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Thread: Is natural awareness the same as Zazen?

  1. #1

    Is natural awareness the same as Zazen?

    Hi everyone,

    I recently came across an article on Lion Roar on "Uncover Your Natural Awareness" by Diana Winston. This led me to her book on "The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness". Diana discusses in her book the spectrum of awareness, including focused awareness, flexible awareness, and natural awareness. Natural awareness is a type of meditation where there is no anchor, and there is open, spacious awareness. This description resonates with my understanding of Zazen.

    Diana Winston was trained in the Therevadin tradition and in the past, she did a lot of classical mindfulness (e.g focusing on the breath) and Vipassana. However, she struggled with focused awareness for many years and discovered that natural or open awareness gave her more serenity and equanimity. Now she teaches natural awareness as a technique. One of my concerns regarding her technique is that it is similar to secular mindfulness where it is completely devoid of Buddhist teachings. Another key difference between her description and Jundo's zazen is Jundo often emphasises the importance of every moment of zazen is complete in itself with nothing lacking. Nevertheless, I believe natural awareness can help people to achieve calm in a turbulent world and that is no small feat.

    So my question for the Sangha is secular natural awareness similar to Zazen? I have attached a copy of her article below.
    http://resources.magappzine.com/feed...aa6df7e38.html

    Gassho
    Van

    SAT

  2. #2
    Hi Vanbui

    I will happily offer my opinion, but Jundo can doubtless give you a more definitive one.

    I think that what Diana Winston is saying in that article is not totally unlike Shikantaza and there are some aspects that some quite similar such as her three points:

    1. relax effort
    2. broaden attention
    3. drop objects

    1 and 3 are particularly part of shikantaza as we drop any object and just rest in what is there. And it is not as if there is no effort and we are zoning out, but also there is no strenuous focus. So, we sit with objectless awareness with an effortless effort that comes from relaxing into practice and trusting that everything is whole and complete just as it is.

    I cannot really tell if she is fixing on that particular state of awareness as we don't really want to get into a state in which Shikantaza is going well or badly or we are doing it 'right'.

    The expanding your field of awareness part is not Shikantaza. We just leave things as they are.

    So, I would say that a practice of objectless awareness it is not totally unlike Shikantaza but her approach is not totally the same as our way either.

    Doesn't make it better or worse but just different.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by vanbui View Post
    Hi everyone,

    I recently came across an article on Lion Roar on "Uncover Your Natural Awareness" by Diana Winston. This led me to her book on "The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness". Diana discusses in her book the spectrum of awareness, including focused awareness, flexible awareness, and natural awareness. Natural awareness is a type of meditation where there is no anchor, and there is open, spacious awareness. This description resonates with my understanding of Zazen.

    Diana Winston was trained in the Therevadin tradition and in the past, she did a lot of classical mindfulness (e.g focusing on the breath) and Vipassana. However, she struggled with focused awareness for many years and discovered that natural or open awareness gave her more serenity and equanimity. Now she teaches natural awareness as a technique. One of my concerns regarding her technique is that it is similar to secular mindfulness where it is completely devoid of Buddhist teachings. Another key difference between her description and Jundo's zazen is Jundo often emphasises the importance of every moment of zazen is complete in itself with nothing lacking. Nevertheless, I believe natural awareness can help people to achieve calm in a turbulent world and that is no small feat.

    So my question for the Sangha is secular natural awareness similar to Zazen? I have attached a copy of her article below.
    http://resources.magappzine.com/feed...aa6df7e38.html

    Gassho
    Van

    SAT
    Hi Van,

    I find these kinds of comparisons and descriptions intellectually satisfying, but it never satisfies my "marrow." I'm not saying that you should not ask the question. You should. (I certainly have asked similar questions.) It's just that you'll probably find that the answer is ultimately unsatisfying.

    Gassho,

    Hobun

    STLAH

    Sent from my SM-N975U using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Jundo often emphasises the importance of every moment of zazen is complete in itself with nothing lacking.
    Yes I do emphasize this, and I think it very important.

    Don't think that one must feel "serenity and equanimity" for Zazen to be "successful."

    The real coming home is when nothing in the world is lacking when everything in the world is lacking.

    The true "serenity and equanimity" is a "serenity and equanimity" so deep in the bones that it even knows an unspoken "serenity and equanimity" at those times when life explodes and one is not feeling "serenity and equanimity," as well as those times when one is.

    That sounds strange perhaps, but it is not. Profound "Peace" is a "Peace" so "Peaceful" that it includes times when life feels peaceful and times when life is anything but "peaceful" and the shit is hitting the fan.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-14-2020 at 08:57 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    The real coming home is when nothing in the world is lacking.
    I would say that one more step is needed. The real coming home is when when everything in the world is lacking but this may be a matter of semantics.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    I would say that one more step is needed. The real coming home is when when everything in the world is lacking but this may be a matter of semantics.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    Actually, I meant that precisely. I added it to my words.

    I left it out by accident, so I guess my words were lacking!
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7

  8. #8
    People think that this practice is about learning how to always feel "serenity and equanimity" here in Samsara (the Buddhist term for this messed up world). It is not so simple. I do not want to feel "serenity and equanimity" when my kid is seriously sick, the cat dies, my spouse leaves me, the house is on fire.

    Better said, I can learn to feel a "serenity and equanimity" so profound that I will feel a "serenity and equanimity" about the fact that I will be worried out of my mind when my kid is in the ER, I will cry when the cat dies, feel a broken heart sometimes, and I will be running on adrenaline in a fire, anything but feeling "serenity and equanimity" in that moment. We come to feel a certain "serenity and equanimity" with the fact that our heart mourns and screams because there are hungry children in the world who we must feed ... a "serenity and equanimity" with the mourning, screaming and feeding. Of course, I also feel "serenity and equanimity" about sometimes laughing with friends, celebrating my kids' graduation, enjoying a walk in the mountains, appreciating the beauty of this moment.

    Our Zazen is to sit with "serenity" about the happy and sad and in between. We know "equanimity" about the times when life really lacks and when it is plentiful, right in a world of sometimes lack and sometimes plenty.

    Alas, people run around to be happy all the time, rather than a wise "happy to be happy, and happy to be sad sometimes with tears rolling down my cheeks." A lot of these mindfulness and other meditation programs are promising people spiritual valium ... something that feels good for some minutes, but fails to get at the real existential "peace" that is at peace with how this life is not always peaceful! That is why we call it "Samsara" and not "the Pure Land/Heaven on Earth" all the time ... unless a wise eye can see that these are "not two."

    I wrote this elsewhere today, on Facebook, about some meditation program promising to help people "feel good, more confident, productive, creative."

    The whole idea of meditation to "feel good, more confident, productive, creative" is the same "give me, make me, I want, more more more" mentality of desire and selfish Buddha-consumer spiritual materialism that Zazen is --NOT-- about. Pitiful. Another self-help book to put on the shelf.

    People will always be attracted to meditation, or some self-help book or guru course or nightly informercial, that promises "feel good, more confident, productive, creative." I have no power to prevent that. My words are a feather in a hurricane. However, it is precisely my intention to remind them that there is something more, something more profound in all this, and that once they come in the door to "relax, be more time efficient, get that promotion at work" or whatever their intent is, they might consider that Zazen is actually about humanity's existential freedom from desire (how we want the world to be vs. its otherwise state), Non-Self, Emptiness, Illumination and Liberation in Samsara as the ending of Dukkha/Suffering.
    Zazen offers a peace so much more profound. Thus, in Zazen, one sits as what is, letting what is be what is ... neither running away nor letting things imprison us.

    Gassho, J

    ST+lah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-15-2020 at 10:18 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    People think that this practice is about learning how to always feel "serenity and equanimity" here in Samsara (the Buddhist term for this messed up world). It is not so simple. I do not want to feel "serenity and equanimity" when my kid is seriously sick, the cat dies, my spouse leaves me, the house is on fire.

    Better said, I can learn to feel a "serenity and equanimity" so profound that I will feel a "serenity and equanimity" about the fact that I will be worried out of my mind when my kid is in the ER, I will cry when the cat dies, feel a broken heart sometimes, and I will be running on adrenaline in a fire, anything but feeling "serenity and equanimity" in that moment. We come to feel a certain "serenity and equanimity" with the fact that our heart mourns and screams because there are hungry children in the world who we must feed ... a "serenity and equanimity" with the mourning, screaming and feeding. Of course, I also feel "serenity and equanimity" about sometimes laughing with friends, celebrating my kids graduation, appreciating the beauty of this moment.

    Our Zazen is to sit with "serenity" about the happy and sad and in between. We know "equanimity" about the times when life really lacks and when it is plentiful, right in a world of sometimes lack and sometimes plenty.

    Alas, people run around to be happy all the times, rather than a wise "happy to be happy, and happy to be sad sometimes with tears rolling down my cheeks." A lot of these mindfulness and other meditation programs are promising people spiritual valium ... something that feels good for some minutes, but fails to get at the real existential "peace" that is at peace with how this life is not always peaceful! That is why we call it "Samsara" and not "the Pure Land/Heaven on Earth" all the time ... unless a wise eye can see that these are "not two."

    I wrote this elsewhere today, on Facebook, about some meditation program promising to help people "feel good, more confident, productive, creative."



    Zazen offers a peace so much more profound. Thus, in Zazen, one sits as what is, letting what is be what is ... neither running away nor letting things imprison us.

    Gassho, J

    ST+lah


    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-15-2020 at 10:18 PM.
    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.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    People think that this practice is about learning how to always feel "serenity and equanimity" here in Samsara (the Buddhist term for this messed up world). It is not so simple. I do not want to feel "serenity and equanimity" when my kid is seriously sick, the cat dies, my spouse leaves me, the house is on fire.

    Better said, I can learn to feel a "serenity and equanimity" so profound that I will feel a "serenity and equanimity" about the fact that I will be worried out of my mind when my kid is in the ER, I will cry when the cat dies, feel a broken heart sometimes, and I will be running on adrenaline in a fire, anything but feeling "serenity and equanimity" in that moment. We come to feel a certain "serenity and equanimity" with the fact that our heart mourns and screams because there are hungry children in the world who we must feed ... a "serenity and equanimity" with the mourning, screaming and feeding. Of course, I also feel "serenity and equanimity" about sometimes laughing with friends, celebrating my kids graduation, appreciating the beauty of this moment.

    Our Zazen is to sit with "serenity" about the happy and sad and in between. We know "equanimity" about the times when life really lacks and when it is plentiful, right in a world of sometimes lack and sometimes plenty.

    Alas, people run around to be happy all the time, rather than a wise "happy to be happy, and happy to be sad sometimes with tears rolling down my cheeks." A lot of these mindfulness and other meditation programs are promising people spiritual valium ... something that feels good for some minutes, but fails to get at the real existential "peace" that is at peace with how this life is not always peaceful! That is why we call it "Samsara" and not "the Pure Land/Heaven on Earth" all the time ... unless a wise eye can see that these are "not two."

    I wrote this elsewhere today, on Facebook, about some meditation program promising to help people "feel good, more confident, productive, creative."



    Zazen offers a peace so much more profound. Thus, in Zazen, one sits as what is, letting what is be what is ... neither running away nor letting things imprison us.

    Gassho, J

    ST+lah
    Deep bows to Jundo and everyone who have replied.
    Thank you Kokuu and Hobun for your insightful advice.
    I understand that to sit zazen is to drop all desires and just leave things as they are. The circle of the way is complete.

    Deep bows
    Gassho
    Van
    SAT+LAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-15-2020 at 10:18 PM.

  11. #11
    People think that this practice is about learning how to always feel "serenity and equanimity" here in Samsara (the Buddhist term for this messed up world). It is not so simple. I do not want to feel "serenity and equanimity" when my kid is seriously sick, the cat dies, my spouse leaves me, the house is on fire.

    Better said, I can learn to feel a "serenity and equanimity" so profound that I will feel a "serenity and equanimity" about the fact that I will be worried out of my mind when my kid is in the ER, I will cry when the cat dies, feel a broken heart sometimes, and I will be running on adrenaline in a fire, anything but feeling "serenity and equanimity" in that moment. We come to feel a certain "serenity and equanimity" with the fact that our heart mourns and screams because there are hungry children in the world who we must feed ... a "serenity and equanimity" with the mourning, screaming and feeding. Of course, I also feel "serenity and equanimity" about sometimes laughing with friends, celebrating my kids graduation, appreciating the beauty of this moment.

    Our Zazen is to sit with "serenity" about the happy and sad and in between. We know "equanimity" about the times when life really lacks and when it is plentiful, right in a world of sometimes lack and sometimes plenty.

    Alas, people run around to be happy all the time, rather than a wise "happy to be happy, and happy to be sad sometimes with tears rolling down my cheeks." A lot of these mindfulness and other meditation programs are promising people spiritual valium ... something that feels good for some minutes, but fails to get at the real existential "peace" that is at peace with how this life is not always peaceful! That is why we call it "Samsara" and not "the Pure Land/Heaven on Earth" all the time ... unless a wise eye can see that these are "not two."

    I wrote this elsewhere today, on Facebook, about some meditation program promising to help people "feel good, more confident, productive, creative."

    The whole idea of meditation to "feel good, more confident, productive, creative" is the same "give me, make me, I want, more more more" mentality of desire and selfish Buddha-consumer spiritual materialism that Zazen is --NOT-- about. Pitiful. Another self-help book to put on the shelf.

    People will always be attracted to meditation, or some self-help book or guru course or nightly informercial, that promises "feel good, more confident, productive, creative." I have no power to prevent that. My words are a feather in a hurricane. However, it is precisely my intention to remind them that there is something more, something more profound in all this, and that once they come in the door to "relax, be more time efficient, get that promotion at work" or whatever their intent is, they might consider that Zazen is actually about humanity's existential freedom from desire (how we want the world to be vs. its otherwise state), Non-Self, Emptiness, Illumination and Liberation in Samsara as the ending of Dukkha/Suffering.
    Zazen offers a peace so much more profound. Thus, in Zazen, one sits as what is, letting what is be what is ... neither running away nor letting things imprison us.

    Gassho, J

    ST+lah
    Thank you

    Gassho
    Washin
    st
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-15-2020 at 10:18 PM.
    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'.

  12. #12
    Jundo thank you for your words I learned from then.

    Gassho
    Doshin
    St

  13. #13
    People think that this practice is about learning how to always feel "serenity and equanimity" here in Samsara (the Buddhist term for this messed up world). It is not so simple. I do not want to feel "serenity and equanimity" when my kid is seriously sick, the cat dies, my spouse leaves me, the house is on fire.

    Better said, I can learn to feel a "serenity and equanimity" so profound that I will feel a "serenity and equanimity" about the fact that I will be worried out of my mind when my kid is in the ER, I will cry when the cat dies, feel a broken heart sometimes, and I will be running on adrenaline in a fire, anything but feeling "serenity and equanimity" in that moment. We come to feel a certain "serenity and equanimity" with the fact that our heart mourns and screams because there are hungry children in the world who we must feed ... a "serenity and equanimity" with the mourning, screaming and feeding. Of course, I also feel "serenity and equanimity" about sometimes laughing with friends, celebrating my kids graduation, appreciating the beauty of this moment.
    This is exactly why I am glad to be here. This actually makes me think of another recent thread, Practice without a teacher or sangha

    It's bits of knowledge like this that convinces me of the importance of sangha (in my case, that is). I'm not sure if this ever would have dawned on me.

    Thank you Van for the great topic, and Jundo for the wisdom.

    Gassho,

    Ryan
    Sat Today

  14. #14
    Hi all

    Thank you for the teaching

    Gassho, Tokan

    Satlah

  15. #15
    Thanks Jundo. There is so much misunderstanding about zen and zen practice. Even the word "zen" is categorized as some feel good, spacey, peace, relaxation thing or whatever. I also get tired of constantly hearing the word "karma" as some mysterious, cosmic form of vengeance. Trying to explain that it is not really that usually gets the deer in the headlights look. Sigh.

    Gassho
    STlah
    James

  16. #16

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

  17. #17
    Great thread . thank you all and Jundo for his insight and wisdom
    Gassho
    Tenrai
    SAT

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by vanbui View Post
    So my question for the Sangha is secular natural awareness similar to Zazen? I have attached a copy of her article below.
    http://resources.magappzine.com/feed...aa6df7e38.html

    Gassho
    Van

    SAT
    This may have similarities with zazen but the practice suggestion looks quite different. I wasted my time reading these kind of "natural awareness" based practices (another by adyashanti called true meditation which is quite similar to this) till I found the right way to practice zazen. Please save yourself the time and read the recommended book "opening the hand of thought" and sit like how they describe the method there. If you don't have access to the book, please read the instructions by one of the authors zen teacher okumura here: http://www.sanshinji.org/uploads/4/4...structions.pdf

    Two elements to the practice 1) physical posture with keeping the back straight 2) mentally waking up from distraction and dullness and coming back to the reality of now. We sit like this without any expectations from the practice. If you have time please add metta practice (https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...Metta-PRACTICE) too

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Two elements to the practice 1) physical posture with keeping the back straight
    Hi Sam,

    This is generally so, but around here we are trying to move away from the "one size fits all" mentality of many corners of Japanese Zen. Folks have different bodies and different needs, many with age and special health conditions. So, here I encourage folks to know their own bodies, and to find by feel the stable, comfortable, balanced postures (plural, as it may change at different times) to suit their body.

    I have been heavily influenced by this book.

    Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...stures+johnson

    Of course, we have some folks with physical need who "recline" their Zazen, or must make various other physical adjustments. All is lovely Zazen.

    There is one other element to Shikantaza Zazen that is often left out of typical instructions, but which is truly key and vital: Radical goallessness and equanimity. I wrote about that here this week:

    No Reason for Zazen

    There is no reason whatsoever to sit Zazen ... nothing to attain from Zazen ... nothing to fill with Zazen ... nothing to do in Zazen ... no best time for Zazen, no way to measure Zazen ... nothing to fix or upgrade with Zazen ... no prize from Zazen ... no ideal posture or clothing for Zazen ... no desires to satisfy in Zazen ... no way to get free by Zazen, no place to go with Zazen ... no improvement from Zazen ... no grand realization to expect from Zazen ...
    More here:

    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...ason-for-Zazen

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    This may have similarities with zazen but the practice suggestion looks quite different. I wasted my time reading these kind of "natural awareness" based practices (another by adyashanti called true meditation which is quite similar to this) till I found the right way to practice zazen. Please save yourself the time and read the recommended book "opening the hand of thought" and sit like how they describe the method there. If you don't have access to the book, please read the instructions by one of the authors zen teacher okumura here: http://www.sanshinji.org/uploads/4/4...structions.pdf

    Two elements to the practice 1) physical posture with keeping the back straight 2) mentally waking up from distraction and dullness and coming back to the reality of now. We sit like this without any expectations from the practice. If you have time please add metta practice (https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...Metta-PRACTICE) too

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST
    Hi Sam,

    Thank you for your helpful advice - I have stopped wasting time :-)). I have read the book "Opening the hand of thought" twice now but perhaps I need to read it again. I have been sitting the way Jundo has instructed with open awareness in equanimity. I think I also sit more like the 2nd practice you mentioned: "mentally waking up from distraction and dullness and coming back to the reality of now". But really there is no method; hence the expression 'methodless method'.

    I concur that the "Natural Awareness" technique has some similarities with zazen, but it's not the same as zazen. I'm more inclined towards the simplicity and wisdom of zazen. Simple but not easy. I think Jundo's post on "No Reason for Zazen" is very instructive as to why Zazen is the Way to practice and as medicine for our human hunger to judge and discriminate.

    Many thanks again for all the helpful advice - I will continue to sit zazen.

    Gassho _/\_
    Van

    SAT (haven't lend a hand yet but will do so today)
    Last edited by vanbui; 03-08-2020 at 09:25 AM.

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