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Thread: Zen as Embodiment (7) - Of the Body, Of the Mind

  1. #1

    Zen as Embodiment (7) - Of the Body, Of the Mind

    .
    Master Dogen wrote, "There is just sitting with the mind, which is not the same as just sitting with the body. There is just sitting with the body, which is not the same as just sitting with the mind. And there is just sitting that is free of body and mind, which is not the same as 'just sitting that is free of body and mind.'" (from Zanmai o Zanmai). What might this mean?

    Zen folks typically speak of "body and mind," or simply bodymind, with body and mind as an integrated whole. Zazen is not a practice of the mind alone, nor a practice of the body alone, with the two mutually supporting and inseparable. We say 身心一如, literally body (身) and heart/mind (心) one and the same (一如). However, in my experience with many practitioners, I believe that some folks lean more toward Zazen as a mental practice, some more toward Zazen as a body practice, although neither should be truly neglected. What do I mean?

    "Zazen of the mind" refers to such aspects as not investigating words or chasing thoughts, leaving aside the turning wheels of intellect and consciousness, putting down weighing, ideas and views, sitting goallessly, all as described in Dogen's "How To Sit" instructions such as Fukanzazengi. It is very much a mental experience of being untangled. It is also Zen sitting with a subtle sense of all time and space and all reality embodied in sitting, just as we have touched on in previous installments of this series.

    "Zazen of the body" means the aspect in which we pour ourself into the physical posture of sitting in as balanced, stable and comfortable a posing as we can, just letting the body do its thing, the breathing breathe, nothing to think about and all absorbed in the form and graceful activity of sitting.

    In fact, both poles come together in Zazen, such that effortlessly releasing oneself into the body, and effortlessly letting thoughts go, are two sides of a single Zazen coin. However, I do think that sitters, by personal temperament, may often favor more one facet over the other.

    This was shown to me in talking with many sitters (such as my own teacher, Nishijima Roshi) who would compare the physical sensations of Zazen to long distance running, or dancing, of martial arts Kata, or other like physical, often repetitive activities, in which one may experience the body just "taking over," great reliance on body memory without particular effort, the rhythm of breathing, physical balance and ease discovered in the activity, often being "in the zone" and such. Practitioners who tend to such way are often heard to say that Zazen is "primarily a practice of the body" in their view. Other practitioners may experience more the mental equanimity, acceptance and detachment from tangled thoughts of the psychological aspect. They may savor the mental release, equanimity and freedom from intellectualizing more, and the insights of Wisdom. Still other practitioners may swing between or balance all such aspects.

    In fact, I believe that neither kind of practitioner is wrong regarding the flavor of Shikantaza they sit, and it is just personal predilection. The body folks may tend to be a bit more athletic, active, physical, slightly less "idea oriented" perhaps. The sitters who emphasize more the mental aspect may be a bit more "in their heads," intellectual, philosophical types perhaps. (This is just my own whimsy and thought, and I don't think it always so "black & white" actually.)

    But neither is "wrong" in whichever flavor of Shikantaza they benefit from more. In fact, Zazen is always a combination of the body aspect and the mind aspect together, although in varying degrees, perhaps sometimes more one than the other for a particular person or on a particular day, but always a union of both. We sit in a posture and yield to it, we drop thoughts and mental entanglements. We taste all of reality flowing in and out of our sitting. Furthermore, Master Dogen and our Soto way also emphasize so many other physical activities as "moving Zazen," such as walking Kinhin, vigorous cleaning, flowing ceremonies, calligraphy, tea ritual, gardening and general labor. One pours one's "self" into the action, all to lose the "self" and find the flowing energy and wholeness of one's true self again.

    The end result is "dropping both body and mind," the "being free of bodymind" that Master Dogen next mentions, and which will be our topic next time.

    (The Kanji for, Shinjin, "Body - Mind," in Master Dogen's own calligraphy of Fukanzazengi)


    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-14-2020 at 11:29 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Member RobD's Avatar
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    This series of teachings continues to be deeply inspiring. They are quite timely too as they speak directly to things I have been working with as of late.

    Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -stlah-


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  3. #3
    Profound wisdom and wonderful teaching, Jundo. I echo Rob's sentiments regarding this teaching series.

    Deep bows
    Gasdho
    Van
    Satlah



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  4. #4
    After reading this I sent the following to Jundo. He thought it worth sharing. Me, I'm not so sure but hey...

    "What began as an intellectual exploration into physical pain management fast became a rich practice after the dropping off of goals. These days I sit with a physical acceptance and even an embracing of pain with a regular weird sensation of being part of rather than seperate from everything around me. It's not a dissociative experience as there's too much of a feeling of being present. It's kinda like how I describe our eyes open practice as having soft eyes focusing on nothing but seeing everything... I hope that makes sense. But yeah, the muscle/brain memory stuff is very real and I can literally "sit" anywhere these days. From multi level car parks to the floors of hospital hallways waiting for appointments, with cats climbing all over me to having ICU staff faffing about helping me breathe after "crashing". This is not some super Zazen or anything fancy but it is special and despite being the unintentional 49 year old problem child of the Sangha I have this Practice and YOU to thank. So accept this humble thank you. I didn't want to post this on the forum because I didn't want to come across as a Zenny wanker haha.
    Deep bows
    Onka/Anna"

    *Not intended as a post but I acknowledge going over 3 sentences.
    aka Anna Kissed
    Pronouns She/Her They/Them

  5. #5
    That was "going over three sentences" well spent.

    gassho
    shonin sat and lah today
    I'm a visiting unsui from Bird Haven Zendo. Take what I say with a box of salt. Mmm!

  6. #6
    Member RobD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Massachusetts, United States
    Quote Originally Posted by Onka View Post
    After reading this I sent the following to Jundo. He thought it worth sharing. Me, I'm not so sure but hey...

    "What began as an intellectual exploration into physical pain management fast became a rich practice after the dropping off of goals. These days I sit with a physical acceptance and even an embracing of pain with a regular weird sensation of being part of rather than seperate from everything around me. It's not a dissociative experience as there's too much of a feeling of being present. It's kinda like how I describe our eyes open practice as having soft eyes focusing on nothing but seeing everything... I hope that makes sense. But yeah, the muscle/brain memory stuff is very real and I can literally "sit" anywhere these days. From multi level car parks to the floors of hospital hallways waiting for appointments, with cats climbing all over me to having ICU staff faffing about helping me breathe after "crashing". This is not some super Zazen or anything fancy but it is special and despite being the unintentional 49 year old problem child of the Sangha I have this Practice and YOU to thank. So accept this humble thank you. I didn't want to post this on the forum because I didn't want to come across as a Zenny wanker haha.
    Deep bows
    Onka/Anna"

    *Not intended as a post but I acknowledge going over 3 sentences.
    Onka,

    So many good lessons in this. Thank you for sharing. Gassho2

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -stlah-


    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Onka View Post
    After reading this I sent the following to Jundo. He thought it worth sharing. Me, I'm not so sure but hey...

    "What began as an intellectual exploration into physical pain management fast became a rich practice after the dropping off of goals. These days I sit with a physical acceptance and even an embracing of pain with a regular weird sensation of being part of rather than seperate from everything around me. It's not a dissociative experience as there's too much of a feeling of being present. It's kinda like how I describe our eyes open practice as having soft eyes focusing on nothing but seeing everything... I hope that makes sense. But yeah, the muscle/brain memory stuff is very real and I can literally "sit" anywhere these days. From multi level car parks to the floors of hospital hallways waiting for appointments, with cats climbing all over me to having ICU staff faffing about helping me breathe after "crashing". This is not some super Zazen or anything fancy but it is special and despite being the unintentional 49 year old problem child of the Sangha I have this Practice and YOU to thank. So accept this humble thank you. I didn't want to post this on the forum because I didn't want to come across as a Zenny wanker haha.
    Deep bows
    Onka/Anna"

    *Not intended as a post but I acknowledge going over 3 sentences.
    Lovely.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Thank you both Jundo and Onka for the teaching.


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

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Onka View Post
    After reading this I sent the following to Jundo. He thought it worth sharing. Me, I'm not so sure but hey...

    "What began as an intellectual exploration into physical pain management fast became a rich practice after the dropping off of goals. These days I sit with a physical acceptance and even an embracing of pain with a regular weird sensation of being part of rather than seperate from everything around me. It's not a dissociative experience as there's too much of a feeling of being present. It's kinda like how I describe our eyes open practice as having soft eyes focusing on nothing but seeing everything... I hope that makes sense. But yeah, the muscle/brain memory stuff is very real and I can literally "sit" anywhere these days. From multi level car parks to the floors of hospital hallways waiting for appointments, with cats climbing all over me to having ICU staff faffing about helping me breathe after "crashing". This is not some super Zazen or anything fancy but it is special and despite being the unintentional 49 year old problem child of the Sangha I have this Practice and YOU to thank. So accept this humble thank you. I didn't want to post this on the forum because I didn't want to come across as a Zenny wanker haha.
    Deep bows
    Onka/Anna"

    *Not intended as a post but I acknowledge going over 3 sentences.
    hahhahh you are a zenny wanker problem child, and that's why we love you

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    hahhahh you are a zenny wanker problem child, and that's why we love you

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    We are watching the "w" word, please.

    As an American, it was only a few years ago that I learned what it actually meant. I used to think that it was a Britishism for a "winker."

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-16-2020 at 11:23 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    oops sorry

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

  12. #12
    Thank you Jundo and everyone else. Can mind and body really be two different things or is mind is just a collection of things taken in by the body, (eye, ear, touch, nose, etc.) that we form thoughts, opinions and ideas about? Would that make it one thing, two, not one, not two?

    Gassho
    ST-lah
    Shoki

  13. #13
    Thank you, Jundo

    Gassho,
    Washin
    StLah
    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'.

  14. #14
    Thank you, Jundo. I think I flit between both but I sometimes think of settling down into zazen is like putting on some comfy slippers so maybe I'm more zazen body.

    And thank you Onka. Seeing the W word dropped here made me laugh.

    Apologies for running slightly longer.

    Gassho

    heiso.

    StLah

    Sent from my RMX2001 using Tapatalk

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