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Thread: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

  1. #1

    Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I have read through (though not watched all of the videos in) the series of talks for new folks, being new folk in every sense of the term. I was compelled by this recommendation by Jundo:

    [O]nce in awhile, maybe every two or three weeks or so, I recommend you sit Zazen in a truly disturbing place. Today, I am sitting Zazen in one of the busiest, brightest, noisiest parts of downtown Tokyo — to make the point that the true quiet room is within us as much as out. In fact, if we always need a calm and tranquil environment in order to reach the balance, stillness, ease, and freedom of this practice, then I believe Zazen loses much of its power. It is right at the eye of the storm that one can know stillness, and in the middle of chaos that we can taste peace.

    So, for that reason, I hope everyone will sit, once in awhile, in a truly disturbing, disagreeable, ugly, noisy, smelly, busy, and distracting place. In a stinking garbage dump, next to a construction site with jackhammers pounding, at an Ozzy Osbourne concert, in a game room, while crushed in a crowded city bus or parked in a parking lot off a busy highway.
    I thought of this post this morning. I usually sit early in the morning before the house rouses, but today I was sitting quite a bit later than usual, while my two daughters and wife were up and about. I don't mean to suggest that my everyday life is "truly disturbing!" However, finding "balance, stillness, ease and freedom" were a greater challenge among the dropped cereal bowls, cell phone ring tones, and chatter about who had or hadn't fed the dog.

    The experience made me eager to give zazen in a truly disturbing place a go -- and wonder whether y'all have yourselves. Where? What was it like?

  2. #2

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Sitting with my mind is sometimes the most disturbing place to be

    I'll have to think about where the most disturbing physical place was and get back to you.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Hi Chris,

    What a fun question! I'm also interested to hear from others on this one.

    Being a family man there are few places I even find myself in besides work and home. Most of my sitting is done at home though I have sat at work as well. Here at home, as with yours, is usually chaotic. Baby crying, video games, tv, etc. Sitting every day I sometimes feel like i've encountered it all! I have also sat out in public at a local Japanese garden.

    Here is my disclaimer for the next one: This should only be attempted by a trained professional and or a nutcase.
    I'll let you choose which for me :lol:
    The most extreme sitting I've done is in the car.....while in motion :shock:
    Granted I had to use a modified mudra(clutching the steering wheel for dear life :lol: )
    The story goes like this. I was driving to work while listening to one of the Treeleaf podcasts. As everyone knows it ends with Jundo's famous(to me anyway) line "Shall we sit with that?".
    So I figured why not. Seriously though it's not that much different. Perhaps more akin to kinhin only at 50mph! It would not be a recommendation of mine for obvious reasons though. However I had to at least try it once :twisted:

    Gassho,
    John

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    In recent years, I've had a number of MRIs. Sitting - well, lying down - while inside an MRI machine is extremely disturbing, but it sure helps get through the time. In some cases, I've been in there as much as 30 minutes, and those things are noisy! But I've managed, just about every time, to "sit" while there.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    In recent years, I've had a number of MRIs. Sitting - well, lying down - while inside an MRI machine is extremely disturbing, but it sure helps get through the time. In some cases, I've been in there as much as 30 minutes, and those things are noisy! But I've managed, just about every time, to "sit" while there.
    I don't know how to spell clostriphobia but I do know how to feel it!! Just thinking about an MRI gives me the willies! I'm glad you are able to make lemonade out of lemons because Im not sure if even Zazen could help me out with that one!

    Gassho,
    John

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Sitting (reclining, really) while getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist. Luckily, I have a hygienist that actually works silently and doesn't try to converse with me, the patient, as seems ridiculously usual from my experience. Sitting through that annoyance would make it a truly disturbing place. Anyway, as described, it's not that bad at all.

  7. #7

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I practiced on the subway today. For a bit. Standing. My lower back was rather sore though. I might get that checked out.

    Gassho

    W

  8. #8
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Please do Will, but the chances are that it is just misuse. I had a really bad back for three weeks recently until I just noticed I was carrying quite a heavy rock sac on one shoulder. From brushing our teeth to walking, sleeping, sitting on a chair: we often misuse our body. Creeping toddlers don't. Once you go upright and throw stress, too much intention in the mix, you make it hard for yourself. That's why Fm Alexander ialways invited people to refrain from doing the wrong thing, inhibition which is also direction.
    If you can do that(so hard without a teacher) your back problem will just fade away.

    gassho


    Taigu

  9. #9

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    At our Zendo in Tsukuba, for our Saturday morning Zazenkai, birds can usually be heard chirping prettily in the surrounding trees ...

    ... but also, a truck or cars will frequently be heard rushing down the nearby road, carpenters banging fixing a neighbors roof, or a military helicopter passing overhead (I do not know why, but our house must be on some route they use to one of the nearby bases).

    It has become one of the most powerful teaching tools I have for new students. I tell them that it is not to think "Oh, the birds are very lovely and peaceful ... but the trucks and helicopters disturb my nice Zazen". Rather, "the birds are singing as birds ... the trucks are trucks ... the copter just copters. Do not think one pleasant but the other ugly or detracting from the atmosphere. Then, there is a certain quiet and stillness that one can come hear behind and sounding right through all the sounds and noise."

    I learned this sitting many a morning at Nishijima Roshi's old Zendo ... located right next to a NOISY child's playground and a highway.

    Suzuki Roshi has a lovely little talk (one of his few video talks) on the mind's making "sound vs. noise". If I recall, his birds in the talk were not as pretty sounding as ours!



    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-12-2013 at 02:37 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Hello all,

    Jundo thank you for reposting that video clip - I love it!

    I've sat zazen, well lying down zazen in my chiropractor's/PT's office while I had electrical stim therapy on my messed up back...many times. I also chose to sit at a state park beside a waterfall; while some crazy teenagers were jumping off the cliff about 10 feet away from me. That was interesting!

    Gassho,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  11. #11
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I like this thread!

    I sat on the light rail train on the way to school several times. I sometimes found it disturbing because there are creepy people on there, a couple of homeless/mentally ill people (one of them yells at you for doing things you didn't do but we all ignore because we feel sorry), loud and stoopid rude types, gangstas, and -- scariest of all -- high school kids on their way to or from the places here that call themselves schools. (They are really only half-abandoned buildings with their supplies gutted out to sell as firewood because of the severity of our education budget cuts. I exaggerate slightly.)

    Sometimes I found sitting easier in these situations, and sometimes much more difficult. When feeling too threatened and on guard, of course, I did not try zazen.

    I was aware every time that it was a far cry from my comfy home zendo with pretty little altar, reassuringly neutral fish tank filter white noise, incense of my choice, and my daughter putting her favourite stuffed animal on a peace-sign-printed "zafu" next to me. But it was good practice for me to drop likes and dislikes -- I tend to get very attached to those likes. Actually, I find that the hardest part of sitting in odious places is not dropping the dislike of those places...it's avoiding the mad rush back to full attachment to the likes when you get back to the cushy places.

    Gassho
    Julia

  12. #12

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    That video is wonderful for many reasons, not the least being the ability to see Sunryu Suzuki Roshi. I grabbed and finished reading Zen is Right Here, the remarkable collection of anecdotes about Suzuki Roshi, right after watching it. Thanks, Jundo.

    Got me attuned to the sound/noise distinction and changed my awareness of cars on the road outside, too. In particular, I was aware of the pitch of the cars rising thanks to the Doppler effect -- and, of course, my location relative to the cars' movement and sound. No sound separate from my being here and now; no here and now without awareness of the sound. No statis; all in/is motion.

    And the cars? Just cars.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I deal with painful episodes of IBS every now and then. When I get a flare-up, sometimes it feels like I am in child labor and lasts quite a few hours. While this is not an actual disturbing place but more of a very unpleasant situation, I try to sit (more like lying down) Zazen and be in the moment no matter how painful it gets. However, when it gets real bad my mind does wander to avoid the pain. I just keep bringing myself back to the present moment again and again.

    Jodi

  14. #14

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Although i sit in my nice little Zendo-ette (the box room), to look at very calm and peaceful; uncluttered, subjued decor and an altar , a zafu and zabuton very nice. But - I am in a house on the edge of Heathrow Airport, a busy road outside the window leading to the M4 just up the road My Buddha Rupa rattles a lot with the Jumbos overhead so living in a disturbing place - very good for practice. I sometimes go to the country and sit in the quiet there, (those birds are noisy) Very good practice too. In fact all very good practice, even the Tube. :lol: 8)

  15. #15

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I was once sitting at LSA Anaconda in Balad, Iraq when one of the almost daily mortar attacks started. The first "boom" was a disyant thud; the next much closer, the third shook the walls. It crossed my mind to get up and head for a bunker, but I figured by the time I got my boots, helmet, vest, weapon, and medic bag together, it'd either be past or I'd already be hit, so, I stayed and sat. Two more dropped, then it was quiet again. Of all the wierdness that should have brought to mind, the thing that I kept thinking about was the absurdity of the whole thing, particularly being in a situation where I found it necessary to choose whether to sit zazen or grab a rifle.
    Strange world we live in.

  16. #16
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    The story goes like this. I was driving to work while listening to one of the Treeleaf podcasts. As everyone knows it ends with Jundo's famous(to me anyway) line "Shall we sit with that?".
    So I figured why not.
    HAHAHA That's hardcore zen indeed! The most that I've done in that sense is while running, cooking or shaving. I don't have a car, but if I did, I would totally do that.

  17. #17
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I have to confess that quite a few times I have been turned down by noise up to the point that I don't feel like meditating at all. And I know I need to work on that.

    You see, I live on a very busy street. Since I get up pretty early (4:40 AM), I get to meet life with no noise at all. So I can write, read and meditate before madness begins.

    I have tried to meditate on the afternoon, but it gets too noisy and I just don't feel like meditating.

    I think I'll give it a try and let you know how it went.

    Awesome thread.

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I sat at Pukuji in Hiroshima for several months. It was after about one year of zazen experience and the first evening sessions I attended. It was (I found it) difficult to adjust to the neighborhood sounds of dinner dishes being washed, children playing in the park, car driving by. However, I sat with it and it eventually was the parking tickets that turned me off. Later, at Shokoji, we sat at 6:00 am and the sounds were birds in the mountains, wind in the trees and the occasional tolling of the temple bell by an early morning practitioner. And, it slowly sank in that noise/sound is what it is and all good. 8) all part of the experience so to speak.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Of all the wierdness that should have brought to mind, the thing that I kept thinking about was the absurdity of the whole thing, particularly being in a situation where I found it necessary to choose whether to sit zazen or grab a rifle.
    Hi Ankai,

    Interesting juxtaposition of two seemingly opposite actions to have to choose between! I bow to your choice. However at the same time I do understand that choice was also a rare opportunity as a soldier.

    Gassho,
    John

  20. #20

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    I found it necessary to choose whether to sit zazen or grab a rifle.
    KvonNJ, This sounds like the Buddhist version of "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition" :twisted:

  21. #21

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    I was once sitting at LSA Anaconda in Balad, Iraq when one of the almost daily mortar attacks started. The first "boom" was a disyant thud; the next much closer, the third shook the walls. It crossed my mind to get up and head for a bunker, but I figured by the time I got my boots, helmet, vest, weapon, and medic bag together, it'd either be past or I'd already be hit, so, I stayed and sat. Two more dropped, then it was quiet again. Of all the wierdness that should have brought to mind, the thing that I kept thinking about was the absurdity of the whole thing, particularly being in a situation where I found it necessary to choose whether to sit zazen or grab a rifle.
    Strange world we live in.
    Definitely strange. But that's our practice isn't it?

    I got home today, and well, it was "home". I got a little pissed off at a couple of things. Sat a bit, maybe 30 minutes and cleared my head. Good stuff.

    I've always been reluctant to sit in open, crowded places. There's always something there that's really self Conscience. Anyway, I tried to do that more over the past few days. Not much, didn't actually "sit Zazen" anywhere, except my hotel room. But just tried to be more aware, just sit etc.. ie. Busy center Beijing, on the train and so on. Didn't work out really, but that's practice. As compared to the last time I traveled and such, it was a bit different. Still iffy, but not too bad.

    I mostly walked all day yesterday (with a backpack, ouch). Sat in a park on a bench (some Zazen), had Häagen-Dazs cone (shhhhh), and took 2 hours to catch a taxi. Before I would have been really tense, maybe even angry and impatient at such a thing. This time I was a bit, but also more open, took a rest, and eventually one came. hung outside of the "Huge" train station, had some supper (mcdonalds, beggers can't be chooser, guess I could of ate something else. I kind of cringed at it a bit lol.) Slept on the train, yadayadayada.

    Gassho

    Will

  22. #22
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Karl: Wow...I will never complain about sitting with my neighbour's obnoxious music again. Thank you for sharing that.

    gassho
    Julia

  23. #23
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    The most disturbing "place" I've ever "sat" in was when I had my wisdom tooth removed. During the process, I kept bracing myself for the pain that didn't quite come (thanks to the anaesthesia). Then later, as the drugs wore off, I "sat" - okay, more accurately I lay down and writhed - with the pain, discomfort and weakness. It seemed like forever but it only a took a few hours. Isn't impermanence a wonderful thing sometimes?

  24. #24
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Pinoy wrote:
    Isn't impermanence a wonderful thing sometimes?
    Hi Pinoy,
    You make a very good point here. Impermanence is most often associated with things as being an undesirable state. The impermanence of cars, houses, money, and other possessions. Or of our health, youth, and life.
    It's is important to remember there is more than one view/side when looking at the nature of impermanence. Which is the one you bring up here.
    I have also, during difficult times, reminded myself that they too are impermanent. Only to then realize that sometimes impermanence is ok with me! Thinking this way blurs the lines and makes it harder for me to define and subsequently dislike the overall idea of impermanence.
    Perhaps this is one of those instances in which Jundo refers to in his famous line as "Two sides of a no sided coin"????

    Gassho,
    John

  25. #25

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    Heading into 30 minutes of sitting with an Independence Day party next door, including a live band belting out your favorite Motown hits and, of course, plenty of random fireworks. I admit to being glad that the current version of "Margaritaville," in particular, is impermanent.

  26. #26

    Re: Sitting Zazen in a Truly Disturbing Place

    My "Office" on the U.S.S. Essex is directly under Harrier Landing spot 7. It took 4 patrols to be able to just sit with the landings.

  27. #27

    Re: Sitting Zazen in "a Truly Disturbing Place"

    Riding on a bus to NYC today and just spent ~ 50 minutes sitting. Makes one appreciate the relative stillness of one's usual chaos!

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