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Thread: You have working posture, what about stillness?

  1. #1

    You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Looking over the threads about posture I do not have strong feelings about how to sit properly, and just sit as I was taught, which feels natural. So, deferring to others on that issue, I am wondering how people feel about being still, once proper sitting form is established, and what the value of sustained stillness is?

    For me stillness is without rigidity, but it is still. That stillness throws into relief every impulse to escape this moment as it is. Keeping still can turn into a foolish endurance trip, like holding your hand over a flame, and I am not talking about that. However, with stillness there does inevitably come a certain point of crisis (perhaps while keeping a retreat schedule) when “I want” meets “what is”, and “I want” gives way. Just Sitting is “useless”, it is not about breakthrough or getting something. I believe what I'm describing is in accord with the practice of Just Sitting because it is not about getting something, or seeking a breakthrough, but a natural and inevitable frustrating of I-want as a result of prolonged stillness, and its dropping away. Just prior to this dropping away there is a body-mind crisis in some form, because every impulse and drive we have is geared toward sustaining and feeding “I”, and without this crisis/dropping away, practice remains a self-satisfying pastime. We could say “there is no I to drop way”, and it is true, but effectively the entire conditioned orientation of body-mind is centred around “I-want”, so to say there is nothing to drop away seems like a dodge. At some point in practice the body-mind shifts. Maybe this is unskillful talk because it gives the impression of something to attain, but I do not mean it in that way at all.

    What do people who have long practised in the Soto tradition think of this?. I have been told by others this is more like a Rinzai approach, but do not see how that is the case, because it is not about pushing anything, or drilling at a koan, merely sitting.

    Thankyou.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    When the breath is long, the breath is long. When the breath is short, the breath is short. If a thought occurs, you notice and return to the Z____z line (Uchiyama) Don't force it, let it happen. When you move you move. When you fart , you fart. If you think someone heard, you gassho and move on. Just sit.

  3. #3

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai
    When the breath is long, the breath is long. When the breath is short, the breath is short. If a thought occurs, you notice and return to the Z____z line (Uchiyama) Don't force it, let it happen. When you move you move. When you fart , you fart. If you think someone heard, you gassho and move on. Just sit.
    That is well and fine. "When you move you move" Wiggle and shift , yawn and stretch, as the spirit moves you. I respect that. ...and if that is truly "Just sitting" in the Soto school, then it is not my practice. It is sometimes.. , but it is not.... basically.

    I do like how the Dharma is presented here, and if what I describe doesn't ring a bell with anyone, that's ok too. But it does speak to very different practice history.

    Thanks.

  4. #4

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Kojip, can you explain the difference you see between what you and Shokai wrote?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    I find it important to maintain stillness. This is how I was taught in the tradition of Zen Mountain Monastery.
    Maybe I've taken it to extremes sometimes. I've sat with flies wandering over my face and hands. I've sat with snot stringing down from my nose and dripping on my hands.
    As you say, it's interesting. Observing what is happening and observing how you want to get away.
    Also, I find that if you give in to every odd impulse to move, concentration is interrupted and mindfulness is not there.

    On a recent retreat in the Vipassana tradition, people were constantly shifting, yawning, wiping noses, straightening hair and so on. Most of them were beginners. I thought that they were missing out on something by not being told to be as still as possible. Of course I was just a judgemental Zennie ... :roll:

  6. #6

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    I am wondering how people feel about being still, once proper sitting form is established, and what the value of sustained stillness is?
    Hi Kojip,
    You are a much more experienced sitter than I am, but in my Shikantaza, there is no value in sustained stillness. When I was first sitting Zazen more than 15 years ago (no, I haven't been sitting regularly since!) I was sitting full-force. I was like a watch dog keeping a careful eye on the landscape on my mind. When a thought arose, BAM! I was on it like a hawk. Looking at it, studying it, letting it go. Then I waited for the next thought to arise and BAM, again. Eventually thought arose more slowly and sometimes not at all. You could say there was sustained stillness, in that the mind was unmoving, but watchful. But in hindsight, I don't see much value in it. This might not be the stillness you're describing though.

    Nowadays I sit without goal, without trying to attain or do anything. Without focusing on anything in particular. Since I don't try to anchor the mind by focusing on the breath or some other focus of attention, I often get lost in thoughts. This is natural, nothing good or bad, nothing that needs to be judged, no failure. Then suddenly, awareness is back again, attention to the moment returns. I can't voluntarily return to awareness of the moment, because when my thought are wondering, I'm not in control, I can't do anything. When awareness returns, I don't voluntarily do anything either. Many times there is just prolonged stillness, but eventually, I'm lost in thought or images again. Again, awareness returns. Sometimes after returning, the awareness is more clear and calm and the self less important. Seldomly, there is pure awareness and no self. Most times, there is a self with aching legs, staring at a white wall. All are wonderful. No frustration, no crisis. A different practice that is a non-practice, letting things be, not trying to be still, opening the hand of thought and letting whatever happens happen.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  7. #7

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Someone -- Shunryu Suzuki?? -- said something along the lines of, "If you have to move, don't move! Of course, if you have to move, then move." Turning stillness into an idea... bad idea.

  8. #8

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisA
    Someone -- Shunryu Suzuki?? -- said something along the lines of, "If you have to move, don't move! Of course, if you have to move, then move." Turning stillness into an idea... bad idea.
    viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4274&p=62073&hilit=suzuki+move #p62070

  9. #9

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Are you talking about body stillness or ??

    Body is fairly still but mind is moving. So practice of not moving is necessary. So Soto says when thoughts arise return to just sitting, Kwan Um says return to don't know, Theravada says return to mindfulness of breathing. Just one Buddha, one practice, many ways to describe it.

    The one thing that is still is not going anywhere so that's not one of things I worry about.

  10. #10

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    I know i do not have anywhere near as much experience in sitting so i apologize in advannce but i feel that eventually i would need to even drop the idea of stillness until ther is nothing and then even drop the idea and concept of nothing.

    On another point sorry to go off in a tangent but i find trying not to try to stay in the now and experience the stillness the most difficult thing when i sit. I guess it must be about dropping the "i" and then there is nobody to be trying?

    Deep gassho

    Ray

  11. #11

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    I'm not going to address the "don't make an idea of stillness" line of posting, because it is to me, honestly, way off base in this context... forgive me. :mrgreen:

    No matter how "non-dual" the practice, no matter how "not-doing" or "Just being natural" the practice, there is also in a relative way, something done, a change effected. Practice entails both a timeless, effortless non-recognition-recognition (or however you want to put it) of innate self-resonant perfection... Just So. .... Big Fart.... great. and a sitting practice that through the discipline of Just Sitting, brings in a uniquely Zen way, direct physical realization of the Third NobleTruth right down to the bones, as described in the OP.

    Now this either rings a bell,... or it doesn't. Either way, it doesn't matter.... because I'm just a painting fool who is going to show up for weekly Zazenkai anyway. :P



    Gassho . Kojip

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Daido's Avatar
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    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Kojip respectfully i have read your post several times and I still do not understand what you are asking. Chris asked if you could explain the difference you see between what you and Shokai wrote? Is there a separation you see here?

  13. #13

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daido
    Kojip respectfully i have read your post several times and I still do not understand what you are asking. Chris asked if you could explain the difference you see between what you and Shokai wrote? Is there a separation you see here?
    Hi Daido. I see a difference around the application of restraining form in practice. By virtue of choosing to sit Zazen instead of raiding the fridge, I am to some degree applying a restraining form to body and mind. That restraint brings "I want" up to the wall. That is the thing, or I might as well just go for a beer because "there is nothing to do". But I don't, I choose to practice. Practice is "useless" with "nothing to attain", for I am truly lacking nothing. Yet somehow something must be done. What does bringing my self up to the wall do, if there is nothing to attain and nothing is lacking? Within Zen there are differences around this, differences maybe only in degree. Maybe that is the only difference I see. Sorry if this sounds mysterious or something, but I am expressing in the only way I can. .....and to be honest I'm forum-ed out, and would like to just stick to the live sit-along stuff here at Treeleaf.

    Gassho. respectfully. Kojip.

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Daido's Avatar
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    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    I understand and respect being "forumed out" haha. I believe we all want enlightenment or we wouldn't be here. I believe Fukanzazengi may address what you are talking about but don't know if it will answer your question which is truly a great one.

  15. #15

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Usually, during the day, our mind and body is running around all over the place ... and in seated Zazen, for a timeless few minutes each day, we sit still, let thoughts go.

    But the 'True Stillness' is not a matter of sitting still or moving! We sit in Zazen to realize that fact, that the 'True Stillness' is both at the heart of sitting still and running around!

    In fact, there is no 'truly still sitting' during Zazen, because we are always subtly moving ... the heart is beating, the lungs are breathing, the bones are settling under the weight of gravity, farts are farting, the cells of the body are continuing their work. Even the mind is not "truly still" in Shikantaza (though there are flavors of meditation that do still the mind, Shikantaza is not such 'no thought' stillness). Thoughts continue to come and go ... although we do not stir them up or cling. 'True Stillness' is not a matter of being totally still.

    If one tolerates a mosquito on one's nose without desire to brush it away ... such is good Shikantaza, beyond preferences. If one brushes away the mosquito because one thinks the mosquito bad and desires it to be away, wishes it were not "disturbing" your Zazen ... that is bad Shikantaza. BUT, IF ONE CAN TOLERATE -OR- BRUSH AWAY THE MOSQUITO WITHOUT PREFERENCE FOR ONE OR THE OTHER ... PREFERRING PERHAPS THAT THE MOSQUITO WOULD GO AWAY, YET SIMULTANEOUSLY BEYOND ALL PREFERENCES AT ONCE, AS ONE ... HOLDING ONE's HANDS STILL OR BRUSHING IT ACROSS THE NOSE AS EACH "JUST WHAT IS" and STILLNESS in stilness or movement ... REALIZING THAT THERE ARE ALWAYS DISTURBANCES AND INTERRUPTIONS AS JUDGED BY THE MIND ... NOT BEING DISTURBED BY THE DISTURBANCE -AND/OR- NOT BEING DISTURBED BY SOMETIMES NONETHELESS BEING DISTURBED! .... that is GREAT SHIKANTAZA!

    BRUSH OFF THE MOSQUITO OR NOT ... THEN RETURN TO JUST SITTING, LETTING THOUGHTS OF THE MOSQUITO AND ALL ELSE JUST FLY AWAY! That moment is now as past as the mosquito ... so let it go and return to one's posture and sitting without "yawning, wiping noses, swatting bugs, straightening hair and so on". (And if mosquito returns ... repeat procedure endlessly! 8) )


    Yes, it is a KOAN!

    ** (being Buddhists, we try to brush the mosquito away and not kill it ... but see the famous 'Dalai Lama Rule' on that ...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W083nSzx1Rc[/video]] )


    Thus, Suzuki Roshi said ...

    In the old days, during sesshin, Suzuki Roshi would encourage us to not change positions while sitting. He would say, "Don't move. Don't chicken out." But he also said, "When I say don't move, it doesn't mean you can't move."

    (from "Zen Is Right Here")
    Here, by the way, is my little "rule of thumb" on when to move or not move (all Beyond Moving) during Zazen ...

    Itchy nose, achy leg, earthquake ... when to move, when not?

    Hi Guys,

    Here is my perspective on sitting with itchy noses, aching legs and backs, crawly spiders and such ...

    Generally, our Way of Shikantaza Zazen is about "just sitting" with whatever is, just how it is. As in life-in-general, not every moment is peaches and cream, fun and games. So, it is wonderful Practice for us to sit with discomforts, pain, annoyances. We drop all thought of the words "discomfort", "pain", "annoyance", "like" "dislike" "good" "bad" ... and just sit with what is.

    On the other hand, the Buddha's way was never one of masochism or asceticism, complete denial of the body. In fact, ours is the Middle Way, the path of moderation in all things. Furthermore, we do not harm the body.

    Thus, my advice is to just "sit with" the itches, discomforts and spiders (unless a highly poisonous spider!) . Note it, then move back to open, spacious sitting. In fact, you will find that the more your mind fixates on it, and thinks about it, the more of a problem it becomes. By not thinking about it, the so-called "problem" may even fade away on its own, or not be experienced as a problem.

    But if you reach the point that there is truly the risk of harm to the body, then please give a small "Gassho" and discreetly and quietly change position (even do your Zazen standing or do Kinhin walking), or move the giant killer spider away.

    Furthermore, our Way is not about ALWAYS having discomfort, so if your legs or back hurt all the time, you may have to change your sitting position or wait for your legs and back to adjust. We do not sit with leg pain every day or most days.

    But, on the other-other hand, if you have a physical condition that means you ALWAYS have pain and there is absolutely no way to avoid that (for example, if you have arthritis that is always there), you just sit with that. You allow it, not thinking "good" or "bad".

    viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2967
    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    I see a difference around the application of restraining form in practice. By virtue of choosing to sit Zazen instead of raiding the fridge, I am to some degree applying a restraining form to body and mind. That restraint brings "I want" up to the wall. That is the thing, or I might as well just go for a beer because "there is nothing to do". But I don't, I choose to practice.
    We had this discussion before, didn't we? :mrgreen:

    Some are very disciplined about their sitting. I'm not. I refuse to be. Just an idea, for sure, but I have to trust my intuition in this. If I force myself to the cushion, that creates division and negative conditioning in my mind. If raiding the fridge was my heart's true desire, then going to the fridge instead of the cushion would make a lot of sense. But I normally go to the fridge A) because I'm really hungry, or B) I feel something is lacking and I'm trying to compensate that by eating. A) is fine and more important than Zazen B) is dukkha and delusion.

    I don't believe one bit in "there is nothing to do" either. In an absolute sense, there is nothing to do and no one to do it, because nothing has permanent, unchanging existance, and emptiness may be skillful means helping us to find calm and acceptance, but we live in the world perceived by our senses. It is all we've got and it's wonderful. The trick is to not let the small self, the ego, full of greed, anger and delusion, run the show, turning life into an out-of-control living nightmare. The method/non-method is following the noble eight-fold path, the middle way, to see things as they are, thus, as such, in this moment. Realizing the interconnectedness and wholeness of everything, realizing dependant co-arising. When we do, there there is less judging, less expectations, less delusion. I believe that ideally, there should be no separation between sitting on the cushion and my ordinary life off the cushion. This is part of why I love the Shikantaza as taught here at Treeleaf. Teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh advocate mindfulness of breathing during all aspects of ordinary life. If I was a believer in that, I would probably be less hesitant to follow breath single mindedly in Zazen. But I prefer to be with everything as is, not just breath. Both on and off the cushion, my practice is suchness, things as they are in this moment. When I try too much, I separate myself from suchness. Jundo sometimes says that Zazen is the flight simulator and that life is true flying. In many ways, I have found this to be true.

    In Zazen, there is nowhere for the ego to escape, it is there, exposed and in the open, and it doesn't like that. When we are truly aware of the moment as is, the ego has to go. I guess that is what you mean by running the I up the wall, but I could be wrong. But for me, the wording "run it up the wall", implies that it's something unwanted that we want to get rid of, that we are trying to chase away. In a sense, we do want to be rid of ego, to find true peace and harmony in our heart, to realize Buddha, but at the same time we have to completely and utterly accept our ego, greed, anger, delusion and wandering mind as is. So my aimless aim of this non-practice of just being is to embrace everything and not exclude anything, both on and off the cushion.

    I'm not sure this makes sense at all.... :roll: ops:

    /Pontus

  17. #17

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Thank you for this post, Pontus.

    Returning to the source is a good way to forget Buddhism and open one's eyes on real life.
    Mindfullness of breathing is not our thing. Shikantaza can be much bigger than that. It also helps sometimes to bring things down to humble deeds and focus.
    If you can stay with what is, without judging, this is really priceless. This is the treasure room Dogen speaks about at the end of Fukanzazengi.

    gassho

    Taigu

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Sounds quite a bit to me as if we are all talking about the same experience but, in our own words.

  19. #19

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Some are very disciplined about their sitting. I'm not. I refuse to be. Just an idea, for sure, but I have to trust my intuition in this. If I force myself to the cushion, that creates division and negative conditioning in my mind. If raiding the fridge was my heart's true desire, then going to the fridge instead of the cushion would make a lot of sense.
    This interests me.

    For me, disciplined sitting isn't so much about forcing myself onto the cushion. Rather, by sitting at (roughly) the same time every day regardless of my feelings, it allows for zazen to include all conditions. Sometimes in a great mood, sometimes angry, sometimes have a headache... I think this is important for bringing zazen off the cushion into daily life.

    Just a different perspective.

  20. #20

    You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Yes, I'm totally OK with that!
    That's more like when we brush our teeth every night even though we would rather go straight to bed and not the strong, ascetic, kind of discipline where you force yourself to sit. I don't mean to say that I'm only sitting when living is easy and I feel all harmonious inside.

  21. #21

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai
    Sounds quite a bit to me as if we are all talking about the same experience but, in our own words.
    I kind of thought so, but had something to say. Gassho. Kojip.

    ed. I came to Zen after first practicing Theravada Buddhism. There was an established practice before taking the Bodhisattva vows, so perhaps those vows are seen in an eccentric way. Perhaps I get the Dharma in an eccentric way. That question, how can there be absolutely nothing lacking, everything absolutely perfectly so as such, and yet just as surely and undeniably in need of action....tying loose ends forever? That is off the boards, forum boards or otherwise... for me . It has to be.

    Gassho.

  22. #22

    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    That question, how can there be absolutely nothing lacking, everything absolutely perfectly so as such, and yet just as surely and undeniably in need of action....tying loose ends forever? That is off the boards, forum boards or otherwise... for me . It has to be.

    Gassho.
    Indeed! A similar discussion here.

  23. #23
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: You have working posture, what about stillness?

    When I sit I try not to move for as long as I can. I can mostly get away with it, except when correcting my back.

    Sometimes my face or back itch badly, but I just sit with that and let it pass.

    As far as I can tell, not moving teaches us a great lesson: sit with what is (as long as it's not so painful).

    We accept life as it comes, without resistance.

  24. #24

    You have working posture, what about stillness?

    But in trying not to move, you are resisting, aren't you? I prefer to just let go of all trying and let the mind do what it does naturally and the body do what is does naturally. There may still be pain and itching to sit with, experiencing and accepting it fully. But there may also be a slight change in posture or a little scratch!

    /Pontus

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