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Thread: To Count or Not to Count.

  1. #1

    To Count or Not to Count.

    I'm not a beginner to meditation - but I am new to zazen. I find that following or simply observing my breath is more natural than counting my in and out breaths. Actually, I feel like counting brings on mental chatter surrounding breath - the quality of it, if I'm counting too quickly, slowly.

    Now - the natural response is likely going to be - "okay, then don't count" haha. But I was just curious if anyone else had this issue when starting in zazen, or even now.

    Best,

    -w.

    sat today.

  2. #2
    Hi w, I responded to someone on the new member thread who had a similar comment. I have always had the same problem. If I count, I can't even do it once without sending my mind spinning off in all directions. I can't get to 10 and start over--before I know it, I am at 20 or 30 without realizing it. It was a relief to give it up and move on to Shikantaza "just sitting." At least then I notice right away when my mind starts to cling to a train of thought so I can come back to the present. Maybe it's an ADHD thing?
    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday


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    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by wtylerallen View Post
    I'm not a beginner to meditation - but I am new to zazen. I find that following or simply observing my breath is more natural than counting my in and out breaths. Actually, I feel like counting brings on mental chatter surrounding breath - the quality of it, if I'm counting too quickly, slowly.

    Now - the natural response is likely going to be - "okay, then don't count" haha. But I was just curious if anyone else had this issue when starting in zazen, or even now.

    Best,

    -w.

    sat today.
    Hi Tyler,

    Please check out our "We're All Always Beginners" Series, especially the episode on breathing (No. 11) ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-Begin-Here%21

    I generally do not encourage folks to count the breath, but rather now ask new folks to gently follow the breath at the tip of the nose without judgments on the inhale and exhale. Then, when the student can, they should let the breath go, and move into sitting with nonjudgmental "open spacious awareness", focused on all things yet nothing in particular.

    The point of Zazen is not to attain deep states of concentration or sensations of peace or joy. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the true existential Peace comes with not running after or needing to feel peace, but rather is an overriding Peace that holds both moments of peace and all of life's round and sharp pieces, both peaceful times and turbulent times. This comes with being at Peace with what is, sitting radically allowing what is, without mental demands that it be one way or another. It is a kind of Big J Joy that sweeps in both times of happiness and times of tears, and thus does not depend on feeling joyful and smiling all the time. Counting is too instrumental, and can confuse students on the purpose of sitting as just some concentration or relaxation technique. This kind of instrumentalist view is, unfortunately, too common even among folks who profess to be teaching "Shikantaza."

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-12-2017 at 01:26 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    I had difficulty with two things when I started sitting: counting breaths and trying to get to a state of "no thought". I was getting hung up on counting the in and out breaths, and trying to constantly slow down my breathing, count right, keep on count, etc. I found that I was paying more attention to my breath than letting go of thought. Similarly, I was doing more thinking about how to let go of thinking and trying to reach "blank spots" in meditation....which is impossible.

    Now I focus on one main breath at the start of my sitting: I do one deep exhale, focusing on releasing all my tension and conscious thought with that one breath. After that, I don't focus on breathing anymore, just on quietly observing my thoughts as they come and go. I find that my breathing takes care of itself, and I probably breathe better when I'm not trying to control it.

    Gassho--

    --JimH (SatToday!)

  5. #5
    Hi, Jim. So nice to read this. It's strange, but somehow the less we try to get "better" at this beautiful Practice, the "better" we get at it

    Gassho,
    Andoitz.

    SatToday.
    太 Tai (Great)
    陽 Yō (Sun)

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
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    Sometimes, I find counting to be helpful. It will naturally lead me to a state where I can drop it and just sit naturally.

    Gassho, sat today
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    Sometimes, I find counting to be helpful. It will naturally lead me to a state where I can drop it and just sit naturally.

    Gassho, sat today
    Agreed. I generally just sit but if I am having a particularly hard time settling then I'll count a bit. Usually one or two rounds up to ten is all I need and then I can let that drop and just sit.

    Gassho
    Warren
    Sat today

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by awarren View Post
    Agreed. I generally just sit but if I am having a particularly hard time settling then I'll count a bit. Usually one or two rounds up to ten is all I need and then I can let that drop and just sit.

    Gassho
    Warren
    Sat today
    I also, in my zazen practice.
    Gassho, -0

    who, today, sat
    and neither are they otherwise.


  9. #9

    To Count or Not to Count.

    Hi,

    I don't count. I think anchoring Zazen to something is inevitable such as following the breath or thinking not thinking. I have to anchor Zazen to posture and constantly correct it because of back and neck problems.

    IMG_0078.JPG

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    Last edited by Jishin; 04-20-2017 at 11:12 AM.

  10. #10
    My first teacher made us beginners count only the outbreathes. I found it quite cool, because you have to drop it all during the inbreath. You count during the whole length of the outbreath (ooooooooone), then drop it during the inbreathe, then count the next outbreathe (twoooooooo). I found it was a balanced way of calming the mind while still tasting shikantaza during the inbreathe. Then after a few weeks of this, we would drop it all and just sit. But still, anyway, you always can twist your mind around it (okay, let's not miss the next outbreathe, I GOT IT) so if that's your tendency, you just have to deal with it...

    Gassho,

    Uggy

    Sat today

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