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Thread: zazen as "mental space" -- still zazen?

  1. #1

    zazen as "mental space" -- still zazen?

    Hello,

    I want to ask a question about sitting zazen (of any length) and the peace/mental space it gives when that is the only break/time away from all else going on in life.

    Please forgive the large type, I am experiencing a medical problem with my eyes for now (lupus flare).

    This has probably been posted about elsewhere, and I just can't think clearly for now to locate it. I recall that zazen is not supposed to have any goals or purpose. Nowhere to go, nothing to attain. So in some (maybe all?) cases, doing otherwise (for a goal or purpose), perhaps makes it *not* zazen.

    So, if one sits to sit, just to sit and set aside everything else -- but one purpose of the sitting is to "set aside" the "everything else" -- is that still zazen? Because it then has a goal/purpose (of disengaging, however short, from the 'everything').

    So if I am sitting zazen, sitting to sit, but also as brief "setting aside" of everything (but still just sitting!) -- am I still "sitting zazen"? Or does part of my intent negate the practice of zazen.

    Forgive me if I am splitting hairs (or asking a question that has already been answered elsewhere). This is bothering me, on top of everything else, as if I needed to worry more. However, zazen/insta-zazen has been providing the only "mental space" I have available these last weeks -- but then I wondered, is it still zazen, then?

    Sorry to run very long.

    gassho, meian st (I think)
    迷安 - Mei An - Wandering At Rest
    chronic illness and Covid, is practice

  2. #2
    Hi Meian,

    Well, Zazen is rather counter-intuitive, in the sense that, for example, Zazen will allow one often to feel profoundly peaceful and joyous about life ... provided that, one truly gives up all hunger and grabbing after feeling peaceful or joyous. It is the dropping of the hunger and grabbing that is, in fact, key to real peace and joy.

    Furthermore, one should give up the need to always feel peaceful and joyous, and should radically embrace and allow those times of not feeling peaceful and joyous at all! Please feel "Big P" Peaceful about some days not feeling peaceful, and be "Big J" Joyous about sometimes being totally, humanly miserable with not much "joy" to be found anywhere around.

    Likewise for "disengaging from everything else." Drop all hunger and need to disengage, thereby the real key to disengaging. Also, accept, with radical equanimity, those times when one is engaged and far from "disengaged. This is Big D Disengaged even with sometimes being engaged up to one's neck!

    It is a bit like the child's game of trying to catch one's own shadow. Just relax and settle, and poof, the shadow is caught!

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-28-2021 at 06:41 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3

    zazen as "mental space" -- still zazen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meian View Post
    Hello,

    I want to ask a question about sitting zazen (of any length) and the peace/mental space it gives when that is the only break/time away from all else going on in life.

    Please forgive the large type, I am experiencing a medical problem with my eyes for now (lupus flare).

    This has probably been posted about elsewhere, and I just can't think clearly for now to locate it. I recall that zazen is not supposed to have any goals or purpose. Nowhere to go, nothing to attain. So in some (maybe all?) cases, doing otherwise (for a goal or purpose), perhaps makes it *not* zazen.

    So, if one sits to sit, just to sit and set aside everything else -- but one purpose of the sitting is to "set aside" the "everything else" -- is that still zazen? Because it then has a goal/purpose (of disengaging, however short, from the 'everything').

    So if I am sitting zazen, sitting to sit, but also as brief "setting aside" of everything (but still just sitting!) -- am I still "sitting zazen"? Or does part of my intent negate the practice of zazen.

    Forgive me if I am splitting hairs (or asking a question that has already been answered elsewhere). This is bothering me, on top of everything else, as if I needed to worry more. However, zazen/insta-zazen has been providing the only "mental space" I have available these last weeks -- but then I wondered, is it still zazen, then?

    Sorry to run very long.

    gassho, meian st (I think)
    My humble opinion is yes, you are sitting zazen. Your goal of letting go of everything for a while is perfectly justified, as it is part of what zazen is. We purposefully head towards the zafu, bench, bed, chair, to sit zazen and think nothing but the thought of zazen, dropping mental gymnastics, likes, dislikes, judgments, worries etc. That goal, however, is accomplished in a continuous process, during every moment we sit, and it is not “attained” after a certain amount of sitting or as a result of a certain quality of the sit. It is there as we embody it, not at the “end of a rainbow”. We sit with the purpose of sitting, to manifest or “exercise” enlightenment itself, which is not attainable, given we already are in possession of it. We can merely reveal it.
    Sitting zazen with a goal in mind, is, as I understand it, for example when someone only does it expecting certain results like a special state, or realizations, or calmness or bliss or whatever. They come back to the zafu like someone digging for water, thirsty, eager and frustrated by the time consuming effort that takes too long to yield results. We come back to the zafu every day and that is where the goals end.

    Sorry for rambling this long and also, I apologize for probably just saying a whole bunch of mambo jumbo

    SatToday
    Last edited by Bion; 07-28-2021 at 09:59 PM.
    Bion
    美音

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  4. #4
    Hi Meian

    My approach is to sit and see what arises. If my mind has an attitude of sitting to gain something, that is the mind I sit with. If my mind lacks that attitude, that is also what I sit with. Some days sitting is joyful and filled with peace, so I sit with that. Other days it contains pain and negativity.

    I remember when Edward Espe Brown came to talk with us about Zen practice, especially in relation to his long time work as a tenzo (Zen cook). He talked about initially comparing the biscuits he was making to store bought cookies and always came up short. Eventually he judged the biscuits on their own merits and noticed that each day they would taste a little different. So, he came up with the phrase, "How will the biscuits of today taste?". I see Zazen as somewhat like that. We drop our expectations of sitting with or without intent and just see how the Zazen of today is.

    Apologies for running long.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  5. #5
    Bion has a real talent recently for saying what I wish to say, better than I say it, really. Lovely. Read his words thrice.

    Kokuu's words ain't half baked either.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Bion has a real talent recently for saying what I wish to say, better than I say it, really. Lovely. Read his words thrice.

    Kokuu's words ain't half baked either.

    Gassho, J

    STLah


    SatToday
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Join me on Insight Timer
    Help me feed those in need by joining my Share The Meal team HERE

  7. #7
    Jundo, Bion, Kokuu,


    Many thanks for your teachings,
    Deep Bows
    meian st lh

    Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
    迷安 - Mei An - Wandering At Rest
    chronic illness and Covid, is practice

  8. #8
    Likewise, thank you Bion, Kokuu and Jundo

    Gassho, Yokai sat/lah

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