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Thread: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

  1. #1

    Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Just arrived and very eager to participate in discussions here. I have searched for a topic on this subject but can't quite find it, so here goes.

    There's a lot written about the practice of shikantaza, but I've begun wondering about the transition out of shikantaza and into... well doing something else. What do you do? Do you have a routine, or does it vary?

    Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

  2. #2

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hello Chris,

    Do you mean moving from Shikantaza into a meditative technique (Anapanasati etc)? Or, how to take the Shikantaza off of the cushion into daily life?

    Metta,

    Saijun

  3. #3

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Quote Originally Posted by Saijun
    Do you mean moving from Shikantaza into a meditative technique (Anapanasati etc)? Or, how to take the Shikantaza off of the cushion into daily life?
    The latter, Saijun, "off the cushion" in a metaphorical and literal sense both. The bell rings (or, for me at home, the timer on my Android goes off!), I finish a few last breaths, and I must "start my day." That transition between sitting and starting has been compelling to me, and I would be interested to know what people do both in the most practical terms -- "I get a drink of water"; "I stretch my legs"; etc. -- and in terms of carrying nonattachment, awareness, and so on forward.

    Not sure if that makes sense or not. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Transition? If all of life is Shikantaza there can be no transition from, or to.

    Gassho,
    John

  5. #5

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Well, sure! As I would say if I were still in middle school, "I wish!"

    But, honestly, I am unable to maintain the level of awareness I can attain in just sitting when I set off into a world in which I must drive to get to work, prepare my daughter's lunch so she has food at school... off into the world of goals, intentions, and the like. I also spend my time off the cushion while in that world!

    So while I understand that "all of life is Shikantaza," I also have experienced off-cushion shikantaza differently from on-cushion, despite the duality of such a distinction. If others have that experience as well, I'd be interested to hear how they approach it.

    S'all.

  6. #6

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hello Chris,

    When I'm done with sitting, I'll...

    1.) get up, stretch out a bit, brush my teeth, and go to bed (if it's late),
    2.) get up, take two steps over to my sewing table and work on my Okesa (if it's not) as that's kind of a middle ground for me between "sitting" and "working," or
    3.) get up, stretch out, brush my teeth, and take out the dogs (if it's morning).

    As far as my all-day-every-day application of Shikantaza, I generally go through my day, and...I don't know how to put it...just sit with what comes up as it comes up. Shikan-living maybe? I do sit for 30 minutes at lunch most every day to "touch base" as it were for the second half of the day.

    A couple of days back, I wrote an example using my asthma and its treatment as an example, but it's applicable to this discussion too (I think) as it's a pretty good representation of the attitude that I try to keep throughout the day.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saijun
    I'm asthmatic. Nearly every day I have to take a hit of some very powerful controller medication, and this seems to be the pattern for the rest of my life. There is a qualitative difference between sitting on the days that I take my meds and the days that I don't. However, I like breathing and do it several times a day. I feel rather badly when I don't. So, on days when I'm clear and med free, I sit with that. On days when I'm cloudy and on meds, I sit with that. How can your practice be invalid?

    As Rev. (Bro?) Fugen says, "you're ok, perfect even, just as you are." To paraphrase Jundo, we sit with our sickness, whole and complete, even as we go through treatment to get better.

    --From viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3861
    That's not really a satisfactory answer, I know (and apologize), but I'm not exactly sure how to say what I'm getting at.

    Metta,

    Saijun

  7. #7

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    As others have echoed, life is Shikantaza. Maybe it's not on the cushion, but the practice helps us use that mindset during our day to day in order to create space from what is bugging us, or doing something to me, or hurting me, to curiously observing and letting go. Easier said than done. But that's why it's practice.

    Everything's great until that bastard cuts me off... but that can be fun. Why did it make me so mad? What did the person take from me? Why am I threatened? The practice is like discovery.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  8. #8

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Thanks, Saijun! That's precisely what I was asking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saijun
    1.) get up...
    2.) get up...
    3.) get up...
    A question for you: do you have a particular way that you "get up"? For example, I've been trying to continue to be aware of my body when shifting out my legs from the half-lotus I'm in, then in stretching, then in standing.

    As far as my all-day-every-day application of Shikantaza, I generally go through my day, and...I don't know how to put it...just sit with what comes up as it comes up. Shikan-living maybe?
    I appreciate that! Goes to John's [ETA] point above.

    That's not really a satisfactory answer, I know (and apologize), but I'm not exactly sure how to say what I'm getting at.
    Well, neither do I, so I appreciate your post all the more. Thanks.

  9. #9

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pedestrian


    Quote Originally Posted by Saijun
    1.) get up...
    2.) get up...
    3.) get up...
    A question for you: do you have a particular way that you "get up"? For example, I've been trying to continue to be aware of my body when shifting out my legs from the half-lotus I'm in, then in stretching, then in standing.

    [
    Hello Chris,

    Actually, I bow, unfold my legs, sit for a moment while the blood gets to flowing normally again (assuming that my legs have fallen asleep, as they are sometimes wont to do), turn around on my cushion, stand up (trying to keep good posture), bow again, and go about my day.

    Or, if the dogs reeeeally have to go outside, I do one bow and make a mad dash to the door.

    Metta,

    Saijun

  10. #10

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Quote Originally Posted by Saijun
    Or, if the dogs reeeeally have to go outside, I do one bow and make a mad dash to the door.
    :lol: That sounds about right.

  11. #11

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hello all,

    Well, Pedestrian...that's sort of a tough question to answer. When I'm done with sitting I take a couple of deep breaths, stretch my legs, bow, stand, bow to Buddha, do few yoga stretches (sun salutation) to release any tightness in my spine, and then go about my day. I like to sit outside in the fresh air alot, so if I'm sitting outside, when my zazen is completed I sit easily for a little bit and listen to my surroundings. I like to watch and listen to the birds that visit the trees nearby.

    During the day, I do try to watch my thoughts - if I'm irritated or angry, I ask why and then it usually loses its hold. If happy, well I don't usually question that, but instead just go along with it.

    Not sure if this is any help or not. But after sitting regularly for a while, you will notice that your reactions to things in your daily acitivies begin to change.

    keep sitting, stretching and asking, bows

    Kelly/Jinmei

  12. #12

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hello Pedestrian!

    I have found that the longer it takes me to "come out" of zazen the better I feel, the smoother the transition is from "letting go" to "getting going."

    There's just no hurry. How I stretch afterward, maybe yawn, rub my eyes, is just as important as the time I sit with my legs crossed Burmese style, my hands in the mudra. But I do try to make the transition slowly. I'm not a tall guy. I have short legs. Often I will give them a rub before standing. I try to be just as aware of these movements as when sitting. But NO SPECIAL EFFORT! :shock:

    This may be a little new-agey for some, but I do try to get something good out of my sitting. Rather, something good happens EVERY TIME I SIT, I just try to be aware of it. It might be that I relearn how to drop expectations. Or there might be a real settling down into deep joy. Either way, my practice has become this...I SIT TO DO SOMETHING GOOD FOR MYSELF...THEN I TRY TO DO SOMETHING GOOD FOR SOMEONE ELSE DURING THE DAY. That is so simple. And it's working for me right now. That's my practice anyway.

    gassho
    Greg

  13. #13

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hello KellyRok!

    Quote Originally Posted by KellyRok
    Well, Pedestrian...that's sort of a tough question to answer.
    Best kind, don't you think? :wink:

    I like to sit outside in the fresh air alot, so if I'm sitting outside, when my zazen is completed I sit easily for a little bit and listen to my surroundings. I like to watch and listen to the birds that visit the trees nearby.
    I've been doing something similar: I sit in a room with very large picture windows to my right (looking out onto trees and bushes and birds) and to my left (onto a busy street lined with other houses). I spend time gazing out through those windows, just turning my head to look out one then the other, before I rise from the cushion.

    Not sure if this is any help or not. But after sitting regularly for a while, you will notice that your reactions to things in your daily acitivies begin to change.
    Already have, extensively and to great benefit. It's one of the reasons that I asked this question!

  14. #14

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hello, Greg, and thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    I have found that the longer it takes me to "come out" of zazen the better I feel, the smoother the transition is from "letting go" to "getting going."
    Yes! Exactly! I wish I had the ability always to transition slowly, but some mornings getting going has greater, shall we say, impetus. I reference Saijun's dogs!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hi All,

    As important as the sitting itself(in my opinion) is the getting into and out of Zazen. When the bell rings do you groan loudly, roll over, or think to yourself "finally!"? Or do you rather, rise from the Zafu, stool, chair,etc as a Buddha? It is easy to forget to follow ritual when life beckons. Especially when everything gets put on "hold" while you sit. Sometimes we have to rush to calm a crying child or let the dog out afterwards and I feel it is not wrong to do so. But focus is important as well. I apply 2 things i have learned from different disciplines.

    First is the martial arts. In Aikido we practice Zanshin after every technique. Zanshin is a soft and relaxed state of alertness of the mind. You never lose focus. Always present even when the technique is "done". Its just a brief holding of a mental state until its time to move to the next.

    Second is Tea Ceremony. After the guests leave the host should see them off until they disappear from sight. Then the host should go back into the tea room to silently reflect before taking care of the cleanup.

    Both have a similar idea of the importance of the mind before mind after.

    Gassho,
    John

  16. #16

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    It won't come easy or quickly. It is much easier to remain aware and focus during Zazen, because that is that type of environment it creates, off the cushion our minds get wrapped up into everyday life like it always does. It is just habitual. Which is why a daily practice is so important, eventually our awareness during Zazen follows us throughout the day. It does not come quickly because the moment we get off the pillow it is back to old routine. So I would recommend every now and then just stop, and 'be' for a minute. If you are at work, or waiting for the bus, just 'be' there. These short 'sittings' in everyday life can be and extremely powerful way to close the gap between our formal practice and the rest of our lives, in that way we will realize for ourselves, that Zazen is found wherever we are.

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  17. #17
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Hi Chris,

    I had to chuckle when I read this post because it sounded a lot like me when I started. I was trying to "be aware" and carry my sitting "off the cushion"...all zenny 'n stuff. Now? I just sit, ring the bell three times, then sit, then ring the bell once, and then...

    ...nothing else.

    Oh, things happen like screaming kids, doorbells, that pile of papers I have to organize, should I do the laundry?

    But if I step off the cushion with awareness of nothingness it is a lot easier to deal with somethingness.

    So, my advice? Don't overthink it. Don't be concerned about carrying one to the other. Be sitting. Then be not-sitting. And then drop any distinction between the two. Be with what is, whatever that may be.

    Hope that helps.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  18. #18

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pedestrian
    A question for you: do you have a particular way that you "get up"? For example, I've been trying to continue to be aware of my body when shifting out my legs from the half-lotus I'm in, then in stretching, then in standing.
    Hi Chris,

    Some very good comments above.

    Chris, bringing Zazen on and off the cushion ... such that there is no "on" or "off" ... is what this place is about! About everything we focus on here impacts that in some way. If one is in a monastery, if one is in the office or changing a baby's diapers or a flat tire ... all Shikantaza!

    However, I ask you to sit with and review our "beginner's (we're all beginners)" series, as they will address the flavor of Shikantaza emphasized here.

    viewforum.php?f=20

    One reason is that, if you feel Zazen is about needing to hold and maintain some particular awareness of the body or mindfulness or concentrated Samadhi state or focused sensation of "nonattachment" that one sometimes encounters in sitting, then that may not be "Shikantaza on or off the cushion" as is encouraged here. However, if in life, one develops the ability ... amid life's twists and turns, complexities, sunny days and rainy ... to "open the hand of thought and emotion", and to drop the resistance and separations of self/life ... that is Shikantaza.

    That may be a bit clearer after you go through the beginners series, and we can talk again after you do. However, in a nutshell, it is not about attaining or holding onto any particular mental state or concentration or awareness ... but very much about releasing, letting go, allowing, dropping various thoughts and emotions that divide self-life-world, creating friction and separation from "what is". One learns to do such in the heart of life ... and the proof is in life's pudding.

    Gassho, Jundo

  19. #19

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Thank you, everyone, for your replies.

    John, I really appreciate your bringing the practices from Akido and Tea Ceremony to bear on my questions. The concrete examples are very useful to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    Second is Tea Ceremony. After the guests leave the host should see them off until they disappear from sight. Then the host should go back into the tea room to silently reflect before taking care of the cleanup.
    Ditto Seiryu: I'm increasingly thinking that twice daily zazen sessions that bookend the day can create a frame, a form defining inside and outside that provokes my (overthought) questions about transition. So this was a very helpful suggestion:

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    I would recommend every now and then just stop, and 'be' for a minute. If you are at work, or waiting for the bus, just 'be' there. These short 'sittings' in everyday life can be and extremely powerful way to close the gap between our formal practice and the rest of our lives, in that way we will realize for ourselves, that Zazen is found wherever we are.
    Dosho, as you probably can tell, I've no aversion to performing beginner's errors -- particularly overthinking! My budding practice makes it clear that

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    [i]f I step off the cushion with awareness of nothingness it is a lot easier to deal with somethingness.
    Thank you for that.

    Finally, thanks to you, Jundo, for your comments. I've begun the Treeleaf's beginner's series as you recommended, and it is helping me understand "the flavor of Shikantaza emphasized here." To that end:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    One reason is that, if you feel Zazen is about needing to hold and maintain some particular awareness of the body or mindfulness or concentrated Samadhi state or focused sensation of "nonattachment" that one sometimes encounters in sitting, then that may not be "Shikantaza on or off the cushion" as is encouraged here. However, if in life, one develops the ability ... amid life's twists and turns, complexities, sunny days and rainy ... to "open the hand of thought and emotion", and to drop the resistance and separations of self/life ... that is Shikantaza.

    That may be a bit clearer after you go through the beginners series, and we can talk again after you do. However, in a nutshell, it is not about attaining or holding onto any particular mental state or concentration or awareness ... but very much about releasing, letting go, allowing, dropping various thoughts and emotions that divide self-life-world, creating friction and separation from "what is". One learns to do such in the heart of life ... and the proof is in life's pudding.
    Thanks for this. I'm certainly seeing the proof in the pudding: I understand letting the fish slip through the net while I'm sitting, and I'm increasingly able to do the same when I'm not sitting. Yesterday at my school was quite an adventure: lots of fish in that school!

    But there's no doubt that the fish that consistently gets its gills stuck in the net these days is (over)thinking about practice. I admit that embracing your, Dosho's, and others' advice can be a bit of a challenge, given my enthusiasm for study and for this sangha, my on-going struggle to find words for the ineffable, and my recognition that that struggle -- with words, concepts, and other forms -- is yet another manifestation of clinging. I keep hearing Dogen say, "Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge.... [T]he inconceivable may not be distinctly apparent."

    So thanks for cutting the new guy some slack. I mean, heck, not only am I a beginner, I'm saddled with a Ph.D. :wink:

    Time to sit. I haven't ever used this term before, but seems like now's a good first time.

    Gassho, everyone.

  20. #20

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    I wanted to jump onto Treeleaf and say thank you again to those who took the time to post in this topic. My last two days "off the cushion" have felt a lot more consistent with shikantaza than before we started this discussion. I can't quite say why or how, of course, but I wanted to note it and say, again, gassho.

  21. #21

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    My last two days "off the cushion" have felt a lot more consistent with shikantaza than before we started this discussion.
    Fear not, it will get bad again. But that is OK

    Gassho,
    Matt

  22. #22

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    My last two days "off the cushion" have felt a lot more consistent with shikantaza than before we started this discussion.
    Fear not, it will get bad again. But that is OK

    Gassho,
    Matt
    Isn't that the truth? haahahhahahh It's like this innate thing inside that wants to get "it". but there's nothing to get. I guess that's my hidden agenda, and ultimately this practice helps me to see that and try to drop the want and just non-do the whatever. OK, sorry for the rambling. I'm at work, what do you want? :mrgreen:

  23. #23

    Re: Transitioning From Shikantaza To...

    I think it's important to realize that you can't always be mindful. We can do our best, but if we are always trying to "be mindful" I think we may veer from it. Much like when we always try to be "nice" and only later do we catch ourselves and say "well, that wasn't a very nice thing for me to say, I'll have to try harder." However, if we try to focus on really and truly being in the present moment, as Steven Hagen says "be here now" then we can more readily realize the boundlessness that is shikantaza, with nothing more to add and nothing to take away.

    Not that it's easy, mind, but then only Shakyamuni was perfectly enlightened....

    Just my two cents...well more like a hay penny. :mrgreen:

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