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Thread: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

  1. #1
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Hey y'all. I was sitting with a zen group earlier in the week that uses the kyosaku. This has been a topic discussed here from time to time, so I won't delve into the merit of the awakening stick. I did want to approach some of my thoughts/experience, however.

    In the first period of zazen, my posture was corrected with the kyosaku. A couple of things became readily apparent in that moment. First, that I have a pronounced slouch in my posture. Second, perhaps due to the first, as I conformed to the kyosaku against my back, I felt that this new posture was absolutely bolt-upright. I wound up developing considerable tension in my neck and shoulders, which hasn't been an issue the past. It also reminded me of the analogy of breaking through the ceiling with one's head while sitting.

    I'd put those thoughts aside until today, when I was listening to Taigu's Fukanzazengi 4 talk. When the talk turned on the point of trying to pour oneself into someone else's posture, I returned to this experience.

    So, am I bringing all this rigidity into a novel (for me) posture? Either way, I do need to slouch less. :|

    I'd like to hear people's thoughts on the matter. Thanks!

    gassho,
    Shujin

  2. #2
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    My thoughts are crystal clear about this...What you have experienced is a typical correction done by untrained hands that goes along with the stupid and harmful belief that the posture as they call it has to be corrected and corrected from outside. The tensions you have experienced are byproducts of a forceful and not natural way of sitting.

    This is exactly what goes on in the Zen world and it p..... me off.

    A bunch of happy few never experience any major trouble sitting but most of us do. And this approach to how to sit is butchery.

    This rigidity is not zazen and this is precisely the very nature and object of my teaching.

    I sat 20 years doing this military act and hitting and correcting people with kyosaku.
    I sat twenty years in pain and agony thinking this was the way.
    I sat in the most ridiculous way teaching people to follow the one eyed fool I was.


    I would like you to watch my vids about sitting in the beginner section and seek for the help and advice of a good Alexander Technique teacher.

    Slouching is not the issue. At least your perception of slouching and also the intention of the person trying to help you.

    I strongly recommand you not to follow such corrections. If you watch the vids of the December retreat, you will see how I sit, three is no tension there, no pain whatsoever. Does it look slouching in any way?
    You may get in touch with me.

    NOBODY SHOULD SIT AND BE CORRECTED THAT WAY


    gassho


    Taigu

  3. #3

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Yep!

    More little comments on this same point here ...

    viewtopic.php?p=69250#p69250

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    I am interested in this and the other thread on this forum on posture.
    I have followed both Jundo and Taigu's instructions and have developed a relaxed bodily attitude without the slouching that can occur after a while(particularly when the mind starts to wander!). My question is whether there is any merit in trying to consciously 'relax' joints or muscle pains during zazen? I know it is not shikantaza when I do this, but it does help to quell any pains and aches which arise from the sitting position or from whatever condition you bring to the sitting. Myself I ache like crazy a day after an aikido session and my shoulders tighten in sitting so I consiously try to relax the muscles and joints to let the pain relax out. Sometimes it works sometimes not... just interested in your views since aging is playing an increasing (interfering) role in my sitting.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by Shujin
    In the first period of zazen, my posture was corrected with the kyosaku.
    I encountered this 10 years ago when I checked out Atlanta Zen Centre. It TOTALLY pissed me off (not only the act, but also the attitude it was done with) and I never went back to that centre. Too bad, it took me another 5 years to get into Zen (on another continent).

    Today, if I were to sit with them, I would just let it pass and not try to conform my body to this standard. If this is the only group you have access to, don't be turned off by this (unless they go overboard), but don't take it seriously either.

    I have never heard that the kyosaku is used this way in any other centre. I have received kyosaku hits at sesshin at my own request and that worked for me (administered by very experienced practitioners).

  6. #6

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by Nindo

    I have never heard that the kyosaku is used this way in any other centre. I have received kyosaku hits at sesshin at my own request and that worked for me (administered by very experienced practitioners).
    Hi,

    Most Zazen groups I have sat with in Japan do so. I never had a problem with it. When in Rome, sit as the Romans sit ... but after that (when the fellow with the Kyosaku stick has gone), follow Taigu's advice and find your own balanced, fluid, ever changing position(s).

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



    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    This is a very good picture of what I want to convey, You may see the old Suzuki Shunryu allowing and open and the young and fierce Katagiri about to leap, sitting full gear with muscles and all.
    Needless to say, I would fully support the guy on the left, because he is perfectly natural and non doing, yet up, always up. Katagiri with this over arched back and chin almost up too is doing far too much.

    gassho


    Taigu

    Attached files

  8. #8

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    I was discussing the subject of posture with my son who is training towards
    his black belt in taekwondo. Later - he sent me this text.

    '...purely from a taekwondo prespective, historically 'hard' training has proven to be damaging
    to joints and is no longer practiced, that's only changed in the past 20 years.
    Once upon a time the world was flat and Charles Darwin hadn't been born'.

    Made me

    Gassho

    Willow

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    I've been having strange twinges of pain in my left knee lately (I did pop that kneecap about 21 years ago and it's never been quite the same.) Used to sit half-lotus, but now I'm just worried about making the problem worse. So I've been using a seiza bench, but I can't always shake the feeling that I'm giving up or something, or that I should "try harder" to make a folded-leg posture work. Perhaps I should let go of trying to be so "correct" and "proper?" Maybe I'm as susceptible to ideas of (as someone here once put it ) macho bullshit as anyone else?

    Gassho

    The Kneeler

  10. #10

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    My thoughts are crystal clear about this...What you have experienced is a typical correction done by untrained hands that goes along with the stupid and harmful belief that the posture as they call it has to be corrected and corrected from outside. The tensions you have experienced are byproducts of a forceful and not natural way of sitting.

    This is exactly what goes on in the Zen world and it p..... me off.

    A bunch of happy few never experience any major trouble sitting but most of us do. And this approach to how to sit is butchery.

    This rigidity is not zazen and this is precisely the very nature and object of my teaching.

    I sat 20 years doing this military act and hitting and correcting people with kyosaku.
    I sat twenty years in pain and agony thinking this was the way.
    I sat in the most ridiculous way teaching people to follow the one eyed fool I was.


    I would like you to watch my vids about sitting in the beginner section and seek for the help and advice of a good Alexander Technique teacher.

    Slouching is not the issue. At least your perception of slouching and also the intention of the person trying to help you.

    I strongly recommand you not to follow such corrections. If you watch the vids of the December retreat, you will see how I sit, three is no tension there, no pain whatsoever. Does it look slouching in any way?
    You may get in touch with me.

    NOBODY SHOULD SIT AND BE CORRECTED THAT WAY


    gassho


    Taigu
    Thank you for your teaching !
    There should be more teachers like you.

  11. #11

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Why I can't keep the same position

    Half lotus- after 30. Minutes my knee hurts too much

    Sitting in chair- after a couple of hours my back hurts too much

    Standing- after 10 minutes I get too tired

    Lying down. - after 20 minutes. I fall asleep

    If I mix and match the above I think i'll be Ok

  12. #12
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Rich,

    What I've found works will is sitting on a four-footed stool - a medium-height one, around 65 cm - and putting a piece of wood - 3-4 cm - under the rear feet. The tilt makes it much better for the back, and it being relatively high means that my thighs are not parallel to the floor, putting a bit more weight on my feet than if I were sitting on a lower stool. If you want a picture, let me know; that might not all be very clear...

  13. #13

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Rich, have you tried Burmese?

  14. #14

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Kirk and omoi, thanks for the suggestions.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    I have a question... I tend to bend my back at all times (walking, sitting at work, driving, etc.). I live in Mexico City, where everybody are in between 1.60 to 1.70 meters tall, I am 1.87...so, you know, I am the classic guy who bends his back because everybody is smaller and wants to fit ....no, really, I have a very bad posture in my back. Recently, I went to a Chiropractor who crunched my back bones with real pleasure: crack...crunch...opps maybe I broke something

    He offered some tips about sitting in the car, the office, at home, etc. One of them was the old tip of holding a book on the top of the head, not letting it drop, so I know I am in a straight posture, shoulders a little back and down, chest open, my back making full contact with the backrest, but without straining my muscles, letting my body find a confortable but straight position...so:

    As a beginner, should I try this a little bit, Shikantaza with a book in my head?.....it could be a little stash of books on Zen :wink:

  16. #16
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Nindo - Coincidentally, the local group here is affiliated with Atlanta Zen Center. :shock:

    After giving it some thought, and following the advice on this this thread, I will sit with the group when my work schedule allows. On the other hand, I won't get caught up in kyosaku madness.

    The video and images were very helpful. I'd seen the of Suzuki & Katagiri in a different context; this was a nice counterpoint.

    Who's the crazy bearded guy in the video, though? :twisted:

    deep bows,
    Shujin

  17. #17
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by Shujin
    Nindo - Coincidentally, the local group here is affiliated with Atlanta Zen Center. :shock:
    You said so, that's why I mentioned it :wink:

  18. #18
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Please Lipor, don't do that. You may sit on the Zen books, it is good idea ( Actually, not really). Books are meant for reading, and your body doesn't need such a feed back. I know it may sound pretty strange, but one should let that kind of worry go( do i sit properly, am I up?). You may sometimes get a computer scream and a camera and just check but don't make it a daily business.

    gassho


    Taigu

  19. #19

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    I've often wondered about Shunryu Suzuki's posture, having watched a video in the past that revealed his fingers to be slightly askew while in the mudra. My pinkie often does this during zazen, and I'd think, well, if Suzuki's fingers did it....

    To that end:

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu


    This is a very good picture of what I want to convey, You may see the old Suzuki Shunryu allowing and open and the young and fierce Katagiri about to leap, sitting full gear with muscles and all.
    Needless to say, I would fully support the guy on the left, because he is perfectly natural and non doing, yet up, always up. Katagiri with this over arched back and chin almost up too is doing far too much.

    gassho

    Taigu
    A picture is worth a thousand words -- well, at least with a good caption. :wink:

    Gassho, Taigu!

  20. #20
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    You may sit on the Zen books, it is good idea ( Actually, not really). Books are meant for reading, and your body doesn't need such a feed back.
    ha ha ha Zen by osmosis

    Thank you Taigu, then I will not-work on my posture, just let my mind forget my body and my body forget my mind.

    Gassho

  21. #21
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    The tensions you have experienced are byproducts of a forceful and not natural way of sitting.
    I have found one of the most beautiful gems in Alexander Technique has been the dropping of end-gaining. Just letting our bodies be our bodies. This doesn't mean slouch neither does it mean to be rigid, your body knows. Sadly many people with good intentions try to help and end up only building more walls to be torn down later.

    Enjoy your practice!

    Gassho,

    Dokan

  22. #22
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Quote Originally Posted by Dokan

    I have found one of the most beautiful gems in Alexander Technique has been the dropping of end-gaining. Just letting our bodies be our bodies. This doesn't mean slouch neither does it mean to be rigid, your body knows. Sadly many people with good intentions try to help and end up only building more walls to be torn down later.
    And it's certainly the most difficult thing to achieve. But when it does work, the feeling of freeness in the body is quite surprising.

  23. #23
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    This is a very good thread. Full of great advice. Thanks Taigu.
    Gassho
    Myozan

  24. #24

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    I've been using a seiza bench, but I can't always shake the feeling that I'm giving up or something, or that I should "try harder"...
    Dogen said that the most important point was not to strive to become a Buddha, but as thought follows thought, not to cling to any of them.

    I encourage people to slouch. Really slouch; like a rag doll dropped by a child, and sit with that a moment. How does that feel? How's your breathing, blood flow, chi? Now sit ramrod (kyosaku) straight; like a Fort Benning drill sergeant is glaring at you inches from your nose. Within seconds, most people I encounter start to feel pain somewhere. What's your mind doing? Now, sit with what Yasutani roshi called a sense of majesty; like a mountain, or a fine ancient pine tree. Open and spacious, no tension anywhere, none of the claustrophobic constriction of the former, nor the tight rigidity of body/mind of the latter; as Suzuki roshi said; just sitting; nothing special.

    Discomfort is one thing, but if you're in real pain, you're not doing shikantaza, you're meditating on your pain. I was taught that it takes perhaps three years to "find your seat", and as we gain experience and age, our "seat" will change, too. A couple of us are yoga teachers and sit full lotus, but most of us sit Burmese or seiza, some with benches, some with cushions, some without. Some sit on those odd benches with knee pads that were popular as computer chairs several years ago, others sit in chairs, as roshi Philip Kapleau did towards the end of his life. Although not recommended, Yasutani roshi thought that zazen in bed was perfectly acceptable if due to illness or infirmity that was the best you could do. What's important is to sit, respectful of others and tradition, but not to mindlessly conform to others expectations.

  25. #25
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    (^v^)

  26. #26

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Brilliant thread, and that picture is priceless!

    Gassho
    Shohei

  27. #27

    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    I was taught that discomfort is ok, because life has discomfort, and if there is the seeking of comfort in sitting, it is running from life. This really helped me. My posture is a natural enough posture for my body, quarter lotus, knees down, back straight, chin in. But once taken, unless there is risk of injury, it is like that come hell or high water. I love the story (probably not true) about Oscar Wilde as he died. That last thing he did was look at the hideous wallpaper he had been staring at all day and say "one of us has to go". I also remember when my wife was laying in bed badly burned from radiation therapy, her chest covered in burns, some open. All she could do is lay still. She said "I am like a bug pinned to the wall, I can either wiggle or just be the wall". She was amazing, in pain and beyond pain. I don't believe in the military style super-discipline trip, but at the same time, by sitting with and through experiences I don't want to sit through, more of life is opened to.

    I'm not sure how this squares with sitting as taught here.... I think it does.

  28. #28
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Posture, Kyosaku, Trying

    Thank you, Piobair.

    _/_

    Jen

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