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Thread: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

  1. #1

    SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I have a very different experience.

    Pretty difficult for me to sit zazen with my eyes open (I'm normally propped up anyway - so not actually sitting)

    I do keep opening my eyes to try and stay alert!

    In my everyday world of open eyes - because of neurological condition that affects vision/balance - I experience a lot of
    what's being described. The world shimmers/shakes - patterns jump out at me and throw me off balance. It's just all sensory stuff.
    But I can't maintain eye contact with what's infront of me - even if it's stationary.

    It's actually a relief to close my eyes and on a 'good' day I see no-thing - there is a corrolation between emptiness/unity that just
    seems to present as a calm empty space (might be visually white) within my mind.

    Perhaps this isn't shikantaza - but it's the best I can do - and it does make me ponder on the experiences of visually impaired/blind
    individuals sitting Zazen.

    Gassho

    Willow

  2. #2
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I was long used to sitting with my eyes closed, and it was very hard to make the switch. There are times when I close my eyes, because I just get distracted by what I see. I, too, have balance issues, and depending on how I'm sitting - on a cushion or on a stool, which I do if my back hurts too much - open eyes can give me a different feeling.

  3. #3

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by willow
    Perhaps this isn't shikantaza - but it's the best I can do - and it does make me ponder on the experiences of visually impaired/blind
    individuals sitting Zazen.

    Gassho

    Willow
    Hi WIllow,

    If that is truly how you need to sit ... then sit such way, sitting with and as "just what is". Such is good Shikantaza.

    Also, if sometimes dizzy etc. ... then sit (or recline etc.) with and as that too. Such is good Shikantaza.

    If sitting with eyes open or closed ... wanting the sitting to be some other way than what it is in order to be somehow better or one's image of ideal sitting ... then that ain't good Shikantaza.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    If sitting with eyes open or closed ... wanting the sitting to be some other way than what it is in order to be somehow better or one's image of ideal sitting ... then that ain't good Shikantaza.

    Thank you Jundo, i needed that.
    Shikantaza can't be good or bad, short or long, ... but we are doing on the cushion can be ... not Shikantaza!

    deep gassho,
    Jinyu

  5. #5

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Jundo - I always feel your response is encouraging and kind - and also for me intuitively correct - when
    I ask this question of 'correct' physical posture for zazen.

    It's clearly as issue for me else I wouldn't keep coming back to it for reassurance. ops:

    Brad Warner's book is on the reading list (I began it today) and he writes 'There are meditation teachers out there who'll
    tell you that it's not important what position you sit in, that it's what you do with your mind that counts.I don't buy it. Proper
    posture is an absolute requirement of zazen practice.'

    I understand that it cases like mine you are addressing a specific difficulty - that you categorically don't say that anything goes.
    But it really upsets me that Warner doesn't address disability at all in his book (not as far as I've read) and I'm bemused by this
    in its implication that Zazen is only for people who are able-bodied?

    This is a sensitive point for me because I often end up asking myself 'am I really engaging in zazen - and if not - what 'am I engaged in/with?

    Do many teachers adhere to Warner's view? It just feels intuitively wrong to me. :?

    Gassho

    Willow

  6. #6
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by willow
    Jundo - I always feel your response is encouraging and kind - and also for me intuitively correct - when
    I ask this question of 'correct' physical posture for zazen.

    It's clearly as issue for me else I wouldn't keep coming back to it for reassurance. ops:

    Brad Warner's book is on the reading list (I began it today) and he writes 'There are meditation teachers out there who'll
    tell you that it's not important what position you sit in, that it's what you do with your mind that counts.I don't buy it. Proper
    posture is an absolute requirement of zazen practice.'

    I understand that it cases like mine you are addressing a specific difficulty - that you categorically don't say that anything goes.
    But it really upsets me that Warner doesn't address disability at all in his book (not as far as I've read) and I'm bemused by this
    in its implication that Zazen is only for people who are able-bodied?

    This is a sensitive point for me because I often end up asking myself 'am I really engaging in zazen - and if not - what 'am I engaged in/with?

    Do many teachers adhere to Warner's view? It just feels intuitively wrong to me. :?

    Gassho

    Willow
    Willow, take a look at this. It explains Warner's point of view a bit more.

    http://www.hardcorezen.blogspot.com/201 ... ne_12.html

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    What Warner says is, essentially, that if you have any kind of handicap, then you can't do zazen. I think that's a very wrong point of view.

    There are a lot of people who do say that, but many others who say that if you can't sit on a cushion, then that's fine. (And many who are far more qualified than Warner.) I do think - and this is from experience - that whatever one does, it's important to keep the back straight; I have a feeling that there's something going on in terms of nerve impulses when the back is straight.

    But I sit on a stool very often; I've sat lying down when my back was really hurting me.

    Who does he think he is to tell me that this is not zazen?

  8. #8

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    What Warner says is, essentially, that if you have any kind of handicap, then you can't do zazen. I think that's a very wrong point of view.
    That doesn't seem to be what he's saying if you check the link Neka posted.


    On the topic of hallucinations during meditation, once time, while I was several hours into a one-day retreat, the whole room seemed to darken around me and I only really saw a small point in front of me, kind of as if I was looking through the tube of a roll of paper towels. My body also felt what I can only describe as "lightness." It was almost as if I were floating a half inch off the ground. This lasted what felt like 20 minutes or so but I really have no idea. It was as if time had disappeared.

    That was the first and last time I've had that experience and it was a little over a year ago. I still don't know what to make of it really.

  9. #9

    SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I haven't read Brad's book, but I know from his blog that he has helped some people with impairments find a suitable posture for Zazen. In at least one case, that was lying down!

    EDIT: Sorry Nenka, missed the link! Was interrupted and several people posted before I did!

    It's just that he, like his and Jundo's teacher Nishijima Roshi, believes posture is important.

    Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said regarding the four horses that the student who can sit in a perfect posture from the beginning often takes longer to realize the true meaning of Zen.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  10. #10

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    thanks for the link Nenka but I'm afraid I don't feel it's much better than what Warner clearly writes in his book. If he hadn't written such a strong
    statement in the first
    place people with MS would not be writing to him with their insecurities about not being able to sit Zazen properly :roll:

    I feel he's being very defensive in his blog comments, and the throw away line about 'not worrying' about people with disabilities because they'll
    always figure a way out for themselves is pretty dismissive.

    To be honest I find it all a bit weird - why on earth is it better to advise someone to lay on a 'hard' floor - does discomfort necessarily have to
    be part of this process? Maybe it is 'better' if people's spines are straight - energy can flow this way and that - but in my (no doubt limited view)
    this has got little to do with living a caring life and training the mind not to get hooked into attachments.

    It just sounds like 'my zazen is better than your zazen'

    Sorry - great attachment to grumpiness this evening

    Gassho

    Willow

  11. #11

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi,

    Well, Taigu and I say that balanced posture is vital too. However, as is always so with Shikantaza, not always in the ways one might assume ...

    Bro. Taigu, in his wonderful series on posture, emphasizes balanced posture (as do about all Zen teachers) ... although he and I advocate that sitting posture should be flexible, non-rigid, not forced, balanced but perhaps changing even during a single sitting, varying from person to person and body to body. Here is the first of Taigu's series ...

    viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2925

    This book we also recommend has much the same 'position' on that question (pun intended) ...

    viewtopic.php?p=30208#p30208

    Body-Mind are Not Two, and most intimately connected. A posture that lets one drop the body from mind, just "forget 'bout it", is good ... and a balanced posture helps bring a balanced body ... which helps bring a balanced mind ... and round and round. The traditional Lotus Postures (or Burmese Posture) are very balanced ... if someone can manage them. If not (truly not, despite one's sincere attempts over time) ... then a chair or bench or seiza are fine (if sat in a balanced way, with the back balanced ... not just slumped in a chair or leaning back).

    HOWEVER ... HERE IS THE SPECIAL SHIKANTAZA ASPECT: TO WIT, WE SIT WITH AND AS WHAT IS! THAT IS "TRUE BALANCE"! If one finds oneself in a full body cast in traction in a hospital bed ... just "sit-lay" so. If (like one friend of mine with a spinal disease) one can only stand Zazen ... just "sit-stand" so. Got it? There is no "bad" Zazen ... and dropping all views of how it "should and must be" and "the good and right way" makes "GOOD & RIGHT ZAZEN"! Having a rigid, ideal form of Zazen in mind and feeling that one is "not doing it right" ... thinking there is "good vs. bad Zazen" or "right and wrong Zazen" IS BAD ZAZEN AND ONE IS SITTING ZAZEN WRONG EVEN IF ONE IS SITTING WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL POSTURE IN THE WORLD LIKE A GOLDEN BUDDHA STATUE! :shock: There is no way to "muck up" Zazen ... SO DON'T MUCK IT UP by thinking there is ... ... even while making a sincere effort to sit as best you can and not muck it up! (read the foregoing paragraph at least 3x please)!

    More on "good vs. bad Zazen here", in this old post:

    viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2783

    Here is a quick analogy ... the Shikantaza way to play soccer (or "futbal' for the rest of the world!): In soccer, posture and balance are important, and there are good and balanced ways to jump and kick the ball. However, in Shikantaza-Soccer if someone has only one leg ... play like that. If someone has no legs, is in a wheelchair or hospital bed ... play and "kick" right there. The real beauty of the game is found in such way ... for in this match, all points are made from the first, and the game is WON by dropping all thoughts of win vs. lose. :shock: Think "win vs. lose" and you LOSE even if you play like Pele! However, play sincerely, do your best, keep moving (whether still or moving) and don't quit!

    ALL AT ONCE AS ONE!.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - I see that Bro. Taigu had a post on this same question today ...

    viewtopic.php?p=69252#p69252

    PPS - Over the last ten years, I have seen many Japanese Zen temples, including the big monasteries, introduce some chairs at their lay folks' sittings for disabled and arthritic elderly folks. The Japanese, however ... come hell or high water ... still tend to avoid them. Part of the reason is something I wrote here in this "Shikantaza Misunderstandings" post ...

    MISUNDERSTANDING I - "Just Sitting" is only to sit in the "Full Lotus Position" and no other position:

    Japanese culture can be a bit rigid and incessant on the one "right" way to do any action, be it to pour a cup of tea (this is a cultural aspect of the traditional arts) or crossing the street, and about pushing oneself to conform to that 'One Way or the Highway' ... called a 'Kata' (if anyone has martial arts experience). Such teachers may tend to emphasize that the one and only way to sit Zazen is in the "Lotus Position". Here is a little description of "Kata" (I cannot verify the source of the following, but I can verify the conclusion from 20 years living in Japan):

    .... an immovable set of rules that govern what is and what is not accepted as acceptable behavior or thinking in japan ... In reality, there are many “Ways” to do most things in Japan, although each group will have a tendency to claim that its pattern is “the Way.” As a medical researcher who has participated in procedures and experiments at many dozens of Japanese hospitals, universities and the like, I know that no two groups ever will follow exactly the same patterns. Each, however, will have a tendency to explain that its way is “the Way,” usually because the most senior person in the group will have come to that conclusion after having learned it to be the thinking of some other person ... that the senior person respects. (Also, one must be very careful in suggesting that a competing group might have a better way which contradicts the opinion of a senior member of group). Every group in every culture does this, but what is unusual in Japan is the inflexible, almost mechanical way the system operates. The emphasis on proper “Kata” (Boye de Menthe has a wonderful, hard to find little book on this) in Japanese society is reminiscent of any conservative, tradition based culture, though unique in the way is has developed to permit a functioning, industrial society.
    On the other hand, as with "Oryoki" eating or "Tea Ceremony" (wonderful examples of "Kata"), there is a beauty in the fixed form that one literally can lose ones' 'self' in. So, "Kata" is also a very very good thing, don't misunderstand me on that point. Conforming to "classic" form has very many beneficial aspects. I am a big big fan of Oryoki and other Kata practices, and I teach them. In fact, Dogen seems to have only talked about the Lotus Position (no seiza benches for him in the 13th century), and my own teacher, Nishijima says that folks should sit in the Lotus Position (and he is not too open to alternatives ... he rightly says that some folks reject the Lotus position and such before really giving it a try). Uchiyama Roshi has said some things in his book that place him more or less in that category.

    But when this is carried too far, the "Lotus Position" itself can come to be thought of as having some "magic power", or fetishized as working some miraculous psycho-physiological effect on the body to lead to "Satori". But that is not the meaning, I believe, of "sitting in the Lotus Position is enlightenment itself".

    It is, rather, "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment' is 'enlightenment itself'. The Lotus Position itself is not the point. It is "doing one pure act in one moment". (Although, truly, the Lotus Position does have many advantages in allowing us to forget the body, and balance the body, leading to balance in mind ... chair sitting, for example, is just not as good in that way)

    Well, in the fat thighed, bad back West, many folks just cannot manage the Lotus Position. So, the emphasis has changed slightly: As opposed to "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment' ... it has changed to 'sitting as a pure act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment'. In other words, "sitting in a chair is enlightenment itself' is true too if approached with that attitude. Do "chair sitting" as a Kata!

    By the way, while Dogen and others emphasized that sitting Zazen is "enlightenment itself", they also taught that everything is "Zazen" if approached that way. Dogen sometimes said that Zazen is only sitting (not walking, running, standing or lying down), but he also said that Zazen is walking, running, standing or lying down (that guy knew how to talk out of both sides of his mouth!) So, I teach that perspective too here at Treeleaf.
    viewtopic.php?p=49416#p49416

  12. #12

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I see sitting in the lotus position as ritual, an important religious ritual that has been transmitted from person to person for thousands of years. Like all rituals it is perfectly useless, until at some point it may not be so useless anymore. Personally, for different reasons and no reason at all, I have chosen not to practice many of the classic Zen rituals. But I am keeping the ritual of the cross legged position. Through it, I feel grounded in my practice and I feel a connection with all those who have walked this path before me, who sat in a similar cross legged fashion. There's nothing magical about it. No two people sit the same anyway. So even if someone can't sit cross legged, don't worry, it's all in your mind. Make your own ritual, your own sitting practice and I believe you will connect with all of the ancestors in a more profound way than someone who is proud of their perfect lotus ever will.

    Kodo Sawaki Roshi said:
    "If it’s even the slightest bit personalized, it isn’t pure, unadulterated zazen. We’ve got to practice genuine, pure zazen, without mixing it with gymnastics or satori or anything. When we bring in our personal ideas – even only a little bit – it’s no longer the buddha-dharma."

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  13. #13
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I've never been able to sit in the lotus position, but from looking at people in that position, it seems like it is very stable if you are sitting on a flat surface, ie without a cushion. So I don't think it is a ritual, but rather a practical tool. It may now be a ritual, as we have things like cushions and chairs...

  14. #14

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Yes, I agree it's a practical tool in that it is a very good way to sit!

    But, as Jundo says, true stability includes both stability and instability.
    When new to Zazen practice, I believe it's helpful to find the most stable position possible, sit comfortably, with a perfectly smooth white wall to face, adjust the temperature so it's not too warm or cold and make sure there are not too many disturbing sounds. That way, it's easier to give the monkey mind a rest, to get a taste of what it's like when the hand of thought opens. But after a while, it's OK if the position isn't perfectly stable, OK, if there's some slight discomfort, OK if you face something else than a wall, OK if it's a little to warm or cold, OK if the kids make a racket. It's what is in that moment. Nothing is excluded. With this attitude, when not too attached to my view of how things should be, once in a while I find myself doing Zazen, or Zazen doing me, when I'm walking the dog too, not only on the cushion.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  15. #15
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi

    But, as Jundo says, true stability includes both stability and instability.
    I would describe that as "dynamic balance."

  16. #16

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    I see sitting in the lotus position as ritual, an important religious ritual that has been transmitted from person to person for thousands of years. Like all rituals it is perfectly useless, until at some point it may not be so useless anymore. Personally, for different reasons and no reason at all, I have chosen not to practice many of the classic Zen rituals. But I am keeping the ritual of the cross legged position. Through it, I feel grounded in my practice and I feel a connection with all those who have walked this path before me, who sat in a similar cross legged fashion.
    Hi Pontus,

    This is very lovely, and may be actually something of what Master Dogen had in mind. Zazen may not be so much a way of "sitting to someday become a Buddha" ... but a ritual in which, by sitting just as and how a Buddha sits, we thus manifest Buddha! 8) Here is another article by Taigen Leighton ...

    Zazen as Enactment Ritual
    by
    Taigen Dan Leighton
    Article for the book, Zen Rituals: Studies of Zen Theory in Practice, edited by Steven Heine and Dale Wright (Oxford University Press, 2008)


    Buddhist meditation has commonly been considered an instrumental technique aimed at obtaining a heightened mental or spiritual state, or even as a method for inducing some dramatic "enlightenment" experience. But in some branches of the Zen tradition, zazen (Zen seated meditation) has been seen not as a means to attaining some result, but as a ritual enactment and expression of awakened awareness. This alternate, historically significant approach to Zen meditation and practice has been as a ceremonial, ritual expression whose transformative quality is not based on stages of attainment or meditative prowess.

    The Zen ritual enactment approach is most apparent and developed in writings about zazen by the Japanese Soto Zen founder Eihei Dogen ...

    ...

    Dogen directly emphasizes the priority of the actualization of practice expression over doctrinal theory. ... This priority of a teaching's actual performance is reflected, for example, in the somewhat later Japanese Soto Zen prescription, "Dignified manner is Buddha Dharma; decorum is the essential teaching." The point is to enact the meaning of the teachings in actualized practice, and the whole praxis, including meditation, may thus be viewed as ritual, ceremonial expressions of the teaching, rather than as means to discover and attain some understanding of it. Therefore the strong emphasis in much of this approach to Zen training is the mindful and dedicated expression of meditative awareness in everyday activities.

    http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/art ... ent_ritual

  17. #17

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    The idea of a proper posture is insane. This is what i came to discover after 20 years of self inflected pain.
    This is basically insane because we are going to sit with a mental picture of what we should be sitting like and we don't actually perceive what really takes place, crooked, we feel staight, upright, we might feel we are leaning or slouching. Misperception runs the show.

    My gentle pointing is do with what you can do and allow, make space, invite, open knowing that even from the very start, your sitting is Buddha's sitting.

    gassho


    Taigu

  18. #18

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I feel so much better this morning reading all comments.

    Omoi - I always appreciate your sensitivity and teaching. I do agree that the Lotus position is an important
    religious ritual and would not want to detract from that. Perhaps for those of us who can't reach physically
    for it - the Lotus position still exists as an important symbol.

    When my thoughts are rambling in zazen -
    I sometimes visualize myself in the Lotus position. When healthy/fit I used to do yoga so I guess the position is laid down in
    a body/mind memory. I find this very calming and 'inwardly' become that body/mind sitting zazen in the Lotus.

    Jundo and Taigu - thank you for your teaching. I will keep returning to your words when in doubt.

    and - thankyou for your patience too.

    Gassho

    Willow

  19. #19

    SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by willow
    Omoi - I always appreciate your sensitivity and teaching.
    Oops! It wasn't my intention to sound like I was teaching... ops:
    I'm a beginner like you are, just sharing my thoughts!
    Which I do habitually, perhaps a little too often... ops:
    Thanks though!

    I blame society! And my parents! And my personality!

    This is about the ENFP type which Keisey calls champion (yes, I know! ):
    "Many champions project their intuitive and perceptive abilities out into the world and are constantly wondering about future possibilities that can improve themselves, others, or situations. This can get champions into trouble if they do not express this to others correctly; or if others or groups take suggestions from champions as criticism or as the champion telling them what to do, instead of viewing it as the offering of an idea."

    Take care,
    Pontus

  20. #20

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi Pontus - I think we all learn from eachother

    According to my type - INFJ - I'm a protector and perfectionist. Very true - which is probably
    why I keep getting so phased about 'correct' posture, etc :roll:

    Anyway - it's saturday night so I'm going to curl up with something rubbishy on the TV and stop worrying
    about trying to do everything right!

    Wishing all Treeleafers a relaxed weekend

    Gassho

    Willow

  21. #21

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi,

    I posted this today on another thread about posture, but fits here too ...


    By the way, when I was sitting at a monastery in China late last year, I did not find that same rigidity of posture one finds in Japan. It is a bit of a stereotype, but generally in the traditional arts, the Japanese are much more fixated than the Chinese on precise, "one size fits all", often rigid, fixed "proper" forms. Here is a video made when I sat in China (at the 6th Ancestors Temple), and you can see the variety of "to each his own" postures between the 4:20 and 8:20 marks here (the film is a little dark at points) ...

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    Contrast that from this diagram from the Rinzai-shu official page on sitting posture in Japan ...



    Gassho, J

  22. #22

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I would like to share something here. I have heard many accounts of backache during Zazen. I have never suffered from this – unless I am set up wrong on the cushion. Only of late have I come to realise that the Zazen seat is strikingly similar to the dressage rider’s seat. Because I have done an awful lot of riding I had adopted this seat in Zazen without releasing it. Just as is the case in Zazen the rider’s back will ache if the back profile is not correct. A bad saddle will force the rider into this deficient posture and good saddle into the correct posture. There are a number of factors in riding that apply to Zazen:

    The seat is deep and stable. The riders fully commits to the seat i.e. sits ‘into’ the horse

    The upper body is independent from the seat and can freely rock in any direction through flexibility. This balance is adjusted and re-established regularly

    This seat requires that the hips are rotated forward such that the loins are concave to their natural maximum. I tell students to ‘push your bellybutton towards the horse’s ears’.

    The way to set up this posture for Zazen is to:

    Ensure the seat bones are on the extreme edge of the cushion

    and

    After taking up the Zazen posture arch the back and head back to its extreme (you will we looking directly vertical) then, with eyes closed slowly rotate the upper body foreword (rotating the hips and neck) searching for perfect balance without losing the concave profile in the loins. It is then important to relax the shoulders downwards and commit to the seat. You should feel a constant slight forward push on your legs. This is a very stable posture which also eliminates the common feeling of ‘falling backwards’ and backache during sitting. I often repeat exercise once or twice during sitting. Don’t be alarmed if the spine cracks during the exercise. No harm is being done.

    If we look at the photo directly above the sitter looks as though he is holding straightness upwards, not committing downwards into the cushion. ie he is not sitting into the horse.

    Cheers

    m

  23. #23

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Interesting! Thanks.

    /Pontus

  24. #24

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Dear Michael,

    I would like to share something here. I have heard many accounts of backache during Zazen. I have never suffered from this – unless I am set up wrong on the cushion. Only of late have I come to realise that the Zazen seat is strikingly similar to the dressage rider’s seat. Because I have done an awful lot of riding I had adopted this seat in Zazen without releasing it. Just as is the case in Zazen the rider’s back will ache if the back profile is not correct. A bad saddle will force the rider into this deficient posture and good saddle into the correct posture. There are a number of factors in riding that apply to Zazen:

    The seat is deep and stable. The riders fully commits to the seat i.e. sits ‘into’ the horse

    The upper body is independent from the seat and can freely rock in any direction through flexibility. This balance is adjusted and re-established regularly

    This seat requires that the hips are rotated forward such that the loins are concave to their natural maximum. I tell students to ‘push your bellybutton towards the horse’s ears’.

    The way to set up this posture for Zazen is to:

    Ensure the seat bones are on the extreme edge of the cushion

    and

    After taking up the Zazen posture arch the back and head back to its extreme (you will we looking directly vertical) then, with eyes closed slowly rotate the upper body foreword (rotating the hips and neck) searching for perfect balance without losing the concave profile in the loins. It is then important to relax the shoulders downwards and commit to the seat. You should feel a constant slight forward push on your legs. This is a very stable posture which also eliminates the common feeling of ‘falling backwards’ and backache during sitting. I often repeat exercise once or twice during sitting. Don’t be alarmed if the spine cracks during the exercise. No harm is being done.

    If we look at the photo directly above the sitter looks as though he is holding straightness upwards, not committing downwards into the cushion. ie he is not sitting into the horse.

    I have the deepest respect for your riding skills and no doubt you are certainly an expert at it.

    Nevertheles, the description you are giving apllied to the practice of sitting Zen is extremely off the mark.
    One does not sit on the sitting bones on the edge of the cushion.
    Rather the cushion is angled as I have shown in one of my vids.
    One should never arch the back as described and adjust the so called posture solely relying on faulty sensory appreciation.
    One should rather allow the sitting to gradually expand, wishing to go up and not doing.
    What you describe here is riddled with end gaining ideas and actions.
    One is invited to drop all aims and goals and sitting the body-mind is rather letting the boddy-mind sits us.

    All this doe not mean your practice is faulty, it just says that your wording and protocole to sit in a propper way sounds out of tune to my ears.

    gassho


    Taigu

  25. #25

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Dear Taigu

    Thanks for the response.

    It works.

    It is just another way of explaining what many sitters do anyway. It is nothing new. Sitting on the edge of the cushion causes it rotate as you describe resulting in the same thing. But I will always maintain that sitters who are getting ache in the back muscles are either too straight or convex. This does not apply to those with chronic back problems of course. Furthermore, I do consider myself well qualified to point out similarities between sitting and the riding riding seat (for the record I am not the only one having done so) They are not ideas. They are very real.

    Kind regards

    Michael

  26. #26

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    **

    Attached files

  27. #27

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi Michael,

    Again I dont question your expertise in the field of riding. i just notice a few words in the vocabulary used to describe your approach applied to sitting Zen that can be percieved as forceful, misleading and carrying too much end gaining and goal orientatedi implications.

    One doesn t sit on the very edge of the zafu as you can see on the following vid.
    One doesn t have to arch anything or manipulate anything.
    Riding is a beautiful sport, almost an art form and require skill and technique, zazen is blossoming when one surrenders and allow shikantaza totake over, when sitting sits you, then you sit.
    The natural movement of the ody cannot manifest through postural self arrangement and the likes.

    After a mere thirty five years of sitting, I am far from being an expert and an authority.

    What I have discovered and learn through countless mistakes and misuses is crystal clear.

    What people experienced guided by the follish one eyed guy I am is also very clear.


    You may sit as you like, but please reflect on the words you are using, or at least , imagine there can be another way. This sitting issue is a very sensitive issue to me, the chore of my teaching, and I would appreciate if people would pay more attention.

    Take great care

    Gassho


    Taigu

    [youtube]http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=4200[/youtube]

  28. #28

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hey Taigu,

    Might we say that, if something works for Michael ... then it works for Michael? If it feels right and balanced when Michael sits, and is comfortable and stable ... then it is right for Michael even if not generally recommended?

    I am just raising this because Rev. Mujo, over at Antaiji, has a long post today on whether the thumbs in the Mudra should be centered on the belly button, or can be to the side of the belly button in Zazen, and whether putting the left hand over the right or right hand over the left one way or another raises one shoulder too high ... and I feel that discussion on these questions is just very extreme.

    http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/201203.shtml

    I feel it does not really matter so much, and that one can find their own positions (plural and ever changing) that work for one's own body.

    What do you feel on that?

    Gassho, J

  29. #29

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi Bro,

    I cannot agree more, what works for Michael is good for him. Splendid rider, very knowledgeable person, dedicated sitter and a very nice man ( we have been in touch for a while), Michael is doing well. I wrote: "you may sit as you like". The problem comes from the wording. That's what I am pointing at. The directions he gives are not in agreement with my experience of sitting and I can easily see how they could lead so many people to a tricky place. These words would take most people into a place where they try to fix and control there sitting, using arching , moving this, adjusting that...

    I agree, Muho's considerations about hands are over the top.

    Nevertheless, the meaning of sitting upright cannot be grasped by tricks and fixes, potions and lotions. The true meaning of sitting upright is doing itself. Once the rider disappears, the horse of emptiness rides emptiness.
    As I wrote so stupidly years ago, the true Mind-seal doesn 't leave a trace on mud, or even water, the true Mind-seal is transmitted through space.

    So it does matter as long as I am wishing people not to sit out of the confusion, giving birth to more confusion and pain.

    This is my humble take on this. If people cannot take it, fine. Being my student ( that is, surrendering to what the one eyed guy is sometimes surrendering) is one thing and one only: give yourself to I don't know-sitting-wrapped in boundless kesa.

    gassho


    Taigu

  30. #30
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    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Taigu (in reply to Jundo)wrote;
    I agree, Muho's considerations about hands are over the top.
    This is quite true but have we not just spent considerable time in this thread on "Just Sitting ?"

    I have recently been reading Muho's site and find that he has a unique style of presenting the zazen case.
    Although he uses repetition as tool, it does tend to clarify some of the difficulties put forth in zen literature.
    And those endless pictures of Sawaki Roshi do touch on humour :roll:

    The one thing I did take away from that site is this quote:
    Zazen means to sit firmly while something is missing.
    - Sawaki Roshi

  31. #31

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi Taigu

    Point taken. But throwing ideas and opinions’ around surely cannot be a bad thing as long as it results in continued discussion as is happening now. I have used riding as an example because in a sense it mimics the problem of establishing an appropriate seat. Many riders go their entire life without achieving this. I was struck by your video talking about establishing the lower body foundation by integrating into the earth – a foundation – and – the upper body growing out of that foundation, independent relaxed and flexible. Look at the rider in the photo; she is not sitting on a stable cushion but rather a moving object that would have any learner rider bouncing right out of the saddle.

    Many riding coaches are forever saying ‘legs back, lean forward, drop the hands’ etc etc. I am great believer in exercises to establish the objective. For example when I am trying to teach the seat I will often say ‘ride like a queen’ then ‘ ride like a sack of potatoes’ then, ‘relax, ride normal’ . These extreme exercises develop feel for what is needed – which is exactly the same as your objective. Another example is that many riders will quickly accept uneven stirrups as normal. Take those stirrups way for half an hour then the moment they take them back up again they feel the unevenness immediately. The point being that we quickly start to accept the incorrect as correct and normal. A ballerina; does she just perform her dance steps? No. She spends 90% of her time performing exercises that are often quite extreme and beyond what she does in performance.

    I truly believed that what I wrote about supported everything that you have said, and still do. I took great attention to your teaching and was immediately struck by the similarity with something I have worked with for over 50 years. That is all.

    Cheers

    M

  32. #32

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for taking the point. Rigid sitting is the number one sickness in the Zen world, and although I am sure you are one of the patients, words can have a tremendous influence on people's practice.

    Although I am and absolute and total ignorant as far as Alexander technique is concerned, and could I even dream teaching anybody about it when I follow its principle so seldom and apply them from time to time to save my back?, exageration in the context of sitting is not what we really want, the middle way has nothing to do with sitting in the middle, not too this, not too that...The Middle Way is the natural response of the body-mind, nothing to do with the in between.

    Be well

    gassho


    Taigu

  33. #33

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I would point out Taigu that when we talk about things like ‘saving the back’ we cannot ignore physiology. The concave loin profile I refer to is not straight, it is concave. Look at the above rider – do you consider her straight? This is the only profile in which the vertebrate can support the weight of the upper body without muscular support. It may sound vulnerable, but it is not. Good riders can ride in this profile all day without back ache. Also - look at the back profile of a weight lifter.The back is very strong in this profile. I still maintain that any posture other than this will result in muscular back ache during prolonged Zazen. By all means correct me if you consider me wrong.

    However, should the sitter have legitimate back problems then this is a totally different scenario. Then, I would expect experimentation would take place to find the best posture, if any is at all possible.

    Kind regards

    Michael

  34. #34

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by michaeljc
    I would point out Taigu that when we talk about things like ‘saving the back’ we cannot ignore physiology. The concave loin profile I refer to is not straight, it is concave. Look at the above rider – do you consider her straight? This is the only profile in which the vertebrate can support the weight of the upper body without muscular support. It may sound vulnerable, but it is not. Good riders can ride in this profile all day without back ache. Also - look at the back profile of a weight lifter.The back is very strong in this profile. I still maintain that any posture other than this will result in muscular back ache during prolonged Zazen. By all means correct me if you consider me wrong.
    From a medical perspective, this is true. But as Taigu has pointed out a few times before, most people are not very good at determining what position their back is in, as he says, the sensory information can't always be trusted. A teacher or someone with knowledge about yoga, orthopedics, or even riding can probably tell when a very unnatural position risks leading to back problems, but it's not the teacher's body, so the teacher can never 'put' the student in the 'correct' position. You, as an experienced rider have an advantage here, in that you are more used to feeling how the body is aligned and you give the best advice you can from your experience, with good intent, and I found what you wrote interesting. And what you write about "riding like a queen" is in my view not totally unlike the Alexander way of allowing the position to expand, growing outwards and upwards. You often hear similar expressions in Yoga, helping you to find a feeling that helps your body find its own position. But at the same time, I see what Taigu means by the danger of giving too direct advice, arching the back this way and that, sitting this way and that, which can be seen as forcing, having a goal, an idea that the body has to be corrected. I think you know Taigu's history and why he is so sensitive in this, feels so passionately about it. I also found his initial response to you a little harsh, but if you know Taigu as Taigu, you also know that this is his way of being as clear as he ever can be about something which is very important to him, and vital to practice as taught here, in our best interest!

    In my view, an experienced sitter is ideally able to let go of forcing a position upon his or her body and just leave the body to adjust itself naturally. But, I suspect that for many sitters, although natural, this doesn't come easily, because we are not used to letting the body do it's own thing. We don't trust it completely. In my opinion, if we are experiencing back pains from sitting, there's is nothing wrong in asking a teacher of their opinion on the position, or taking a picture to help understand how the back is really aligned when it feels a certain way, and from that new perspective try a new feeling in positioning ourselves on the Zafu. After that initial positioning, and perhaps swaying from side to side to help the body find the center of gravity, it's probably best to just completely trust your body to sit you and adjust naturally, letting go of all ideas of the perfect position.

    Please let me know if you think this is completely misunderstood,

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  35. #35

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi Pontus
    Thanks for the response. Before I leave off I will make 2 final points:

    At no time am I advocating a forced position - the opposite in fact as the s shaped spine profile is the only one where the back muscles can be fully relaxed and we can commit completely to the pillow and completely forget about position.

    Secondly, my use of extremes to establish the natural medium; you have misinterpreted my expression ‘ride like a Queen’. That is an extreme i.e. too straight (the frame which probably lead to Taigu’s back problems). After that I write ‘ ride normal’ The extremes help the student get a feel for the natural medium which is our objective.

    Likewise, after the exercise of bending backwards to the extreme on the pillow I write ‘ rotate slowly foreword with eyes closed searching for the perfect balance’. Searching should naturally lead to swaying.

    I am forcing nothing.

    It would be helpful if postings were read carefully.

    Kind regards

    m

  36. #36

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by michaeljc
    At no time am I advocating a forced position - the opposite in fact as the s shaped spine profile is the only one where the back muscles can be fully relaxed and we can commit completely to the pillow and completely forget about position.
    Yes, I understood that. Just explaning where Taigu is coming from. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear in my post!

    Quote Originally Posted by michaeljc
    Secondly, my use of extremes to establish the natural medium; you have misinterpreted my expression ‘ride like a Queen’. That is an extreme i.e. too straight (the frame which probably lead to Taigu’s back problems). After that I write ‘ ride normal’ The extremes help the student get a feel for the natural medium which is our objective.
    ...
    It would be helpful if postings were read carefully.
    Ah! I see that now. ops: (I blame fever! :wink: )
    I do think that is useful, to let the body feel the extremes before letting it do its own balancing. Just like many teachers advocate swaying from side to side in the beginning of Zazen.
    I will read more carefully in the future!

    Thanks M,
    Pontus

  37. #37

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Well Pontus, you have red my mind. Your post was excellent. Not because you agree with me, but just because your post is excellent.


    Michael, I am only interested in teaching people that can listen and are ready to look deeply into their belief system.


    Your words ad attitude are crystal clear. You are forcing. My teaching would take you twenty years of undoing, of diligent and daily undoing. Balance is not a result of swinging between extremes.

    I am so sorry for you. And I really mean it.

    Take care

    gassho


    Taigu

  38. #38

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    One more thing, there is nothing a teacher can do with a student practising the "yes, but..." strategy. Endless arguing.We are both loosing our time. Come to Japan one day, and I will show you in deeds and flesh why I say what I say.

    Take care, Michael

    gassho


    Taigu

  39. #39

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Hi all,

    I often do kinhin (very slow walking meditation) when my old body is giving me troubles with sitting. It seems to me that too much concern about what position the body is in, is not consistent with "dropping off of body and mind." Perhaps this is also true of mind as well? I do not know. I would like to hear what you think. I envy Carol, here at the retreat, who is immobile like a stone Buddah when she sits for hours. We all do what we can. It is life happening.

    Sid

  40. #40

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by OcoochZenHermitage
    Hi all,

    I often do kinhin (very slow walking meditation) when my old body is giving me troubles with sitting. It seems to me that too much concern about what position the body is in, is not consistent with "dropping off of body and mind." Perhaps this is also true of mind as well? I do not know. I would like to hear what you think. I envy Carol, here at the retreat, who is immobile like a stone Buddah when she sits for hours. We all do what we can. It is life happening.

    Sid
    Thank you, Sid. I think this is true of mind as well. I have no control of what pops up but do try to drop it ie just sit. Last nite I was a stone buddha with a moving mind, today mind is not moving so much. We just do the best we can. But I don't really know much more than a millisecond of what's happening.

  41. #41

    SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Moving Buddha is also Buddha. No need to try to be a statue of Buddha! This is true for both body and mind, in my view and experience.

    /Pontus

  42. #42

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I forgot to mention breathing. Take a look at the posture of opera singers and all the great tenors; both disciplines refer to the diaphragm in a very similar manner
    m

  43. #43

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by michaeljc
    I forgot to mention breathing. Take a look at the posture of opera singers and all the great tenors; both disciplines refer to the diaphragm in a very similar manner
    m
    Breathing is not a problem, who or what is breathing? Is the problem.

  44. #44

    SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Non-breathing can be a big problem!

  45. #45

    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Non-breathing can be a big problem!
    that's true unless its time to die :roll: :P

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