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Thread: escape

  1. #1

    escape

    i am a stay at home mom. lately i have found myself in the everyday stressful situations and using meditation as a form of escape from all that i'm feeling. the minute something goes wrong the first thing that goes through my mind is sit to forget. like using alcohol or a drug. since this feeling has started i have avoided sitting, for fear of zazen truly becoming a crutch. i'm not quite sure how to approach this. any advice would be greatly appreciated. peace and light

    joanna

  2. #2

    Re: escape

    Well, using Zazen to achieve total numbness as an escape is perhaps not ideal, but there are worse drugs! :wink:
    Sitting to center yourself in times of internal chaos, to return to the moment, to see your emotions and mental constructions in another light, before getting up and dealing with what's bothering you is better, if you can manage that! It's Bonpu Zen, but that's OK too.

    There is indeed a Zen sickness where you escape from the world to sit in peace like a bump on a log all day, but I don't think you have to worry much about that.

    If you feel your need to escape is tainting your Zazen, simply following one's breath can sometimes work wonders in stressful situations too, especially if you practice some mindfulness on the side. It may help you be more in the moment in your everyday activities and lessen the need for escape. I bought "The miracle of mindfulness" by Thich Nhat Hanh for my wife and liked it very much!

    Hope things work out for you!

    /Pontus

  3. #3
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by mccoyrogers
    ...lately i have found myself in the everyday stressful situations and using meditation as a form of escape from all that i'm feeling...
    Perhaps the next time you feel the urge to use "escape meditation", instead meditate upon that which is bothering you. Feel the entirety of it. For example, feel your heart rate and breathing, and any other bodily signs. "Just sit" with it. It is just stress stressing. Those feelings are not "you".

    Gassho, and I will say a metta verse for you.

    Amelia

  4. #4

    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by mccoyrogers
    i am a stay at home mom. lately i have found myself in the everyday stressful situations and using meditation as a form of escape from all that i'm feeling. the minute something goes wrong the first thing that goes through my mind is sit to forget. like using alcohol or a drug. since this feeling has started i have avoided sitting, for fear of zazen truly becoming a crutch. i'm not quite sure how to approach this. any advice would be greatly appreciated. peace and light

    joanna
    Hi Joanna,

    I would not say that we should use Zazen as a means of "escape" at all. Rather, we run straight into total, complete, radical acceptance, allowing and embracing of this life and all its crazyness! That total acceptance and allowing is the greatest liberation!

    Just sit, radically allowing all things to be as they are ... dropping judgments and resistance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Perhaps the next time you feel the urge to use "escape meditation", instead meditate upon that which is bothering you. Feel the entirety of it. For example, feel your heart rate and breathing, and any other bodily signs. "Just sit" with it. It is just stress stressing. Those feelings are not "you".
    Hi Amelia,

    We don't "meditate upon what is bothering us" in Shikantaza ... in the sense of thinking about it, looking at it or even focusing upon it in any way. We do not try to feel our heart, breathing or other bodily signs. There are forms of meditation that do such, but not in Shikantaza.

    I do agree, however, that we "just sit" with it all ... allow the stress too, allow it all.

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: escape

    It feels as though sitting in za zen is training for the real game which life and all the stressful situations it has to offer..... And just accepting what ever comes up

    Gassho

    Ray

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by mccoyrogers
    i am a stay at home mom. lately i have found myself in the everyday stressful situations and using meditation as a form of escape from all that i'm feeling. the minute something goes wrong the first thing that goes through my mind is sit to forget. like using alcohol or a drug. since this feeling has started i have avoided sitting, for fear of zazen truly becoming a crutch. i'm not quite sure how to approach this. any advice would be greatly appreciated. peace and light
    Hi Joanna,

    I'm a stay at home dad and after practicing for several years I found myself doing this too at times. I don't really have a great answer for you since, especially of late, I am still sorting it out myself. However, I would suggest that you keep sitting despite it feeling like an escape. I found myself shutting my eyes and trying to create a void of nothingess on purpose, which is not shikantaza. So, I took to opening my eyes and while that definitely led to a flood of emotions at times, as I sat longer I found that the "everyday stressful situations" as you call them could sort of "float", even for a short time...and then I could go longer without actively engaging all the convoluted feelings that the daily grind of childcare brings up. I still struggle to this day but that struggle is part of practice...it is practice.

    If you ever want to commiserate about the stay at home life, please drop me a PM and I would be happy to oblige. And, now, if you'll excuse me, I have to stop my 2 year old from ripping ornaments off the Christmas tree.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  7. #7

    Re: escape

    Hi Joanna
    Excellent question that shows you are truly beginning to understand the "self." Have great faith in "Shikantaza" or just sitting. To acquire a better understanding of Shikantaza please refer to "Talks and teachings of Jundo and Taigu" they have presented a series of teachings that would provide you with the understanding that you are seeking. In my practice I have found Shikantaza to be the True Gem of Buddhism. Gassho Shogen

  8. #8

    escape

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Perhaps the next time you feel the urge to use "escape meditation", instead meditate upon that which is bothering you.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    We don't "meditate upon what is bothering us" in Shikantaza ... in the sense of thinking about it, looking at it or even focusing upon it in any way. We do not try to feel our heart, breathing or other bodily signs. There are forms of meditation that do such, but not in Shikantaza.
    Thanks for always clarifying what is the basketball we play here, that is not football!

    "Meditate upon that which is bothering you" might be a poor choice of words from a pure Shikantaza point of view. But if you don't confuse it with Shikantaza, don't you think it could be useful to first take a good look at what is bothering us, when the "urge to use escape meditation" takes over and pure Shikantaza seems impossible? Couldn't it help changing habits from "escape meditation" to Shikantaza?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Feel the entirety of it. For example, feel your heart rate and breathing, and any other bodily signs. "Just sit" with it. It is just stress stressing. Those feelings are not "you".
    Isn't this very sound advice and orthodox Soto practice? Amelia starts by saying "Feel the entirety of it", which I interpreted as open awareness of everything that is going on inside and outside, including the body. But it could also be read as "Feel the entirety of what is bothering you", so the clarification is welcome! The point Amelia was trying to make, if I understood her correctly, was to sit with it all and let the stress be stress and the increased heart rate be increased heart rate, to realize that these reactions aren't "you", ie you don't have to identify so strongly with them.

    Thanks for your input Amelia and thanks for the clarification Jundo Sensei!

    /Pontus

  9. #9
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: escape

    Yes, I wasn't trying to describe Shikantaza-- just what has helped me with my anxiety in the past. Shikantaza is shikantaza.

  10. #10

    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi

    "Meditate upon that which is bothering you" might be a poor choice of words from a pure Shikantaza point of view. But if you don't confuse it with Shikantaza, don't you think it could be useful to first take a good look at what is bothering us, when the "urge to use escape meditation" takes over and pure Shikantaza seems impossible? Couldn't it help changing habits from "escape meditation" to Shikantaza? ...

    Amelia starts by saying "Feel the entirety of it", which I interpreted as open awareness of everything that is going on inside and outside, including the body. ... The point Amelia was trying to make, if I understood her correctly, was to sit with it all and let the stress be stress and the increased heart rate be increased heart rate, to realize that these reactions aren't "you", ie you don't have to identify so strongly with them.
    Hi P,

    Yes, thank you for pointing this out, and I should be clearer.

    The first part ... being aware of the "mind theatre" that temporarily causes us to experience such feelings of frustration etc. ... is an important part of Buddhism. We recently discussed that and the need for "mindfulness" of how the mind works ....

    When we "just sit," we "just sit" ... we let thoughts go without analysis during Zazen. There is nothing to do or attain in the sitting, nothing to examine or focus on ... and that non-doing and non-examining is VITAL.

    Now, on the other hand, I think her "thought labeling" recommendation is a wonderful thing to do at other times in daily life, as thoughts arise during our busy day ... when tired, hot, a little angry, happy, etc. I also advocate the practice of labeling, just not --during-- Zazen itself (when we are not to be adding anything). Labeling is, however, a very important part of learning to observe our mind's workings. So, for example, instead of just feeling angry, greedy or tired, and instead of just saying to ourselves merely "I am feeling angry/greedy/tired now), we should learn to say to ourselves such things as "this is my mind now temporarily feeling angry/greedy/tired during present conditions ... I can feel it arising, I can feel it developing, I can feel it passing away". When we learn to do that, experiencing the emotions of the mind becomes just watching a bit of theatre.

    All that is good, just not a practice for "during" Zazen, when we observe everything and nothing.

    viewtopic.php?p=65471#p65471
    Also, another little tricky trick of this crazy way is that, in this radical "allowing and sitting as what is" ... we even allow the stress, fear, frustration and discontent, not trying to escape from it, accepting each as just a natural part of being human ... thereby (as counter-intuitive as it may sound) denying the "stress, fear, frustration and discontent" much of their fuel and fire!

    Often our Zazen will even let us "just sit" with the "stress, fear, frustration and discontent". And just sitting with that .... dropping resistance to the "stress, fear, frustration and discontent" as well as to everything else ... can usually (not always) help that stress etc. lose some of its fire (because sitting resisting the stress etc. has the effect of pouring more fuel on, while sitting while not resisting the feelings turns the feelings into something much smaller!)

    A funny thing that can result is an experience of feeling fear etc. ... while being totally free of any fear etc. ... ALL AT ONCE. e.g., Fear and fearlessness, as one. Most folks who have been on this Zen road for awhile will have an understanding of what I mean by that.

    If one wants to really "escape" the frustration ... do not be frustrated with anything, even with sometimes feeling frustrated! :shock:

    Gassho, J

  11. #11
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    And, now, if you'll excuse me, I have to stop my 2 year old from ripping ornaments off the Christmas tree.
    My 2-year old broke 2 ornaments already!

    Joanne,

    Being a mother of a toddler, I certainly understand the everyday stresses. This practice helps to be with things just as they are and to respond with wisdom and compassion instead of habitual, knee-jerk reactions including the times when you want to pull our hair out. When you just go with the flow with avoiding it or pushing it away, the frustrations seem to fade away faster. Last weekend I was grocery shopping with my son when he decided to throw the groceries out of the cart. Then he tried to stand up in the seat portion of the cart. After a firm but calm "No" from me, Hunter thought it would be just great to start screaming, crying and taking (more like throwing) his shoes and sock off. Now those "looks" from other shoppers where coming right at me. So I disciplined once again and get this, Hunter hit me right my womanly chest area :shock: You should have those "looks" after that! I just wanted crawl into a deep hole and die because I was so embarrassed ops: Well, I remained calm by just staying with this situation and proceeded to correct my son. He did calm down but it was very stressful and difficult.

    Stressful, family situations is great practice for using Shikantaza and being with whatever comes your way. Try to be grateful for those moments because that's when the practice becomes integrated into everyday life.

    Thanks,
    Jodi

  12. #12

    escape

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    A funny thing that can result is an experience of feeling fear etc. ... while being totally free of any fear etc. ... ALL AT ONCE. e.g., Fear and fearlessness, as one. Most folks who have been on this Zen road for awhile will have an understanding of what I mean by that.
    Yes.
    Without fear would we still be human? Fearless fear can be a great gift, just as fear of fear can be a curse, paralysing us, controlling us, making us suffer.
    People born without the ability to sense pain never live long. We need pain to stay alive. I believe evolution gave us fear too for a reason. That's why we shouldn't be afraid of our fears.

    /Pontus

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I believe evolution gave us fear too for a reason. That's why we shouldn't be afraid of our fears.
    Hmm, I'm not sure I agree. Those fears we developed through evolution were about sabre-toothed tigers and mammoths, not about stage fright or job interviews. I think the fears we have can be compounded by the fact that we _did not_ evolve for the kinds of situations we face today. They work great if you see a mugger in a dark alley and have to run, but they're way too strong for many of the small incidents that awaken them.

  14. #14

    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I believe evolution gave us fear too for a reason. That's why we shouldn't be afraid of our fears.
    Hmm, I'm not sure I agree. Those fears we developed through evolution were about sabre-toothed tigers and mammoths, not about stage fright or job interviews. I think the fears we have can be compounded by the fact that we _did not_ evolve for the kinds of situations we face today. They work great if you see a mugger in a dark alley and have to run, but they're way too strong for many of the small incidents that awaken them.
    I would tend to agree with Kirk here. Just came from a wonderful exhibition at a science museum here on the evolution of the brain. The section on PTSD and war veterans was fascinating ... showing how basically the brain can "pull the switch" for fear so often on the battlefield that it loses the ability to stop!

    Thus ... all things in moderation ... even fear itself. There are appropriate and inappropriate times for each. It is needed for survival, and a natural response when faced with many life situations ... but can run wild. It is hard to be "in the drivers seat" with these emotions completely, but Buddhist practice gives us greater power to keep fear in balance, moderation and in appropriate situations. That is for sure.

    Gassho, J

  15. #15

    Re: escape

    I completely agree with both of you and that was sort of what I was trying to say...
    I'm sorry that I wasn't expressing myself very clearly! ops:

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Fearless fear can be a great gift, just as fear of fear can be a curse, paralysing us, controlling us, making us suffer
    With the above I meant to say that we don't have to be emotionally numb, we just don't need to attach to and identify ourselves completely with those emotions, like fear. If we can soar like all eagle above our fear, using it, controlling it, instead of living inside it, controlled by it, then I believe our fear can help us instead of fettering us. Of course, one could argue that if we don't fear our fears and have the ability to detach from it at will, then it's not fear any longer, but I hope you see what I'm getting at here.

    At work (anesthesia and intensive care) I get to experience the psychological and physiological reactions to fear and stress, both in myself and in the patients. The physiology part I am intimately familiar with. The psychological part I am probably not better at than most, but I have to deal with it every day anyway.

    Just like an athlete needs a certain amount of adrenaline to perform at the top of his ability, the speaker at a seminar or a singer needs just a little bit of stage fright to get focused, on his toes so to speak. As Rev Jundo says, there needs to be a balance. When the fight-or-flight reaction gets too strong, a part of our brain called the Amygdala kicks in and sort of "kidnaps" our mind. This is when we get tunnel vision, start sweating, make irrational decisions and so on. When I wait for a trauma patient to arrive, I sometimes feel fear. In those cases I believe I need that fear. In the right amount it helps me stay focused and alert, so I can do what I need to do with speed and efficiency. Too much fear and I might make the wrong decisions or fail the intubation. The day I don't fear anymore is the day I will quit my job and do something different. And I will also quit the day I'm not in top of the stress and fear anymore.

    What Jundo wrotes about PTSD is very interesting! It's the same with pain. We can't live without the ability to sense physical pain, but at the same time, if we feel pain too often, the brain gets sensitized, and we may get chronic pain even after the original cause for the pain has disappeared.

    Try putting fear in the place of thought in the quote in my signature:
    "No fear means being free from fear in the midst of fear"

    Does this make any more sense..? :?

    /Pontus

  16. #16
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Does this make any more sense..?
    Yep. Especially what you say about chronic pain. I wonder if there's some link in the brain between the way fear is processed and the way pain is felt. I have almost-chronic back pain, and it's quite surprising how it can hurt even when nothing is happening (of course, when I'm stressed, and muscles tighten on vertebrae, it gets worse too).

  17. #17

    Re: escape

    There sure is! I don't remember the exact pathways though. Pain is closely related to depression, anxiety and stress. One leads to the other and vice versa. Many patients go see their GP because of physical symtoms, like back pain, when the real problem is depression, work load, problems in a relationship etc. And as you say, when we feel stressed, we tighten the muscles in the shoulders, neck and back, which constricts bloodflow and leads to swelling and tenderness.

    /Pontus

  18. #18
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: escape

    Good to know, Pontus, thank you. It is interesting how our brain can manifest sensations to overcompensate for emotions that we may not even be aware of.

    It seems to me that mindfulness practice would be useful for identifying the origins of our issues. Then, of course, we drop them and return to shikantaza.

    It's helpful to have someone in the medical field here.

    Gassho,

    Amelia

  19. #19

    Re: escape

    Quote Originally Posted by mccoyrogers
    i am a stay at home mom. lately i have found myself in the everyday stressful situations and using meditation as a form of escape from all that i'm feeling. the minute something goes wrong the first thing that goes through my mind is sit to forget. like using alcohol or a drug. since this feeling has started i have avoided sitting, for fear of zazen truly becoming a crutch. i'm not quite sure how to approach this. any advice would be greatly appreciated. peace and light

    joanna
    Firstly joanna I would be interested to know how many sits and for what average time is involved on each sit on a normal sort of day?

    I unashamedly use Zazen as a life tool – along with other more minor reasons. If Zazen did not help me cope with my life I doubt that I would do it. However I do not believe that we should consider this an escape. I would more regard it as a return. Currently I am sitting 3 - 4 sits/day 30 - 45 m/sit. I sit without a timer.

    Secondly, rightly or wrongly, I do address the things that are worrying me. I often make a point of this. However I would not consider I was meditating on them, but rather observing them - and in particular - the actual discomfort they are causing. Invariably it is these issues that dominate our mental state at a start of a sit. Therefore they get most attention at that stage. With observation they dissolve.

    Furthermore, sitting is not a time waster. With regular sitting we are more productive and (especially) more compatible ( what sort of Mum do kids want?) . We also need less sleep.
    Just my penny’s worth

    Cheers

    m

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