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Thread: Zen as Embodiment (1) - Posture Misunderstood

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    Zen as Embodiment (1) - Posture Misunderstood

    Dear All,

    Over the coming days, I will be looking at common misunderstandings regarding Soto Zen as a "practice of the body" and embodiment.

    We will begin today with the notion that Zazen must be sat with "perfect posture," ideally in the full or half Lotus Position. Some teachers assert that a perfectly aligned spine and graceful pose are necessary to taste the fruits of Zazen. I disagree.

    What is required is sincere sitting in a reasonably balanced, stable and comfortable posture suited to what your particular body needs and allows. It may be in a Lotus Position, in the Burmese, on a Seiza bench or chair or (for those whose physical condition requires due to disability) even reclining or standing Zazen. All are fine if done with sincerity, finding a posture that is as balanced, stable and comfortable as one can sustain for the period of sitting, thus allowing one to be unconcerned with the body for the period of sitting. The best posture is the one you can just forget about because it drops from mind. You need to be your own judge, and experiment with your own body. The litmus test is that, if you find a posture or postures that feel balanced, stable and comfortable enough to allow sitting for an extended time, it is probably a very good posture. If one sits with such sincerity, then it is "perfect sitting" even if from outside appearances the posture is not going to win any prize for beauty.

    A balanced, stable and comfortable posture is supportive of a balanced and stable mind, but it is not strictly necessary in all cases either. In fact, if someone's health condition makes it difficult to be comfortable, but one accepts with equanimity (and even welcome) the sometime discomfort and need to frequently move or moan, then it is unmoving, quiet, "perfect" sitting even if far from unmoving, with moans and mumbles in the face of pain. The mouth and limbs may need to cry or move, and time might be spent massaging an aching limb, but if the heart is still and calm even though the rest of the body isn't, and even if part of you is far from happy, it is always "perfect sitting." Perfectly imperfect jewel-like sitting.

    Oh, if new to sitting, one should be patient with the body a bit, try some stretches or give the body time, and not give in too easily to really bad posture. It takes awhile for the muscles to stretch for the beginner, so what looks hard at first sometimes just takes some acclimating. However, I no longer think that the Lotus Postures are particularly special.

    In the Buddha's day and in Dogen's, just as today, there were certainly people whose health and body did not allow sitting like a work of art. If your heart is sincere in sitting in the way your body allows, then that sitting is perfect sitting, it's own work of art.

    Gassho, Jundo


    (sorry to run long on this one)

    Last edited by Jundo; 09-20-2020 at 02:37 AM.

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