Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Zazen for Beginners (Part IX)

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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.

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