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Thread: Zen as Embodiment (1) - Posture Misunderstood

  1. #1

    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

    SatTodayLAH

    (sorry to run long on this one)

    Last edited by Jundo; 09-20-2020 at 02:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Code:
    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.
    Perfect explanation on sitting posture. This is a common misunderstanding for new practitioners.

    Deep gassho
    Van
    Satlah

    Sent from my HD1913 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Does that only apply here or also in bricks and mortar Sanghas? I've only sat in one, many moons ago, so would be interested to hear people's recent personal experiences.
    Gassho
    Meitou
    Sattoday lah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  4. #4
    I always appreciate your message on this topic. My wife sits with me regularly but struggles to sit comfortably. Our “Lion Pose” Zazenkai really opened her eyes and she finally gave herself permission to find a comfortable way to sit rather than trying to live up to some idealized pose. Sitting is sitting, the key is intention.


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

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    Sitting is sitting, the key is intention.
    I am going to borrow that, because it is the words I was looking for. Yes, ... intention is key.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    For the Sunday Sit, Zazenkai, I made it one hour five min. This is a lot for me, and I even sat in a straight back chair. I get fidgety and find it very difficult to breath exclusively through my nose-- it was severely injured when I was a small child, and my doctor says the surgery would be very difficult with much pain so he advised against it; nevertheless I persuver and manage with about an hour then I have to leave chair and screen. So, I think in the future I will have breate part-time through my mouth. This is to fill my lungs. I quit smoking 20 years ago, but not before I contracted mild emphysemia and so I find breathing through my mouth helps, and of course my inhaliors. I have graduated now to recliner which has arms so I don't lean to the left. I have been known to literally fall out of a chair if I sit beyond an hour. My spine curves to the left. In the future I think I will sit upright in the burgendy recliner in my study. With the left arm this makes sitting possible though I may sacrafice walking meditation. When I work on my book of poems, FOR PATTY BROWN... I sit in supported position. Also because of my skeleton I find sitting upright in a straitback chair very painful even with a cushion. The recliner is exactly the right height for me to place knees, and legs comfortably, placing feet on the floor. I'll let you in on a little secret. My feet and toes are a problem, so I wear shoes, not slippers. lol I practice Interbing sitting in the recliner so I am graduating to recliner for all practice including Zazen and Tonglen. My heart is in the right place. It's easier to breath, much less pain, and I don't fall out of my chair when I sit in my recliner. lol.
    Gassho
    THANK YOU
    deep bows
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 09-20-2020 at 03:15 PM.
    I SAY whatever tastes sweet to the most perfect person, that is finally right. Walt Whitman 1860 Leaves of Grass.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I am going to borrow that, because it is the words I was looking for. Yes, ... intention is key.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

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

  8. #8
    Great message. 🙏🏻

    Sat today
    Adam

  9. #9
    Thank you Jundo

    Took me many years of 'militarised' practice to realise this and I am glad that this is treeleaf's teaching on the matter.

    SatLah

    Tokan

  10. #10
    Iím so embarrassed that my last post was so long. As Jundo says about 3 lines. Sometimes my posts run logger and Iím trying to correct, but please I never know the exact length because phone and computer vary. And, again I get long winded.
    Gassho
    sat: lah
    Tai Shi


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    I SAY whatever tastes sweet to the most perfect person, that is finally right. Walt Whitman 1860 Leaves of Grass.

  11. #11
    I appreciate this view of sitting with intention as I have many aches and pains that make it hard to sit in traditional posture. I am more willing to practice if the posture is gentle and sitting in a chair is an option. Thank you for the teaching

    Gassho
    Lah/sat

    Sent from my SM-A205U using Tapatalk

  12. #12
    I found this today and needed to hear it. Thank you!
    Gassho
    John
    Sat Today

  13. #13
    This is something I've been beating myself up about since I started sitting again regularly. Especially with the 30 min. I also noticed when my head is filled with "noise" is hwen i drop my neck top a more comfortable normal position. It's been a struggle to find a good posture that works .
    Dave
    SAT/LAH

  14. #14
    I've always found when I realized I was slouching, I.d use the analogy of imaging being suspended from a cord attached to the crown of your head. This tends to pull you up, taking the weight of your limbs. My chin seems to tuck in naturally and my whole posture becomes relaxed.

    gassho. Shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  15. #15
    I'll give that a shot, Shokai !! I think I am so used to slouching it is abnormal to sit or stand upright fully. And every time I catch myself in the clouds I realized just how much slouching I was doing Perk back up start again.
    Dave
    SAT/LAH

  16. #16
    Thanks Jundo

    My query is the collapsing zazen mudra! Stay with balanced, stable mind and let it be?

    Gassho, Yokai (Chris) sat/lah

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Yokai View Post
    Thanks Jundo

    My query is the collapsing zazen mudra! Stay with balanced, stable mind and let it be?

    Gassho, Yokai (Chris) sat/lah
    Neither let it be nor do not let it be.

    Every once in awhile while sitting, now and then, we come back, adjust the posture to one that is comfortable, stable and balanced. At such time, bring the mudra to its open roundness and resume sitting, dropping all from mind in the mind's open roundness.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    Thank you Jundo

    Gassho, Yokai (Chris) st/lah

  19. #19
    I happen to have terrible eye sight, -7 in each eye, so it's very unnatural for me to take my glasses off. However recently i've been considering taking them off during Zazen. I was wondering if anyone with terrible eye sight or otherwise has any advice/comments on this or if it's not an issue and is ok with or without.

    Gassho
    Mark
    ST

  20. #20
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    Hi Mark,

    Sounds like you have similar eyesight to me. I'm a little more than -7 in each eye and just switched to progressive lenses to boot. That said, I always wear my glasses when sitting and just let my eyes do whatever they will. Sometimes they stay in focus, sometimes not. It's all good just as it is.

    I don't think it matters much either way as long as you are comfortable with it. Others here may have different opinions though. This is just my 1.5 cents.

    Gassho,
    Seikan,

    -stlah-

    (apologies for running long...)


    Quote Originally Posted by WanderingIntrospection View Post
    I happen to have terrible eye sight, -7 in each eye, so it's very unnatural for me to take my glasses off. However recently i've been considering taking them off during Zazen. I was wondering if anyone with terrible eye sight or otherwise has any advice/comments on this or if it's not an issue and is ok with or without.

    Gassho
    Mark
    ST
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by WanderingIntrospection View Post
    I happen to have terrible eye sight, -7 in each eye, so it's very unnatural for me to take my glasses off. However recently i've been considering taking them off during Zazen. I was wondering if anyone with terrible eye sight or otherwise has any advice/comments on this or if it's not an issue and is ok with or without.

    Gassho
    Mark
    ST
    Really, on or off or totally blind, no matter.

    Do not be disturbed in either case, because the "disturbance" exists between the ears. When on sit on, when off sit off.

    Maybe, though, better to keep them on for the same reason that we keep the eyes open, to see just naturally. No reason to be blurry. Many Zen folks sit with glasses.



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by WanderingIntrospection View Post
    I happen to have terrible eye sight, -7 in each eye, so it's very unnatural for me to take my glasses off. However recently i've been considering taking them off during Zazen. I was wondering if anyone with terrible eye sight or otherwise has any advice/comments on this or if it's not an issue and is ok with or without.

    Gassho
    Mark
    ST
    I sit with my glasses on as well. It's totally fine for Zazen.

    Gassho,
    Sat today,
    Lah,
    Geerish.

    Sent from my PAR-LX1M using Tapatalk

  23. #23
    My long comment was back in Sept. I had just given up an addictive substance (prescriptions by doctor), two hospital stays (not treatment) settled on an antidepressent, I'd needed one for years, and now I sit with several disabilities, in an office chair with arms. Feet on the floor, and I'm graduating to nice slippers my daughter gave me. I have chair situated so I face a wall, with alter on the left. However, printer table is close to my gaze. This is the best I've ever had.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi.
    I SAY whatever tastes sweet to the most perfect person, that is finally right. Walt Whitman 1860 Leaves of Grass.

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