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Thread: Zazen: Not Sitting is as Vital as Sitting

  1. #1

    Zazen: Not Sitting is as Vital as Sitting

    In Zazen, we seek to sit each day. There are times to sit long and times to sit short. Perhaps we will sit for hours and hours, day after day, in Retreat. Or, perhaps, on a busy day, we might "sit" Zazen for a few minutes while holding the strap on the bus while commuting to work, or before hurrying to make breakfast for the kids. However, we must never forget that, whether sitting for 1 week or 1 minute or second, Zazen is never a matter of "long vs. short." One should sit beyond all measure of time, as well as thoughts of "before" or "after" Zazen. In such way, if one is sitting for hours or days but watching the clock, turning sitting into a race of achievement, thinking that the more one sits, the more points one racks up, then one may be wasting one's time no matter how long one sits. On the other hand, if one sits but a few minutes, yet with a sense that all time (and Timeless) is held fully in each moment, that there is no other place to go, nothing lacking, nothing more to gain, then every tick of the clock holds endless Kalpa and all the universe. One sits for some minutes each day precisely to embody and carve into the bones this timeless Truth.

    But that is not all. Times of --NOT-- sitting are as vital to the Zen Path as times of sitting.

    Of course, there is the fact that, after sitting Zazen, we then get up from the sitting cushion and get on with life: work to do, places to go, the kids to feed, doctors to see and walls to paint. This is all Zazen too, and our Practice, in its widest, boundless meaning. Perhaps in our doing so, the "non-doing" and Timeless "no place to go, and nothing lacking" of Zazen in our bones will carry with us as we run to makes those appointments and get the jobs done on time. Master Dogen spoke of Practice-Enlightenment, and bringing Enlightenment to life on and off the cushion.

    But beyond that, I am also speaking of the times of NOT sitting when we completely put down and rest from Zazen and this Practice completely. We put Practice down, we walk away. Doing so is sometimes vital too.

    It is okay to miss Zazen for many days, even weeks, even more perhaps ... ... forgetting about Zen and Buddhas and bells and Emptiness for spans of time ... so long as one is consistent in coming back, getting on the horse again. Being away and coming back may all be aspects of the practice. However, it is that "coming back" that is vital too, indispensable, and the difference between a rest and truly quitting. The coming back and coming back, over the long haul, is vital, and is the difference between a respite and real quitting.

    Please do not misunderstand: Sitting each day, day after day without a miss, is excellent too (even sitting many times a day, for hours and hours, on a no miss basis) --IF-- that is really what seems right, good and balanced in one's life. Everyone's heart and needs are different. Some folks describe themselves sitting through rain or sun, thick or thin, getting their arse down on the cushion come hell or high water, and that is marvelous if that is what they need, and what works well for their life. If it makes one's life truly better, healthy and wholesome, one should know it by the feeling as one lives it of being good, healthy and wholesome. Doing so shows grit, strength, determination, persistence which is cherished on this Path as a Virtue.

    On the other hand, however, if one is sitting so as an obsession, clutching, fixated, off balance in mind, then perhaps something is amiss. This Shikantaza way is not about racking up points, or chasing after goals, but is about sitting for sitting's sake beyond measure, lack and striving for attainments. Better to be a little "hooked" on Zazen instead of drugs, alcohol or gambling, but even Zazen might become an addiction, a sick and obsessive attachment for some. We sit persistently and diligently, but without clutching or striving. Only your heart can tell you what type of sitter you are, and why you are sitting so hard every day ... for the right reasons or wrong. The obsessed or unbalanced sitter may actually have to force themselves -NOT- to sit sometimes, and that also takes grit and strength to do.

    And if we go to the other extreme, and are truly negligent in sitting, sit too little and too many days between (you will know how many is 'too many' because it seems like too many), are an escaper who simply runs from anything a little unpleasant, that is not good either. There is an aspect to Zen practice, and our dropping likes and dislikes, aversions and attractions, that requires us to sit many days when we do not wish to do so. (So many Saturday mornings, for our weekly Treeleaf Zazenkai, I have thought of just staying in bed and letting somebody else handle it. However, in about 12 years, I do not think that I have, except when really sick or called away urgently. It has sometimes been wonderfully-terrible to drag my ass to Zazen some of those days, but always terribly-wonderful in the end ). The value of this came to me when I was hospitalized for my big surgery, did not want to be there, was frustrated and uncomfortable ... yet had learned to be beyond my fears and resistance, likes and dislikes too. I sat (reclined) beautiful Zazen in the hospital bed, unable to escape yet not wishing to escape. There are also times to push hard in retreat, at Sesshin, in which we rise in the middle of the night, sit for hours, day after day, all to realize the true meaning of "nothing to attain." Then, returning home, Sesshin over, we may slack off for some days. No big deal.

    You must know and judge by one's own heart, by listening to yourself, when you are at the extreme of sitting TOO MUCH, a Zazen prisoner, or at the other extreme of not sitting enough, TOO LITTLE, being just an armchair Buddhist who sits few and far between. Are you sitting, or not sitting, in a healthy balance?

    There are also times to step back a bit for physical or psychological reasons. If one has a headache, if it is too emotionally trying some days, one may need to take a rest, like a runner who needs to heal before getting back on the road. We may not want to slack off, take a break, but we have to. And even if in good health, and when life is well, we might just want to take a break. No reason.

    I would go so far as saying that "slipping up" or stepping back from sitting Zazen is part of the path and process of "no loss no gain" that makes all the difference in the world. Feeling the contrast between sitting and not sitting, and COMING BACK, COMING HOME AGAIN are all vital ... like a prodigal child who only realizes the value of home after being away, like a hiker or martial artist who only realizes the value of the walk or her skill by sometime getting lost or falling. So, for such folks, it is okay to come and go, sit some days but not others. Not everyone has to sit every day. It is the persistent coming back and coming back, going away yet coming back, that is the litmus test.

    Thus. ours is the Middle Way, neither too lose nor too slack, and so we make lovely harmony like the stings of a lute or violin. There is a time to pick up the instrument, and a time to put it down. As long as one picks it up again, and knows that every note and pause holds all the beauty and silence, one is playing well.

    Gassho, Jundo
    SatTodayLAH

    PS - Nonetheless, even if one is "taking a break," we still ask you to sit for a few minutes before posting to our Forum (unless taking a break for health reasons or a life emergency that prevents sitting).

    Signing "SatToday" - Please "Sat" before Forum "Chat"
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    Last edited by Jundo; 06-15-2019 at 05:24 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2

    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  3. #3
    Thank you Jundo.



    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  4. #4
    Thank you Jundo!

    I don’t know if I am maybe completely off the mark, but I have felt for awhile that this was the point of all Thich Nhat Hanh’s “mindfulness” teachings. Not so much modern mindfulness, having to “stay in the moment” constantly... but the continual process of coming back, coming back to oneself and the present moment, over and over. There is a subtle difference.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    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).

  5. #5
    That is all good. Thank you.

    Doshin
    St

  6. #6


    Washin
    sat today
    Kaido (有道) Every Way
    Washin (和信) Harmony Trust
    ----
    I am a novice priest-in-training. Anything what I say must not be considered as teaching
    and should be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

  7. #7
    Thank you for this post, Jundo.

    Gassho
    Anant
    SaT

  8. #8
    Thank you for your teaching Jundo!

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    Thank you Jundo!

    I don’t know if I am maybe completely off the mark, but I have felt for awhile that this was the point of all Thich Nhat Hanh’s “mindfulness” teachings. Not so much modern mindfulness, having to “stay in the moment” constantly... but the continual process of coming back, coming back to oneself and the present moment, over and over. There is a subtle difference.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Yes! Thank you Jakuden and Jundo
    Gassho
    Meitou
    sattodaylah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    Thank you Jundo!

    I don’t know if I am maybe completely off the mark, but I have felt for awhile that this was the point of all Thich Nhat Hanh’s “mindfulness” teachings. Not so much modern mindfulness, having to “stay in the moment” constantly... but the continual process of coming back, coming back to oneself and the present moment, over and over. There is a subtle difference.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Jakuden - this comment reminded me of something I read written maybe by Shohaku Okumura (or possibly Jundo) along the lines of that enlightenment happens in each moment of coming back to the present when sitting zazen.

    Thank you Jundo

    Gassho,

    Neil

  11. #11
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Thank you Jundo!

    This is one issue that's often on my mind.

    Sattoday

  12. #12
    Thank you Jundo. This spoke to me. I think I fit all those descriptions from time to time

    ST


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  13. #13
    Thank you!

    Sattoday
    Last edited by silence; 07-01-2019 at 03:52 PM.

  14. #14


    Kenny

    Sat Today

  15. #15
    Thank you for this, Jundo. It's timely. I come and go so often I don't even post in the "I'm going away but coming back" thread. But I'm always here, even when I'm not.

    Gassho

    Jen

    I sat today

  16. #16
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    San Diego County, California
    Hey Nenka!!

    Gassho

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

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Nenka View Post
    Thank you for this, Jundo. It's timely. I come and go so often I don't even post in the "I'm going away but coming back" thread. But I'm always here, even when I'm not.

    Gassho

    Jen

    I sat today
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    I have done all of the above over the years, sometimes unintentionally -- sitting, not sitting, wandering and "letting things gestate" .....

    Thank you for this teaching, Jundo.

    gassho
    kim
    st lh
    "Not all those who wander are lost." (J.R.R. Tolkien)

  19. #19
    Thank you for this teaching. When I turn it upside down or inside out, it fits my current situation: After decades of being that armchair Buddhist I have now come to the point where I do not skip sitting. Actually, I have been absent "invisible" at Treeleaf, because I would much rather just sit than to read or write.
    Hope that is okay, too.
    Now I will try to catch up with what has been going on araound here in June.

    Gassho
    Gero (sat today)

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Gero View Post
    . Actually, I have been absent "invisible" at Treeleaf, because I would much rather just sit than to read or write.
    Hope that is okay, too.
    Yes, if it feels right and balanced in your life/practice, then it is probably right for your life/practice.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Hello Jundo and Jakuden and all, I know about Bill Wilson and only a little, what Jundo tells us, about Master Dogen. I want to know more about Dogen, and for now, Bill Wilson said after I took 12 steps to the best of my ability that "Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs." I have been trying to practice these principles of When I make a mistake, I make it right to the best of my ability. When at the end of the day I can count something good along with correcting the not so good, then I've had a good day. When I can spend some time in prayer and meditation, as I can, Shicantaza, then it's been a good day, and for me sometimes other than Shikantaza in my meditation. When I can say I have helped one sentient being, or turned my attention to the earth, then it's been a good day. Yes, this for me is the balance sheet at the end of the day. About two years and three months ago I began carrying this message. And for me it meant as Bill Wilson said, "Entering again into the mainstream of life," and I have not regretted a single moment on the cushion (For me, as Jundo knows, a cushioned chair).

    Tai Shi
    sat/lah
    Gassho
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 07-04-2019 at 06:18 PM. Reason: word
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

  22. #22


    Gassho,
    Onkai (Warm Sea)
    Sat/LAH

  23. #23
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    Thankyou again for this teaching Jundo,

    Ive just returned home from being out bush. The chances to Sit were limited, between 4C nights and full days of work, I started feeling a little left behind. Still I "sat" under a blanket, in a tent, in the pitch dark.

    Then I realised that I never stop Sitting as long as I keep living a skillful life. This particular teaching kept reminding me that even if I dont believe, still the Universe sets me out to see myself. All without any self to see. Or something.

    TaiShi - The freedom felt during recovery is a very special thing - Im so glad you are doing well. We must never forget also "One Day At A Time" - (maybe even just this one hour at a time!)


    Gassho,
    Geoff.

    SatToday
    LaH.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  24. #24
    Thanks i have be en away fot long. But im back
    //Ola

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Ola Nelsson View Post
    Thanks i have be en away fot long. But im back
    //Ola
    This has been like "Old Timers" week around Treeleaf! Ola (as they say in Spain) Ola!

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Hi Getchi, This is a fellow traveler I think.

    For over the past 32 years, on July 22nd at about 8:30 am Mountain Time USA, I have entered each day without alcohol, and I was at first very unsteady. I remained so until about Oct. 3rd 2011, and here I came very close to death; a gastric hemorrhage requiring 10 units of blood, 4 units of platelets and dozens of units of anti-anxiety medication over a 5-day period made me begin to realize how important people are. I spent 3 days in I.C.U. then moved one floor below to critical care. I was still a belligerent know it all. BUT, something remarkable had begun. At age 60 I was removed from the diagnosis of a schizophrenia-like diseases and told that for more than 40 yrs doctors had been wrong and I have bipolar disorder and could be treated accordingly. This opened a final chapter of my life, and about 10 mo ago my therapist said "You've put me out of a job." I still have psych checkups, take two med.s one for thinking, one for mood. And, I employ techniques of CBT. I sit in meditation anywhere from 8 to 14 times a week, and I work with other alcoholics, not to say you are one, but I allow my day to be one day at a time. Today, I'm fairly normal.

    Tai Shi
    sat/lah
    Gassho
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 07-14-2019 at 12:56 AM. Reason: clarification
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

  27. #27
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    TaiShi, yes, we travel a same path we do.

    English - not sa greeat.

    Human- I tries even now!!!

    I had a time, at some place, but who remembers??? NO, I wont survive, I lay there nearly dead and then --- OOH; you will survive after all!!!

    BIGGEST mis-label in me life !!!! Buddha was never wrong, HE says what I need, describe what I sees, no. BoSatsu was right!

    Hell, Heaven? Who knows???

    Jundo makes me, and my family better!!!




    SatToday (twicew)

    LaH (PM me for ideas!!!)



    NOW - I help other family recognise love in the fighting - - there is only family , indivudual isd not so big. Hoping this is right english!!!!!

    CBT onl;y point to Freud; Im hope you can learn to Jung!!
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  28. #28
    Jundo yes gently the point of sitting is sitting


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

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