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Thread: Doing Zazen in a chair and Posture - Zazen is Mind AND Body

  1. #1

    Doing Zazen in a chair and Posture - Zazen is Mind AND Body

    Today, I was exploring different methods for practicing Zazen in a chair, as I don't have a cushion at work. Although Brad Warner's example uses a zafu cushion in the chair, which I can't do, there was an important point in his video that perhaps didn't sink in as much as it should have. The point is that Zazen is not something you do with just your mind; it involves both the mind and body and that the way it's taught often inadvertently emphasizes the mind when it's a balance of both. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on Brad's brief statement in the video (the link goes directly to his comment).

    If playing the embedded video does not jump to the point, it's at time index 1:25



    Thank you!
    -Sat Today

  2. #2
    Hi Douglas,

    I agree and disagree somewhat. Master Dogen famously said (in Shobogenzi Zanmai-O-Zanmai):

    This being said, there is sitting of the mind, which is not
    the same as sitting of the body. There is sitting of the body,
    which is not the same as sitting of the mind. There is sitting
    of the body and mind dropped away, which is not the same
    as sitting of the body and mind dropped away.


    Zazen is an action of mind/breath/body which are "not two." It is not only the body, so I disagree with Brad if he meant that (I don't think he actually meant that). Breath, we just let be deep from the belly, but natural, at its own pace, doing nothing strange with it. As to body, a balanced, stable, comfortable body posture facilitates and balanced and stable, calm mind in Zazen. However, I disagree with Brad (and my own teacher, Nishijima Roshi) that only the crossed legged postures work some physiological magic to allow that. That is a kind of fetishizing of the Lotus Posture that is found in Japan sometimes, mostly because the posture is most traditional for meditation. However, it is not the only one, and even Dogen says that really Zazen is not a matter of sitting, walking, standing or reclining. It is just that sitting, being still, is the best way to know stillness.

    One size does not fit all, so you must know your own body. My rule of thumb is that, if a certain posture or postures (cross legged, seiza bench, on a chair, even reclining if there is medical need) feels "balanced, stable and comfortable" to you, and allows you to sit comfortably and stably for long periods, literally forgetting about the body (i.e., the body is forgotten as not a distraction), then it is likely a good posture. As Brad shows in the video, do not slump if you can avoid it, and try to maintain a nice upright posture if possible, not bent or slumping, not too stiff like a soldier either. I very much recommend this book by Mr. Johnson on finding the posture(s) right for your body and needs:

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

    You are not in a cookie cutter monastery where everyone should try to look and act just the same, so let your own body be your own guide.

    In the video, Brad also picks one of the worst chairs imaginable for Zazen. Yikes, it looks uncomfortable. A nice, not soft, not sunken, flat and solid chair is best. He sits on the Zafu, which is one way, but many folks sit on the chair with the Zafu behind as a bit of back support. Here are some pictures (I am not even so keen that Domyo Burk picked such a flimsy folding chair, but it looks stable and solid enough, and much better than that sunken plastic one in Brad's video. It is good that he sat on the cushion in that case, not putting it behind him):


    Finally, what did Dogen mean in his passage above? I talk about it in my book, "Zen Master's Dance" ...

    Zazen is a kind of yoga, a joining of body and mind in which the entirety of body and mind is engaged. Body and mind are “not two”; that is why we can call them “bodymind.” That being said, there is a physical component to zazen. We sit as best we can in a balanced, stable, and still posture which nurtures a balanced, stable, and still state of mind, the mental component of zazen. ... We are able to drop away all thoughts of the body in that posture, much as a runner drops the body in her running or a dancer in his dancing. They become so at one with the body and the action that the body is dropped from awareness. This is zazen of the body.

    In the mental component to zazen we do not grab onto thoughts, do not engage in judgments, and sit in the wholeness and completeness of zazen itself. We experience “goallessness” and the realization of “nothing more to attain, no other place to go.” This is zazen of the mind.

    However, there is also zazen in which both body and mind (or bodymind) are dropped away. The mind is spacious, the body is stable
    and balanced. The hard borders between the self and the rest of life soften and sometimes fully drop away. To realize this state is “the accordance of the practice and realization of the Buddhas and Ancestors.” In other words, the doing of zazen is the realization of zazen.

    The sentence “There is sitting of the body and mind dropped away, which is not the same as sitting of the body and mind dropped away” is a bit confusing. According to Nishijima Roshi and others, it may mean that the mere intellectual idea of this dropping is not the same as the actual doing and experiencing of dropping.
    By the way, if you cannot use a Zafu in your office, just use any kind of thick and solid cushion.

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH

    PS = Douglas, would you kindly sign "SatToday" or the like to your posts? Thank you. It encourages others. Also, a human face photo to accompany your posts helps keep this place human, and would be appreciated.

    SatToday - Make sure you have SAT before joining in forum CHAT!
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...-forum-CHAT%21
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-15-2023 at 01:40 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Easy chair. Is this zazen? This is something, or not, who knows? The gorge is deep so put a long handle on your dipper.

    Photo on 11-19-22 at 4.02 PM #2.jpg

    gassho
    sat, was a bit useful too
    Visiting unsui: salt liberally.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Shōnin Risa Bear View Post
    Easy chair. Is this zazen? This is something, or not, who knows? The gorge is deep so put a long handle on your dipper.

    Photo on 11-19-22 at 4.02 PM #2.jpg
    We should clarify that you have some medical reasons that make reclining the best for you, Sho.

    And if you put standing/sitting/walking/reclining out of mind, it matters little.

    Gassho, Jundo

    stlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    You are not in a cookie cutter monastery where everyone should try to look and act just the same, so let your own body be your own guide.
    Zafu drop

    Not only for zazen but for life.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  6. #6
    Personally, if I do chaired zazen, which was all I did before coming here I think, I like to have arm rests. The heart mudra can then be a little higher but balance is easier. I havenít tried chair + zafu combined yet. Most of the time I am on a zafu for zazen, but without legs in lotus or half lotus thanks to many years of ignoring leg/hip flexibility

    Apologies for going one over.

    Gassho,
    Gareth
    Sat today, Lah

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Gareth View Post
    Personally, if I do chaired zazen, which was all I did before coming here I think, I like to have arm rests. The heart mudra can then be a little higher but balance is easier. I haven’t tried chair + zafu combined yet. Most of the time I am on a zafu for zazen, but without legs in lotus or half lotus thanks to many years of ignoring leg/hip flexibility

    Apologies for going one over.

    Gassho,
    Gareth
    Sat today, Lah
    Hi Gareth,

    I wonder what you are describing. First, when you say "Heart Mudra," do you mean our standard Zazen mudra for holding the hands, thumbs touching? I have never heard it called that before.

    When you sit on the Zafu or in a chair without arms, did your hands not rest comfortable in your lap?




    Some people sit with the hands resting higher on the belly, and that can be very tiring ...


    Also, when you sit on the Zafu for Zazen "without legs in lotus or half lotus," does that mean that you are sitting Burmese?


    Everyone's body is a little different, but I want to make sure that you are doing things a good way.

    Gassho, J

    stlah



    tsuku.jpgtsuku.jpgtsuku.jpg
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Gareth,

    I wonder what you are describing. First, when you say "Heart Mudra," do you mean our standard Zazen mudra for holding the hands, thumbs touching? I have never heard it called that before.

    When you sit on the Zafu or in a chair without arms, did your hands not rest comfortable in your lap?




    Some people sit with the hands resting higher on the belly, and that can be very tiring ...


    Also, when you sit on the Zafu for Zazen "without legs in lotus or half lotus," does that mean that you are sitting Burmese?


    Everyone's body is a little different, but I want to make sure that you are doing things a good way.

    Gassho, J

    stlah



    tsuku.jpgtsuku.jpgtsuku.jpg
    Hi Jundo,

    In Burmese yes. I don’t often sit in a chair for zazen, but I used to sit in two chairs where the shapes meant that my hands could not rest in my lap easily. However, I found it comfortable with my elbows on the arm rests and the mudra higher. It seemed more comfortable like that than in some other chairs that did not have arm rests.

    I have had the name of the mudra wrong for a while I think…I saw it called “cosmic mudra” in the past but this seems to have morphed into the name I used.

    Thank you and gassho,
    Gareth
    Sat today, Lah

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Gareth View Post

    I have had the name of the mudra wrong for a while I think…I saw it called “cosmic mudra” in the past but this seems to have morphed into the name I used.
    I like your invented name, "Heart Mudra," but I think it more like this then ...



    Gassho, J

    stlah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I like your invented name, "Heart Mudra," but I think it more like this then ...



    Gassho, J

    stlah
    Oh, thatís not what they do nowadays. Thatís the ďvintageĒ mudra..

    These are the two new options:





    Sat Today
    Bion
    -------------------------
    When you put Buddhaís activity into practice, only then are you a buddha. When you act like a fool, then youíre a fool.

  11. #11
    Hi everyone!

    Since I have knee problems, I can sit in seiza in the shorter zazenkais (although I might then have pain for the next 2 days or so), but not for longer periods of time. In the past I tried to sit through the pain, but one day I noticed that actually tears were welling up in my eyes and my knees were swollen for almost a week. Thatís when I decided to use a chair most of the time.
    The most important aspects here (at least for me):
    Sit on the so-called sitting bones. For this the buttocks need to be higher than the knees (i.e. more than 90 degrees), but not too much. Using a zafu is good for this. If you sit on the sitting bones (not the tailbone), achieving a comfortable, straight and relaxed position comes naturally, almost automatically. Itís like a flower thatís blooming, no thought about posture. Just being natural, just being there.

    Gassho,
    大哲

    #sat2day
    no thing needs to be added

  12. #12
    One thing about pain and sitting: Like many people, I have real problems getting into any sitting position on the floor, with or without a cushion. I'm sure I could benefit from some in-person assistance.

    Half lotus and Burmese positions both result in my legs and feet falling asleep so much that I literally can't walk when I'm done with 20 minutes of meditation.

    I've tried kneeling, but the pain in my feet in that position distracts me from anything else other than just pain.

    I think my only choice will be to continue stretching and sitting in a chair until I can sit on the floor properly in some position.

    -Sat Today

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas View Post
    I think my only choice will be to continue stretching and sitting in a chair until I can sit on the floor properly in some position.

    -Sat Today
    Just never, ever think of doing so a "lesser Zazen" or something wrong. There is no "lesser" or "wrong Zazen" .... except when you start thinking that there is! All Zazen is good in the start, middle and end. Thinking "good and bad" is bad Zazen.

    Gassho, J

    stlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-18-2023 at 11:20 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Member Do Mi's Avatar
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    Many years ago, I damaged my low back through hours of half-lotus sitting. After a 40-year gap, during which I meditated mostly lying down, I now gratefully do my shikantaza on a chair. I do not see it as a lesser choice and am glad to be done with thinking I have to compromise the functioning of my precious body to do this precious practice.

    Do Msatlah

  15. #15
    Parkinson's disease sometimes makes sitting on the floor impractical or even impossible. So on those days, I sit in a chair. When I can, I sit on the floor, usually in the seiza position.
    Doing so bothered me for a few years. But it finally sunk in that it's all about intent. I'm sitting with the goal of sitting. Meditating with the goal of meditating. Being still with the goal of being still. I hold the best pasta I can while I'm doing it, and more importantly I keep my focus and the best way I can, and in the last couple of years I have had more experience with real stillness than I have in all the time I wasted being upset because I wasn't sitting in a perfect lotus posture on the floor.
    When we start, we set our intention to sit.
    Zazen.
    Nothing else.
    ... That's what works for me, anyway. It's not so much HOW I sit, but THAT I sit.

    Sat.
    Gonna sit some more.
    Gassho!
    -Godo Ankai

    I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

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