January 2010 Archives

What's the most important thing to remember about 'breathing' during Zazen?

DON'T STOP!

Last time, I spoke about how there is no "bad" Zazen, even on those days when the mind is very cloudy with thoughts and emotions. But in fact, there are a couple of things we can do to settle down when the mind is really, really, really, stirred up with tangled thoughts, wild emotions and confusion.

Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

We can count the breaths, for example, counting from 1 to 10 at each inhalation and exhalation, then coming back to one and starting all over when we reach ten (which we rarely do) or lose track. Or we can simply follow the breath without counting, for example, observing effortlessly as it enters and exits the nose. These are excellent practices, and will calm the mind (itself a form ofShikantaza that some people pursue, even for a lifetime!). HOWEVER, for reasons I will discuss, I recommend such practices only as temporary measures for true beginners with no experience of how to let the mind calm at all, or others on those sometime days when the mind really, really, really is upset and disturbed. AS SOON AS the mind settles a bit, I advise the we return our attention to "the clear, blue, spacious sky that holds all", letting clouds of thought and emotion drift from mind, focused on what can be called "everything, and nothing at all" or "no place and everyplace at once." I will explain why in today's talk.

One we return to sitting focused on "everything, and nothing at all," letting all things "just be" ... we let the breath "just be" and give it no mind, too. We do not try to do anything artificial with the breath, and just let "long breaths be long, and short breaths be short," the breath finding its natural rhythm. Pay the breath no mind, give it no thought, and even (as Master Dogen advises) drop all thought of "long" or "short"! In doing so, as we calm, the breath will calm as well ... finding a natural rhythm.

We may even come to experience that there is really no separate "I" breathing, no separate air being breathed, no separate world to receive our cast out breaths ...  and we experience breathing as as boundless as that vast, open sky. Thus Dogen's teacher Master Tendo said, "it is not that this breath comes from somewhere ... it is not possible to say where this breath goes. For that reason, it is neither long nor short."

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi once said this about the breath ...

If you think, "I breathe," the "I" is extra. There is no you to say "I." What we call "I" is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no "I," no world, no mind nor body: just a swinging door.

We might say that the breath, too, is "no place and everyplace at once."

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of Zazen for Beginnersclick here.

To subscribe to the RSS for the "sit-a-longs", and be notified of new postings, click here.

Last time, in our series on Zazen for Beginners (we are all alwaysbeginners), I used the analogy of clouds of thoughts and emotions drifting through an open, clear, boundless blue sky.

I said, in Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen, we do not resist the clouds, do not attempt to silence the thoughts and emotions forcefully. Instead, we just return our attention again and again to the clear sky, and allow the clouds to drift out of mind.  Be focused on "everything and nothing at all," just as the sky covers all the world without thought or discrimination.

What is more, I said, we do not think of the clouds as "bad" while the clear sky is "good" ... 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 and distractions, let it be so. Drop all judgment of Zazen, and of all of life, as "good vs. bad." Nonetheless, though we reject nothing as "good" or "bad" Zazen, we do not stay in the clouds. Not at all! We allow the clouds to drift from mind and return our attention again and again to the blue.

In doing so, a surprising thing happens ...

Though we do not reject our thoughts and emotions, do not try to change them, suppress them, judge them or push them away... "bad" thoughts will change, be experienced quite differently, and sometimes fully drop away. To illustrate this process, I will talk about sitting with three common thoughts and emotions that may fill our heads during Zazen or at any moment of life:anger at someone, greed for something, and fear about the future.

Click through here to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

To subscribe to the RSS for the "sit-a-longs", and be notified of new postings, click here.

Rev. Taigu continues his comments on sitting posture for beginners. (We are always beginners.) He says:

"What I am suggesting is to give the body-mind a direction, namely to sit up but not to do it. If you instruct yourself to sit straight and do it, with a straight spine, all you are going to do is to use a lot of tension and will end up taking a very rigid, military-like position. Once you instruct but drop the doing, the undoing takes place and gets the body-mind free. You cannot do an undoing."

Click through here to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long": 

The nature of not-doing is such that it cannot be controlled. It just happens. A woman giving birth, or a sneeze, are actions on which we have no control whatsoever. The most beautiful things in this world often are pure blossoms of not-doing. So all you can do is to consciously inhibit the habit of sitting straight, what you think is sitting straight. Therefore, let the tensions go and allow the spine to naturally grow and expand. Something like that. I basically want to share with you all is that a certain practice of sitting will make you lock the body-mind, it can be very stiff, very rigid and tense. There is a very natural and flowing way to sit.

Young children and animals can also teach us. In my limited experience, in the last thirty years or so, I met so many people sitting, acting, speaking in a very rigid way. I have been in temples, and zen centers and monasteries where everything was like a boot camp and Zen looked like a military training. Now, I am deeply convinced that it is just not a Japanese cultural aspect, but rather, it has to do with the way people sit. It will take you a lifetime to explore that path, but if you decide to lock you body, it is a quick and easy fix: but it comes at a cost, both physical and psychological.

Again who is sitting, you or Buddha? Allow Buddha to sit you. Let me use a simple metaphor. When you are swimming, you may struggle and fight against water or allow water to carry you, understand that you are water in water. Doing absolutely nothing keeps you at the surface. Zazen is the same. The less you do, the more you allow your true form to manifest itself, the more ease you will experience. I am not suggestingthat you should sit with a bent spine, half collapsing on the cushion. I am suggesting that you may achieve the vertical state through a natural dynamic process rather than trying to mimick or copy what you think is sitting with a straight back. I would like also to invite you to explore. Your body is like nobody else's. A sitting position cannot be corrected from outside: if you move your head an pull your chin in, or if a teacher does...same mistake. You want to hit the target without shooting the arrow. You forget that the path is the goal. If you do so, you just end-gain, as Herrigel describes this process in archery. The student is aware that "drawing the bow is a means to an end and I cannot lose sight of this connection" to which the Zen master replies the more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed.

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

We continue our video series on how to do Zazen, and how to allow the thoughts and emotions that appear during Zazen to drift from mind.

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.

Clouds drift in and out, that is natural. However, we bring our attention again and again (10,000 times and 10,000 times again) to the open, blue sky between, allowing the clouds of thought to drift away. More clouds will come, and so we repeat the process endlessly, once more and once more bringing our attention back to the blue sky... to the open spaces between thoughts.

Click through here to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

However, this is important to bear in mind:

We do not try to "silence the thoughts forcefully" in Skikantaza. 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... and we can come to experience both together... both thoughts and silence...  as one.

Master Dogen called that "thinking not thinking," or "non-thinking."

A REMINDER: We will have our weekly 1-hour Saturday live Zazenkai tomorrow at 10pm Japan time (that is New York 8am, Los Angeles 5am, London 1pm and Paris 2pm, SATURDAY). To participate in the live or recorded version (available to sit, any time, anywhere) follow THIS LINK.

Below is today's Sit-A-Long video. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

It is important to understand from the very outset of beginning practicethat Shikantaza ("Just Sitting") Zazen is a radical, to-the-marrow, dropping of all need to attain, all "running after." And we work very very diligently to attain this "non-attaining!" Last time, I compared it to a foot race in which we keep on pushing forward for our whole lives, but knowing that each step-by-stepof the race itself is perfectly "just running." No destination to "get to"... the trip itself is the destination.

Why is this philosophy of Shikantaza so unique and vital to understand?

Because in our lives, we are morning-to-night chasing after things, rarely still... whether it is dreams and goals, food on the table, fame and fortune, praise, possessions, whatever we think will "finally" make us happy and content in life, complete (once we get there, if we get there).

How rarely are we truly still, at rest and at peace, right here.

Click through here to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

It may be the same in our spiritual practice, if we are always searching for something, someone, or some truth distant or just out of reach. It may be "Enlightenment""the Buddha" or some other Power or "secret to life" that seems so far away.

The Practice of Shikantaza may be unique in being, unlike most other ways of seeking, a radical stopping of the search, a true union with life "just-as-it-is," dropping all need for looking "beyond" so to make life complete here and now.

Yet, far from being mere resignation, a half-satisfied complacency or lazy "giving up," Shikantazais, instead, finding what we are longing for by allowing all just to be. Life is complete when one allows life to be complete. All things are perfectly just what they are if we see them as such. The hard borders and friction between our self and the world fall away.

By stopping the search, something precious is truly found!

We discover stillness and peace, not by running after stillness and peace, but by being truly still and at rest. To do this, we sit on our Zafu cushion, dropping from mind all judgments of the world, all resistance... all thought that life "should be" or "had better be" some other way than just as we find it all. In this way, we find the sitting of Zazen (and all of Practice) to be a perfect act, the one place to be and the one thing to do in the universe at that moment. When we are sitting, we do not think that we "should be" someplace else, or that there is a better way to spend our time. Instead, we find each moment of sitting complete, with not one thing to add or take away from the moment.

We discover stillness even amid the activity of life, peace without regard to whether all around is chaos! Even though we are still, we keep living and moving forward!

Thus, we find that what we have been searching for here all along.

(Now that I have explained a bit about the philosophy of diligently sitting to attain "non-attaining" and to achieve "nothing to achieve", I will talk in our next episode about about what should be going on "inside the head" and with one's thoughts during Shikantaza Zazen.)

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

Rev. Taigu offers a few more perspectives on the "sitting" of "just sitting." He says:

Sitting on a cushion is what we normally do. The actual flexibility of this cushion called a zafu makes it possible to position it at an angle which makes sitting much more comfortable. A zafu is a very personal item and one should search around to find the right thickness for the cushion. When putting hands together to form the zazen mudra, we usually put the left hand on top of the right, palms up and thumbs very lightly touching. If you are not using a kolomo, which is a  black robe with huge sleeves, then you may use a towel and put it on your lap to support the mudra.

Click to watch today's talk and to "sit-a-long." Note: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

Continuing our "How to"  series on Zazen...

Shikantaza "Just Sitting" is an unusual way of meditation, and might be compared to running a long distance foot race in a most unusual way. In most ordinary races, people run to win something, seeking to cross the finish line at the end of the course, far down the road and over the distant hills. So the runners keep on pushing ahead, striving with all their might to get to that goal, the crossing of which will finally make them victors. In Zen, that distant goal is sometimes called "Enlightenment."

And in Shikantaza too, we do not give up. We keep pushing ahead diligently with our practice, step by step and inch by inch, seeking the goal. However, the "goal" turns out not to be where we thought it was, and the way of its crossing not as first imagined.

For, in Shikantaza we must come to realize that the "goal" is not the crossing of some far off line. Instead, each step-by-step of the race itself IS the destination fully attained, the finish line is ever underfoot and constantly crossed with each inch. Each step is instantaneously a perfect arriving at the winner's tape!

Click through here to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":  To know that there is no finish line to cross even as we run the race, no target to hit, is to perpetually arrive at the finish line with each stride, ever hitting the target, always arriving home. But despite the fact that the "trophy" was ours all along, we do not give up, do not sit down at the starting line, do not quit and jump out early from the race (of our practice, our life). We do not turn back or waste time. For that reason, some call our Practice a great, constant striving for the "Goalless goal."

In Shikantaza, we find the sitting of Zazen (and all of Practice) to be a perfect act, the one place to be and the one thing to do in the universe at that moment. When we are sitting, we do not think that we "should be" someplace else, or that there is a better way to spend our time. Instead, we find each moment of sitting complete, with not one thing to add or take away from the moment. In other words, we keep on running running running, knowing that we belong in this race, and there is no grander place to be!

As I have mentioned before, in sitting, we drop from mind all judgments of the world, all resistance... all thought that life "should be" or "had better be" some other way than just as we find it all.  No matter how it is going, or the direction it takes, we drop -to the marrow - all thought that the race should be turning out some other way. In other words, we learn to go totally with the race's flow.

And thus, the goal is constantly crossed underfoot even as we keep on running forward... yet we persist in running until we cross the line of thoroughly realizing that fact of the line's true location in each step, then keep on running more steps after steps because all of life turns out to be "Practice." The very act of running brings the race -- and the Buddha's teachings -- to life. So, we keep on running despite no need to"get."

Radically dropping, to the marrow, all need to attain, add or remove, or change circumstances in order to make life right and complete IS A WONDROUS ATTAINMENT, ADDITION, and CHANGE TO LIFE! Dropping all need to "get somewhere" is truly finally GETTING SOMEWHERE!

Attaining non-attaining is the Prize!

It is a marvelous way to practice, and wonderful way to live all of life : constantly moving forward with energy and effort, living vigorously, yet knowing that there is no place to "get to," and we are constantly already home.

Below is today's talk. Click to listen and "sit-a-long."

Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.


To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

There was, of course, a devastating earthquake in Haiti yesterday -- great human suffering. So much sadness in this world... war and violence, poverty, hunger, disease.

Yet, in our Shikantaza Zazen, we are to instructed to sit with life without thinking "good" or "bad," dropping all resistance and judgments about how things are, not wishing that our self or the world 'should be' or 'had better be' some other way than just as we find them.

We drop all thoughts of "good" and "bad," "right" vs. "wrong," "just" and "unjust," "happy" and "sad,"we experience a world that just is-what-it-is. It goes-the-way-it-goes, even if that way is not the way we personally might desire. And we go with its flow, abandoning resistance to the direction taken. Letting aside both "cruel" and "gentle," "ugly" and "kind,"we no longer resist, do not judge, and embrace it all... even the most terrible.

In doing so, the hard borders between our self and this life-world soften or fully tumble away... and there is just oneness-beyond-one with all conditions.

But need we stop there? In that wholeness and tranquility, are we not left uncaring, blind, emotionless, apathetic, cold-hearted, passive to the pain of others?

NOT AT ALL!

Click through here to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

For ours can be a path of acceptance without acceptance, inner stillness and outward action combined, allowing and tolerant yet resisting what needs to be resisted, judging what must be judged in life (while also dropping all judgments) - all at once, as if precisely blending  views of life seen from different angles. It is much the same in the case of a man or woman who, facing an illness, perhaps some cancer, accepts the condition fully -- yet fights the good fight for a cure. We need not feel anger within at the natural state which is the disease, we can accept within that all life is impermanent and that death and sickness are just the reality... but still we might search for the healing medicine, struggling without for health and life. We can know that within andwithout are not two.

Our Zen practice teaches us that we can live by seemingly contradictory viewpoints at once, uniting all, without conflict. We might say that this world, our life, is much like living in an imperfect house, in need of work, with perhaps a leaky roof, dust and spiders, and broken windows. In "Just Sitting," we simply sit to drop all resistance to the house we have been living in all along, to realize that there is nowhere to "go" in life, to cease all efforts to add to or take away from the structure, to let go of the ego's insisting on how things "should be" in order for the house to be"good" ... we ARE that house, at Peace in our True Home! Then we find, in dropping that resistance, that the house we have always been in is "perfectly what it is," and we can be joyful right where we are. HOWEVER, we can be content with that house even as, hand in hand, there is still much serious repair work to do (an acceptance-without-acceptance of the leaky windows, spiders and creaky doors). There is nothing to prevent our fixing those, even as we accept their existence! We can accept and not accept simultaneously, repair what needs to be repaired.

Thus, in our "Just Sitting" Shikantaza, we completely accept, embrace and allow the universe, and all in it, just as it is. We drop all thoughts of likes and dislikes, dreams and regrets and need for change, hopes and fears. But simultaneously, hand in hand without the slightest deviation (on another mental "track," we might say), we live our lives as human beings, and living life requires choices, goals, likes and dislikes, dreams and hopes for change.

War, fire, flood, death and disease, humanity and nature's most horrible turns can all be observed dispassionately and from an unshakable inner peace, fully accepted... all while we choose to resist what we can, to extend comfort and compassion as we can, to make the world and our selves better when and where we can.

Here's today's "Sit-A-Long talk video:

To view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments of "Zazen for Beginners," click here.

Like me (Jundo Cohen), Rev. Taigu Turlur is also teacher at Treeleaf Sangha. He leads our 'sit-a-long' Zazen periods on most Mondays. Born in France in 1964, he started Zazen early -- at age 13! -- and received Shukke Tokudo ordination in 1983 -- at age 18! -- from Rev. Mokudo Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage, and Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2003. A lifelong student and servant of sewing the Kesa (Buddhist robes), he now resides near Osaka, Japan.

Taigu will be speaking in our series "Zazen for Beginners" (because we'realways beginners) on sitting with the body ... as body-mind are not two.

Click through here to see today's talk, and to "sit-a-long".  

Taigu writes ...

Sitting with our body-mind is the very heart of our tradition. How to sit? You will find on line a lot of information about it. People tell you what you should be doing or what you should not. In some Zendos, firm hands may correct your posture so it looks as if it gets closer to what they imagine to be the real thing. In some instances, Zen practice may nurture in us an army-like attitude, alongside we may display some arrogance and intolerance and sit like huge stones, filled with tensions and knots.

I would like to invite you to something slightly different.

Tricks and methods can work to a certain extent. We may receive very helpful instruction and guidance, but eventually, we are alone and it is within and with this body-mind of ours that we sit. The problem is that everybody is different and you cannot correct somebody's sitting from outside. The activity of sitting is to allow the flower of the Dharma to blossom, to let sitting sitting us and not to force the body into a rigid-fixed composure.

I am not an expert at sitting. I have no diploma about body-work or the like.  Although I started sitting more than thirty years ago, it feels like yesterday. So please, take my words with great caution. I would like to provide a few directions and invite you to start where you are with who you are. Beware of not cultivating a particular thought or of toying with a certain idea during sitting, for instance, the picture of the flower blossoming is just a metaphor to give you a flavor or the balanced way to release the lower part of the body into the ground, it is not supposed to be present in your mind during sitting itself. Sitting itself is free of any clinging, so in Shikantaza, following the breath, counting the breaths, or focusing on a koan are not required.  It is coming to a place where through not-doing and not-knowing one enjoys the complete  and vast scenery of things-as-it-is. Sitting is to realize , not just intellectually, but through our whole body-mind that nothing is lacking, that our being is imperfectly perfect. Sitting is to strip the doing and thinking habits, which is what we can truly call karma, and return to our true home, always where we are. And please, just be humble, forget your knowledge and experience, drop your bag at the gate of sitting, if you keep the weight of a straw or even a tiny thread, it's extra. To be a beginner is to come to sitting as a beginner. It is open to everybody. As Master Dogen guided inFukanzazengi...

In general, a quiet room is good for Zen practice, and food and drink are taken in moderation. Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down?

Usually on the place where we sit we spread a thick mat, on top of which we use a round cushion. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture. To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh. Let clothing hang loosely and make it neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other.

Just sit upright, not leaning to the left, inclining to the right, slouching forward, or arching backward. It is vital that the ears vis-à-vis the shoulders, and the nose vis-à-vis the navel, are caused to oppose each other. Let the tongue spread against the roof of the mouth. Let the lips and teeth come together. The eyes should be kept open. Let the breath pass imperceptibly through the nose.

Having regulated the physical posture, breathe out once, and sway left and right. Sit still, "Thinking that state beyond thinking." "How can the state beyond thinking be thought?" "Non-thinking." This is the vital art of sitting-zen.

What is called sitting-zen, sitting-meditation, is not meditation that is learned. It is the Dharma-gate of effortless ease. It is the practice and experience that gets to the bottom of the Buddha's enlightenment. The laws of the Universe are realized, around which there are no nets or cages. To grasp this meaning is to be like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger before a mountain stronghold. Remember, true reality spontaneously emerges, and darkness and dissipation vanish at a stroke.

Click the viewer below to "Sit-A-Long."

To view all of our previous Sit-Along posts, here.

The "Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners" Series is found at this link ...

http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=20

Continuing our series "Zazen for Beginners" (because we're always beginners) ...

Here's a basic perspective of Buddhism:

Our mind creates conflict and separation from this life/world because it is constantly filled with thoughts dividing this from that, worries and "what if's", desires and "if only's," judgments of good and bad and high and low, resistance to situations, fears for the future and regrets about the past ... all kinds of junk in the mental trunk. In this way, our "self" creates an image of itself separate from, and in frequent conflict with life, the world, everything it considers "not itself" (and even conflict with its image of itself too!)
It is (as the old joke goes) a lot like your self mentally banging yourself with a hammer ... Cause it is such a relief when you stop!

Click through here to see today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

Reverse the process ... drop the dividing thoughts, the fears and worries, judgments, the likes and dislikes, ideas of past-present-future, resistance and the rest ... and all conflicts and separation drop away too. The self is no longer in conflict and isolated from all that it sees as "not the self" ... the war is over ... and (depending on how much those borders soften or fully drop away) this 'world-life-self-not self-reality' is known and experienced in very special way(s) too.

Thus, in Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen we sit ... allowing thoughts of this, that, past, future and all the rest to drift out of mind.

The hammer is put down.

REMINDER: We will have our weekly LIVE 1-hour 'Zazenkai SATURDAY netcast (from New York 8am, Los Angeles 5am, London 1pm, Paris 2pm) ... but fear not if you cannot join at those times, because it will be available in 'REAL TIME' recorded form for you to sit with us at anytime thereafter.Visit Treeleaf Zendo here.


If you missed Jundo's first installment of "Zazen for Beginners," click here to watch it now.

Or view all of Jundo's SunSpace posts, here.

Today we begin "Zazen for Beginners." Because  we're always beginners.

We'll talk the basics of  "Just Sitting" Shikantaza Zazen... There's a bit more to "Just Sitting" than "just sitting around."

In a series of talks over the coming days, I will discuss this and that about"Just Sitting," which has much to do with dropping thoughts of "this" and "that." I'll talk about where you can expect to "go" in your practice, and what you can expect to attain, which is, of course ...

ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE AND NOTHING!

Don't think, however, that not thinking of "attaining" means that a treasure is not attained.

And freeing our "self" of all need to get somewhere can be truly getting somewhere.

These talks are meant for beginners in "Just Sitting" Shikantaza Zazen and newcomers toTreeleaf SanghaShikantaza is our central practice at Treeleaf. But I hope that both new folks and old timers will watch. We are all, of course, ever beginning now and now and now, with"Beginner's Mind."

Click through here to see today's talk, and to "sit-a-long":

Let's start by seeing the mind as like a noisy kitchen blender... filled with all kinds of rattlin' stuff.

Let it settle!

Here's today's Sit-A-Long video.

(Using headphones? Do note that there is loud noise at times in this video!)



Since we began sitting here at Shambhala SunSpace a few days ago, a few folks have written me to ask about our Treeleaf Sangha. Some have asked what a "Sit-A-Long" is, and how and when to do that.

Treeleaf was designed specifically as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or childcare and family needs (please go to www.treeleaf.org for more information). Of course, anyone is welcome who might find our sittings encouraging to their ongoing Zazen Practice ... and there is always a Zafu open.

Treeleaf seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. And a "sit-a-long" is just sitting Shikantaza Zazen with me, here on Shambhala SunSpace.

I appreciate the company. Click through here to see today's talk, and to "sit-a-long."

To welcome this NEW YEAR, NEW DAY, NEW MOMENTLESS MOMENT ....

... please 'sit-a-long' with our SPECIAL NEW YEAR 4-hour ZAZENKAI netcast, recorded today 'live' in "real time" and available at the following links for sitting anytime:

Remember, when we drop all thought of 'here' 'there' 'now' 'then' ... we are sitting all together! Please pull up a Zafu, wherever you are, and join us!

The netcast recording  is divided into 2 parts as follows (click on the links below) :

00:00 - 00:50    CEREMONY (HEART SUTRA / SANDOKAI) & ZAZEN
00:50 - 01:00     KINHIN
01:00 - 01:40     ZAZEN
01:40 - 01:50     KINHIN

LINK TO JOIN ZAZENKAI PART 1

01:50 - 02:30     DHARMA TALK & ZAZEN
02:30 - 02:40     KINHIN
02:40 - 03:20     ZAZEN
03:20 - 03:30     KINHIN
03:30 - 04:00     METTA CHANT & ZAZEN, VERSE OF ATONEMENT, FOUR VOWS, & CLOSING

Our Zazenkai will consist of chanting the 'Heart Sutra' and the 'Identity of Relative and Absolute(Sandokai)' in English (the words are at the link below), some full floor prostrations in sets of three (please follow along with me ... or a simple Gassho can be substituted if you wish), a little talk by me ... and we close with the 'Metta Chant', followed at the end with the 'Verse of Atonement' and 'The Four Vows'.

Please download and print out the words of the Chants we will recite at the following link:

NOTE:

I SUGGEST THAT YOU POSITION YOUR ZAFU ON THE FLOOR IN A PLACE WHERE YOU ARE NOT STARING DIRECTLY AT THE COMPUTER SCREEN, BUT CAN GLANCE OVER AND SEE THE SCREEN WHEN NECESSARY. YOUR ZAFU SHOULD ALSO BE IN A POSITION WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE COMPUTER SCREEN WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ZAFU FOR THE CEREMONIES.You can toggle the tv screen to 'FULL SCREEN' mode with the little button on the bottom right of the screen.

ALSO, REMEMBER TO SET YOUR COMPUTER (& SCREEN SAVER) SO THAT IT DOES NOT SHUT OFF DURING THE 4 HOURS.

Please join in, one and all.

Gassho, Jundo

For this first "sit-a-long" sitting at Shambhala Sunspace ... on this first day of a new year ...

... the sound of a temple bell, ringing in and out - vibrant and clear.

From where does that sound come? To where does it go?

We are sitting today in the cold and dark, a few minutes before midnight, under the bell tower of a small Soto temple here in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Not much to "see" today, except the shadow of the bell's striker (it really is pitch black out) ... Most days, I hope that we will be able to see each other as we sit Shikantaza Zazen together here in our daily "sit-a-longs" ... but for today, it is enough if we "see" each other just through that deep sound.



A New Years tradition at Buddhist temples across Japan is the ringing of the Joya-no-kane (除夜の鐘) ...

... the temple bell near midnight. The bell is typically rung 108 times (sometimes by the temple priests, sometimes by parishioners) to cleanse the listener of the 108 mortal afflictions (bonno ... anger, greed, ignorance, envy, hatred, arrogance and the rest) that, in traditional Buddhist thinking, are the causes of suffering. By ringing out the old year and ringing in the new, each earthly desire will be taken away and therefore we can start the New Year with a pure mind.

Perhaps we might also say that past moments ... the up and downs, happiness and sadness ... are now gone, and a new beginning rings out ... ever new and renewing.

Master Dogen wrote, "Zazen ... is like the hammer striking emptiness, the bell's melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, endlessly before and after. It is not limited to this moment ."

HAPPY NEW NOT JUST THIS MOMENT, EVERYONE!

(Oh, and before I forget, to welcome the New Year, we will be having a 4-hour LIVE ZAZENKAI TOMORROW ... commencing 9pm to 1am Japan time (that is New York 7am to 11am, Los Angeles 4am to 8am, London noon to 4pm and Paris 1pm to 5pm, Saturday) ... and available in REAL TIME RECORDED FORM at any time after. THE LINKS TO JOIN THE LIVE OR RECORDED SITTING will be posted on this blog. I hope you will come and "sit-a-long.")