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Thread: Zazen help

  1. #1

    Zazen help

    Hello All,

    Lately I have a had encountered some problems in my zazen. I feel that after a few minutes I need to get up and STOP. It's like my mind needs distraction. For a while my practice has been going very well, but with no changes in my life, I feel that sitting has become a chore. Any help with this? I keep reminding myself to just sit and go back to my breath. It may work for a few minutes, but the feelings come back. Any thoughts are welcome.

  2. #2

    Re: Zazen help

    Hello Onken,

    could you maybe go into a little bit more detail about the time leading up to and including this urge to stop? Is it a purely emotional phenomenon, or a physical one comparable to situations where one just has to scratch a wound, no matter how much one knows it's not what one should do....? Adding to this I'd like to ask you why you do sit? It's perfectly okay not to share intimate details here by the way - and I'd always suggest you talk to your teacher.

    My two Unsui cents might not be worth a lot, but at this point I'd just like to make a general point that one should not ever mistake one's own ideas of what "right" practise is with a desired/imagined end result.
    Encountering difficulties is the practise.

    Hang in there.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  3. #3

    Re: Zazen help

    Maybe a teacher would have a proper response , but as another sitter I can share something that was helpful. When I first learned Buddhist practice.. it was in the Forest Sangha tradition. It is quite different than Zen, but there was one teaching that has always stayed with me, and made coming to Soto Zen as taught by Jundo and Taigu inevitable. It was the teaching of "Tanha". Tanha is a pali word that means "I-want". At least this is how it was taught to me.. In particular there are the terms Bhava-Tanha and Vibhava-Tanha.. meaning wanting to get a state-of-being, and wanting to get rid of a state-of-being. "State-of-being" is the total sense of your being now. Bhava Tanha and Vibhava Tanha are like the push-and-pull of wanting this moment to be other than it . In short, when just sitting includes the tension of wanting this moment to other than it is.... just includes it.... there is tensionless just-sitting.

    That is rambling and probably useless.....

  4. #4
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen help

    When thoughts or feelings arise of wanting to stop, let them go and keep sitting. You might find yourself letting these emotions go over and over again, minute after minute but that's OK. It's a part of the practice. Sit with your resistance and drop any self-judgements of how your Zazen Is going. When I experience this, I just keep letting the resistance go even if it's during the entire sit.

    I hope this helps.

    Gassho,
    Ekai

  5. #5
    Senior Member Daisho's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen help

    Hi Onken, I'm a newcomer to Greenleaf, but when practicing sitting, I do try my best to have no expectations and know that whatever comes up or how I feel, is what's supposed to be. All I have to do is just sit!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen help

    Quote Originally Posted by Onken
    ...For a while my practice has been going very well, but with no changes in my life, I feel that sitting has become a chore.
    Hi OnKen,

    Are these changes you speak of, or the stresses/excitment that arrises from them, what gives you motivation to sit? I, at times, have to sit through boredom, and distraction..especially when I am on vacation. No stress = Less motivation to stay present.

    If I understand you correctly, when life is busy, hectic with variety it is easier to sit?

    Sometimes I have the urge to keep one eye on the timer to see how long I have to go. It can be difficult, but I try to stay focussed, move my timer away from me, and sit with what comes up, and softly return to breath. If your bored, be bored. But don't follow/create more thoughts.

    I liked Ekai's comment on dropping self-judgements on how Zazen is going. Its easy to let the old record player comment on how zazen went, and how it wasn't as good as last week...

    Thank you for sharing your experience

    Shawn

  7. #7
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen help

    Hello Onken,

    Sometimes I feel the same way. When my mind craves distraction and is really disturbing my sitting, I will sometimes utilize breath counting or repeat a mantra. Sometimes closing my eyes for several breaths will help to center me. When I have overcome the drive to get up, I resume Shikantaza practice.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen help

    In my personal experience, this is very common .... when there is no stress, it seems easy to just sit .... when there is stress, or we would like to see change in our lives through Zazen, it seems to be difficult, boring, frustrating, we want something more ....

    I just watched the video of the teacher Taigu, and somehow, I think it is related to this matter:

    http://<iframe class="restrain" titl...="0"></iframe>

    We do not sit to watch a magical change in our lives, we sit down to realize that the "magic", so to speak, was always there

    If we feel bored, tired, frustrated, we may want to avoid Zazen..... I guess it's OK, just sit bored, tired, frustrated, but do not avoid Zazen

    Just my toughts

  9. #9

    Re: Zazen help

    Thanks everyone for their replys. And they all have something to help me with. My need for distraction is not coming from stress, thankfully my life is quite happy. I feel that sitting quietly is difficult LATELY. For a while now, I feel that my practice has been good. Meaning i can sit with just sitting. No distractions...no judgement. I like what was said about not casting judgment on my practice. I will try that. However, I know that my dilemma is based on not wanting to sit. I have been looking at the timer to see how much longer I had, so I moved the timer to get rid of that distraction. Maybe just a road block, so I will just be present.

    Thank you....

  10. #10

    Re: Zazen help

    Hi Onken!

    Quote Originally Posted by Onken
    For a while my practice has been going very well, but with no changes in my life, I feel that sitting has become a chore. Any help with this? I keep reminding myself to just sit and go back to my breath. It may work for a few minutes, but the feelings come back. Any thoughts are welcome.
    The "you" that interprets the scenery of your sitting practice as "good" and "bad" is just as delusional as the scenery. Who are you to judge your sitting? The mind that judges is not real, therefore the information it feeds you is not real. And I don't mean "not real" in some new-agey sense of the word. I mean that this mind of ours uses false premises to judge our experiences of living (and dying).

    Welcome the thoughts. Welcome the feelings. Welcome the good. Welcome the bad. Keep your door open. Watch as the guests arrive. Watch as they go. They never stop. To have no thoughts, to have no feelings, this is death, yes? It is never said that Buddha had no thoughts. Buddha had no attachment. Very different! As you sit, you will just naturally learn to let go. Partly because you will sooner or later get frustrated with your undying desire to have things the way you want them. Jundo once defined sitting zazen to me this way: "No place to go." You can get up, but your problems don't go away. You can sit, but your problems don't go away. What the heck do you do? Life is as it is. Sitting is as it is. Forget about time limits when sitting zazen. If you can only do two minutes, do two minutes. But always go until you think you can do no more, then do a little more. That stretches your resolve until soon you are sitting for the better part of an hour.

    Quote Originally Posted by Onken
    Any thoughts are welcome.
    This is how you ended your question. Now just incorporate that attitude to your sitting.

    I can't stress this point enough: THOUGHTS ARE A PART OF CORRECT ZAZEN. Feelings too. To want to be without negative thoughts is cheating. It's wanting to be something that doesn't exist. Welcome all thoughts. Next time all that chatter starts up do this: stop trying to do zazen. Just sit there. Think the thoughts completely. Don't be afraid of them. Think them. By dropping your resentment the thoughts will naturally dissolve. Enjoy your sitting. It is such a wonderful gift to be able to sit and do nothing. Cheers!

    gassho
    Greg

  11. #11
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen help

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Quote Originally Posted by Onken
    Any thoughts are welcome.
    This is how you ended your question. Now just incorporate that attitude to your sitting.

    gassho
    Greg

    Clever

  12. #12

    Re: Zazen help

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Hi Onken!

    Quote Originally Posted by Onken
    For a while my practice has been going very well, but with no changes in my life, I feel that sitting has become a chore. Any help with this? I keep reminding myself to just sit and go back to my breath. It may work for a few minutes, but the feelings come back. Any thoughts are welcome.
    The "you" that interprets the scenery of your sitting practice as "good" and "bad" is just as delusional as the scenery. Who are you to judge your sitting? The mind that judges is not real, therefore the information it feeds you is not real. And I don't mean "not real" in some new-agey sense of the word. I mean that this mind of ours uses false premises to judge our experiences of living (and dying).

    Welcome the thoughts. Welcome the feelings. Welcome the good. Welcome the bad. Keep your door open. Watch as the guests arrive. Watch as they go. They never stop. To have no thoughts, to have no feelings, this is death, yes? It is never said that Buddha had no thoughts. Buddha had no attachment. Very different! As you sit, you will just naturally learn to let go. Partly because you will sooner or later get frustrated with your undying desire to have things the way you want them. Jundo once defined sitting zazen to me this way: "No place to go." You can get up, but your problems don't go away. You can sit, but your problems don't go away. What the heck do you do? Life is as it is. Sitting is as it is. Forget about time limits when sitting zazen. If you can only do two minutes, do two minutes. But always go until you think you can do no more, then do a little more. That stretches your resolve until soon you are sitting for the better part of an hour.

    Quote Originally Posted by Onken
    Any thoughts are welcome.
    This is how you ended your question. Now just incorporate that attitude to your sitting.

    I can't stress this point enough: THOUGHTS ARE A PART OF CORRECT ZAZEN. Feelings too. To want to be without negative thoughts is cheating. It's wanting to be something that doesn't exist. Welcome all thoughts. Next time all that chatter starts up do this: stop trying to do zazen. Just sit there. Think the thoughts completely. Don't be afraid of them. Think them. By dropping your resentment the thoughts will naturally dissolve. Enjoy your sitting. It is such a wonderful gift to be able to sit and do nothing. Cheers!

    gassho
    Greg
    This is wonderful! Thank you, Greg.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Maybe at the end, I would say not so much ...

    Just sit there. Think the thoughts completely. Don't be afraid of them. Think them.

    rather ...

    Just Sit as the only place to be in all the universe, a complete action! Do not grab or latch onto the thoughts as they come. If getting caught in chains of thought, open the hand of thought and let them go. Neither run after thoughts, play with them or poke at them, or forcibly seek to push them away. Like clouds, let them drift in and drift out of mind without grabbing them or stirring them up.

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13

    Re: Zazen help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Just Sit as the only place to be in all the universe, a complete action! Do not grab or latch onto the thoughts as they come. If getting caught in chains of thought, open the hand of thought and let them go. Neither run after thoughts, play with them or poke at them, or forcibly seek to push them away. Like clouds, let them drift in and drift out of mind without grabbing them or stirring them up.
    Hi Jundo. Isn't there also a gradual change in our relationship with thought over time? Zazen is 1/1.. but there is also a qualitative difference between starting out habitually absorbed in thinking... and, after training in seeing see thoughts as clouds, no longer being habitually absorbed in that way...and as a result, no longer semi-aware or oblivious to simple presence. How would you describe this change over time?



    Gassho, kojip

  14. #14

    Re: Zazen help

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Just Sit as the only place to be in all the universe, a complete action! Do not grab or latch onto the thoughts as they come. If getting caught in chains of thought, open the hand of thought and let them go. Neither run after thoughts, play with them or poke at them, or forcibly seek to push them away. Like clouds, let them drift in and drift out of mind without grabbing them or stirring them up.
    Hi Jundo. Isn't there also a gradual change in our relationship with thought over time? Zazen is 1/1.. but there is also a qualitative difference between starting out habitually absorbed in thinking... and, after training in seeing see thoughts as clouds, no longer being habitually absorbed in that way...and as a result, no longer semi-aware or oblivious to simple presence. How would you describe this change over time?



    Gassho, kojip
    Hi Kojip,

    Yes, of course! But describing these things in words is like describing the sweetness of sweet sugar in words, the wetness of wet water in words ... words just don't do justice! However, here is one attempt (the bottom highlighted sentence in green) ...

    I often use the analogy of clouds (of thought and emotions) drifting in and out of a clear, blue spacious sky (a mind open and clear of thoughts).Our mind in Zazen may be compared to the sky; We are open, clear, spacious, boundless, like the clear blue sky… Our attention is focused on everything and nothing in particular, just as the sky covers all the world without discrimination… Thoughts, like clouds, often come and go.

    ...

    We do not try to “silence the thoughts forcefully” in Shikantaza. It is more that we allow the thoughts that naturally drift into mind to naturally drift out of mind, much as clouds naturally drift in and out of a clear blue sky. In this way, return again and again to the open, clear blue sky.Although we seek to appreciate the blue, open sky between the clouds, we do not resent or despise the clouds of thought that drift through our mind. We are not disturbed by them, we do not actively chase them out, neither do we welcome them, focus on them, play with them or stir them up. We allow them to pass, and return our focus once more to the quiet blue. 10,000 times and 10,000 times again.

    As in the real sky, both blue expanse and clouds are at home there. We should reject neither, not think the blue somehow “truer” than the clouds. In fact, some days will be very cloudy, some days totally blue … both are fine. We never say “this cloudy day is not good because there is no blue sky today.” When the sky is blue and empty, let it be so. When the sky is cloudy, our mind filled with thoughts, let it be so. You see, even when hidden by clouds, the blue is there all along. Both the blue sky and the clouds are the sky … do not seek to break up the sky by rejecting any part of it. (In other words, do not think one good and the other bad). WE DO NOT SEEK TO BREAK UP OR RESIST ANY PART OF THE SKY, CLOUDS OR BLUE… It is all the unbroken sky.

    Nonetheless, though we reject neither, we allow the clouds to drift from mind and return our attention again and again to the blue. Throughout, we are awake, aware and alert, conscious and present… we are not in some mysterious or extreme state. Nor are we dull, feeling lifeless or listless, for we should feel as illuminated, vibrant, boundless and all encompassing as the open sky itself.

    The clouds of thought and the clear blue are not two, are simultaneously functioning and whole … a single sky. This is our way in ‘Just Sitting’ Shikantaza Zazen. When you see the clouds, be as if you are thereby seeing the clouds as blue. When you see the blue, you may also see the blue as clouds. In fact, as you advance in this practice, you will find that the blue sky illuminates, shines through the clouds … is the very enlightening lightness of floating clouds themselves ... and we can come to experience both together… both thoughts and silence… as one.

    Master Dogen called that “thinking not thinking,” or “non-thinking.”

    viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2920
    Gassho, Jundo

  15. #15

    Re: Zazen help

    Dear Onken,
    thank you for being so open on this. I can much relate to this, actually I felt the same and do feel the
    same at times. For myself I allow myself to get up and stop, and I allow myself to look at the clock. I tried
    moving the clock aside, but thats didnt really work for me. When I stop zazen, I had bad feelings about it,
    so i came back. Its strange and I must say I have been fascinated by my own minds dealing with zazen,
    stopping zazen, being angry about myself, forgiving me, coming back, stopping again and so on.
    I believe we all have to find our own way of dealing with such "difficulty"; what really counts
    in the end is not to terminate but to stay with the practice, even if its currently very bumpy. In fact
    these bumpy times can become the times we learn the most about ourselves. Just my opinion, of course.
    _()_
    Myoku

  16. #16

    Re: Zazen help

    Quote Originally Posted by Myoku
    Dear Onken,
    thank you for being so open on this. I can much relate to this, actually I felt the same and do feel the
    same at times. For myself I allow myself to get up and stop, and I allow myself to look at the clock. I tried
    moving the clock aside, but thats didnt really work for me. When I stop zazen, I had bad feelings about it,
    so i came back. Its strange and I must say I have been fascinated by my own minds dealing with zazen,
    stopping zazen, being angry about myself, forgiving me, coming back, stopping again and so on.
    I believe we all have to find our own way of dealing with such "difficulty"; what really counts
    in the end is not to terminate but to stay with the practice, even if its currently very bumpy. In fact
    these bumpy times can become the times we learn the most about ourselves. Just my opinion, of course.
    _()_
    Myoku
    Me too! I have had such days, sometimes once in awhile still do. I think it is just part of the process, the resistance of wrestling with the "me, myself and I". Something like learning to sail a kayak by learning to roll and spill the kayak, learning Judo by learning how to take a sudden tumble well.

    WHO is resisting, and where is the resistance to be found?

    Gassho, J

  17. #17

    Re: Zazen help

    Quote Originally Posted by lipor
    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Quote Originally Posted by Onken
    Any thoughts are welcome.
    This is how you ended your question. Now just incorporate that attitude to your sitting.

    gassho
    Greg

    Clever
    I totally agree ... being in the moment of the practice letting it come and go. I find those are the times that make me smile the most ... yahhh, I made it through that one.

    Gassho,
    Michael

  18. #18

    Re: Zazen help

    Thank you, Onken, for sharing. I encounter this frequently.

    Thank you, Greg, for your thoughtful post!

    _/_

  19. #19
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen help

    Since we don't have a Like button (yet), I like what you say, Ekai.

    I guess this is exactly what we must do. To sit even when our the mind rebels and wants to go watch TV.

    Sit with the resistance to sit, but develop the discipline to get through the zazen session.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ekai
    When thoughts or feelings arise of wanting to stop, let them go and keep sitting. You might find yourself letting these emotions go over and over again, minute after minute but that's OK. It's a part of the practice. Sit with your resistance and drop any self-judgements of how your Zazen Is going. When I experience this, I just keep letting the resistance go even if it's during the entire sit.

    I hope this helps.

    Gassho,
    Ekai

  20. #20

    Re: Zazen help

    Thank you everyone. This discussion has helped a lot.

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