do" Shikantaza ...

    viewforum.php?f=23

    ... and THEN we'll talk!

    and also look at this Taigu approved book, also very helpful on finding the every changing postures right for you in that moment.

    viewtopic.php?p=30208#p30208

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12

    Re: Disgruntled

    Due to a knee injury I am sitting on a cushion on a chair. I do think it is important to keep the spine straight and the head balanced on top of it. To me it feels like my head is slightly leaning back. What position were you using when you meditated in the past and felt comfortable and centered?

  13. #13
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Disgruntled

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Jane,

    Now, I know most people won't listen to what I am going to say: I have one and only one advice: find a good a good Alexander technique teacher. and start having lessons taking your zafu with you. Please, no strectching or correcting by yourself. I have been there Jane and had the good fortune to really experience painless and easy sitting after twenty years of real struggle.
    A strong second to that. I had six months of Alexander lessons more than twenty years ago, and a handful of lessons in different cities since then. (The initial lessons were in Norway when I was spending a year there; I'm in France now, and found teachers in a couple of cities I've lived in.) While I don't have lessons now (I live in a rural area), I still remember much of what I discovered. I would very much like to be able to have lessons regularly, because I have problems with scoliosis and arthritis. But even if you can't keep it up, just getting a taste of it - for a long enough time - will go a very long way.

    I always thought of the Alexander Technique as a sort of physical zazen...

  14. #14

    Re: Disgruntled

    Lots of discussions on this if you search "full lotus." If you really want to get to that point, lots of stretching over a long period of time. Here are some resources if you're interested. With all my busted joints, Burmese is the best posture for me:

    http://zenmontpellier.voila.net/eng/lotus/lotuseng.html

    http://www.ashtanganeworleans.com/Old%2 ... usGrow.htm

    http://www.movingintostillness.com/book ... asana.html

    Cheers,
    Matt

  15. #15

    Re: Disgruntled

    I have to humbly disagree with you Matto, the right thing does itself, the right thing cannot done by direct work on the physical body. No fixing, correcting will do. Everybody is different. Yoga is great. For me, yoga is wrong. Not because I am against yoga, just because it is not the way my body can blossom.

    Thank you, kirkmc, you obviously know what we are talking about, the release of the head forward and up...There is nothing like it, Alexander did find the way for everybody to unfold the being in action and stillness.

    Dear Rich, your question is complex...you say: I feel...This feeling could be misperception. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. You may ask somebody to check if what you feel is what is ( and there is nothing wrong sitting on a cushion and on a chair ).

    And I agree Matto, Burmese rules!!!



    gassho


    Taigu

  16. #16

    Re: Disgruntled

    Hello all,

    There is some decent information on Youtube and elsewhere on the Internet about the Alexander technique. I investigated some of this last night. Also discovered that there are a few teachers within about 2.5 hours of my location, in Richmond and Charlottesville. But I actually have what I think is a pretty decent idea of what the AT involves, just from what I was able to find last night. I know that's not like having lessons, but with all the other things going on right now, it might be the best I can do for a while.

    I was able to sit fairly comfortably this morning using pointers from the AT, using a hull pillow in the seat of a straight-backed chair. I decided to start with 10 to 15 minutes like that, and gradually work up to longer times.

    Rich, when I was comfortable before, I was really not sitting in any position. I was sitting just wherever I was - in the driver's seat of my car, in my recliner, in my office chair at work, in the hospital cafeteria, really anywhere I could get 10 or 15 minutes to breathe. I am absolutely sure that my breathing was not as beneficial as it could have been, but those sessions were surely good for jangled nerves, fatigue, stress, you name it.

    I have a knee injury, too. Apparently my knee is never going to heal. Two years ago this July, I took a flying leap over a concrete parking place marker, and when I landed, it was all on my right knee. I dislocated my kneecap about 2 inches, stretched every tendon and ligament, irritated all 6 of the bursae. I've had nearly every test known to man, two rounds of physical therapy, multiple cortisone shots. The knee joint is mostly stable now, but the soft tissue around it will probably never be right. The swelling still goes a good six inches up my thigh. I wouldn't dare put my weight down on that knee.

    I'm very grateful for everyone's responses.

    Gassho,

    Jane

  17. #17

    Re: Disgruntled

    Quote Originally Posted by Arquerin
    Hello all,


    Rich, when I was comfortable before, I was really not sitting in any position. I was sitting just wherever I was - in the driver's seat of my car, in my recliner, in my office chair at work, in the hospital cafeteria, really anywhere I could get 10 or 15 minutes to breathe. I am absolutely sure that my breathing was not as beneficial as it could have been, but those sessions were surely good for jangled nerves, fatigue, stress, you name it.

    I have a knee injury, too. Apparently my knee is never going to heal. Two years ago this July, I took a flying leap over a concrete parking place marker, and when I landed, it was all on my right knee. I dislocated my kneecap about 2 inches, stretched every tendon and ligament, irritated all 6 of the bursae. I've had nearly every test known to man, two rounds of physical therapy, multiple cortisone shots. The knee joint is mostly stable now, but the soft tissue around it will probably never be right. The swelling still goes a good six inches up my thigh. I wouldn't dare put my weight down on that knee.

    I'm very grateful for everyone's responses.

    Gassho,

    Jane

    Sorry about your knee. Mine is slowly getting better - my Dr prescribed exercises, motrin or ibuprophen and glucosamin/chondrotin. As Taigu said be patient and kind with yourself. Maybe 10 min of correct posture (what is correct for you) is your current limit and increase gradually. Driving and recliner meditation have always been among my favorites

  18. #18

    Re: Disgruntled

    Hellos to Jane and to all others posting here:

    I am late to this discussion, but would like to add a couple of things to the discussion.

    Somewhere else in the forum I have written about zazen as translated as sit-ing meditation not seat-ed meditation.
    This sitting is active. Nishijima Roshi has described zazen as a balance (balancing) of the autonomic and sympathetic nervous systems.
    I'm sure there are a number of ways to describe this activity (zazen) and its effect on mind/body.

    In fact this study of the self has allowed me to see mind and experience body as strangely and uniquely one thing.
    It is a great place to be, this zazen. I say strangely because for most of my 59 years I have approached them as separate and different.

    There is new appreciation for my body as I manage more and more various aspects of it's deterioration (injuries and age).

    Knees: therein lies a very important determinant of one's approach to zazen practice. I have knees which subluxate and disclocate easily (and painfully!) due to a shallow groove in one of the bones which tracks the ligament holding the kneecap in place: at unpredictable times my knee will go off track. As I slowly straighten the leg, the ligament pops back into place (the good part about shallow groove is that it is also not so hard to get the ligament back in place).

    So! For my body, 'full lotus' for me is a modified burmese-ish position: bum on the kapok zafu, each knee supported with a small cushion. Because my feet are farther away from my hands than a 'real' full lotus would be, I have another cushion which spans the distance from my feet to my hands so I can rest my hands in mudra on this cushion and be in contact with my feet. This helps support the weight of my arms (I have herniated/discs and stenosis of discs in spinal vertebrae of neck).
    So ok: with all these cushions I can sit for multiple day sesshins!
    There was a period of time when I had injured my right foot and could not sit on a zafu: I sat on a very large exercise ball--kinda like a zafu from Gulliver's Travels--but, better than a chair for me, it gave me the dynamic sit I get when I am on my zafu: there is the simultaneous pressing down and pushing off; the mutual downward and upward mutual motions of sitting. The kapok zafu is kind of like a modified 'ball' (more so than the buckwheat hull kind of zafu). While the buckwheat hull kind seemed to adjust to my posterior in a 'perfect fit', it gave me more of a 'seat-ed' feeling and less of a 'sit-ing' feeling.
    In addition to my big yellow exercise ball, I have also had a good 'sitting' experience on my kapok zafu on a low bench: I found both of these to be equivalent in dynamic with regard to my spine as my zafu and knee pillows.

    For each of us, it is very important to discover this 'sit-ing.'
    Obviously over time and under different conditions, how we can achieve this will vary.
    And as duly noted above, for some working with posture helps, for others stretching/yoga helps.

    I have to say, from an aesthetic stance, I wish I only needed my zafu and zabuton--it is so simple and beautiful, the round cushion on the square cushion. But I need my two knee pillows and I can go one sitting period without the cushion for the hands, but if I sit more than one period, the strain in the neck/shoulder/muscles combine with my herniated discs in unkind ways. So, ok I have all these pillows and I have come to appreciate each of them!

    When I sit, micro-adjustments are constantly going on. I can feel the transfer of the pushing down of 'sit' and the pushing up of 'ing.'

    It was a recommendation of Nishijima Roshi several years ago on his blog, which really made a most noticeable difference in my sitting: I had written about my use of small cushions for the knees and he had replied to remember to push down with the knees. This very simple instruction improved my sitting immediately, despite my already having a good, stable posture. It is a living instruction which has stayed with me and which I continue to benefit from. (That is to say, it is an instruction I live).

    This topic is worthy of further exploration and those interested in hearing others' experiences can find much written throughout Treeleaf's forums over the years, as well as other places.

    A beautiful talk (can't remember quite where I heard it) was given by an experienced practitioner who had become attached to full lotus and when illness prevented him from sitting on a zafu he had a very difficult time, thinking that if it wasn't full lotus, it wasn't a 'worthy' practice.

    Any who, I hope this is of benefit, sorry to go on at such length.

  19. #19

    Re: Disgruntled

    Hello Keishin, and thank you for the lovely response. You make it easy for me to see that what I've been trying to reconcile are actually two very different things. My original sitting, while valuable to me in its own way, was not zazen. It was seat-ed meditation. The sitting therein was definitely not active. Perhaps, with this view, I can find balance.

    Thank you, and gassho,

    Jane

  20. #20

    Re: Disgruntled

    Thanks Keishin. I am also a big fan of Nishijima. What I would like to suggest is that even off the cushion in our daily life we can maintain good posture whether sitting, standing or lying down; so just driving, or just sitting in a recliner could be a form of meditation. I think Jundo's patented Insta Zazen is what I'm trying to describe.

  21. #21

    Re: Disgruntled

    Keishen, very helpful words. Thank you.
    -Matt

  22. #22

    Re: Disgruntled

    I took three Alexander lessons and read his book. Unfortunately, the teacher that I had left. However, the learning exercises in Alexander's book were very helpful even without an instructor, although an instructor is highly recommended, if not insisted upon as necessary.

    I have also done yoga off and on for years. It was the only thing that resolved the pain in my neck and shoulders, which sometimes even kept me from lifting my head off of the pillow. After six months of yoga, the relief lasted even during a following six month hiatus.

    As you, I am also 59 (and overweight, and although everyone says yoga should help with that, it doesn't seem too), but I am very flexible and limber because of the yoga, and I sit on the floor with no cushions in a modified lotus with very little discomfort. When I don't do yoga, my body feels like it becomes knotted and constricted and almost begs to do yoga. I highly recommend yoga.

    I mostly practiced from videos. I liked Lilias, Deni Preston in the yoga series from Total Body Workout on BYU TV (I would recommend the restorative yoga sessions first), Namaste yoga by Kate Potter on both TV and video, and although I don't like "hot" yoga, Bikram has an exellent series of exercises if you can find his old book Bikram's Beginning Yoga. Deni Preton taught me to breathe the best.

    I am very glad that I found yoga, and I believe I would have been in great pain in my life without it. And even though I am not a consistent practitioner, its benefits have lasted throughout my life.

    Sorry, I am a rank beginner at zazen, so no help there. Sitting doesn't bother me (making the time is my downfall), but that is probably because I am not doing it correctly! All the best, Grace.

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