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Thread: Zazen Mauling!

  1. #1

    Zazen Mauling!

    Hi all!

    So I just wanted to share that I decided to give one of Jundo's recommendations a try and let you all know how it went!
    I'm sure you are all aware of the suggestion to occasionally sit zazen in a noisy environment? Well...

    One of the things that has become clear to me in the last few years of Zen practice is that trying to make my zazen area too isolated is antithetical to the point of shikantaza!
    Part of this process has been the fact that in order to avoid "weriding out" my family, I have taken to meditating at the wee early hours of the morning when everyone is asleep, locked away inside a walk-in closet.
    Five years ago, this seemed like a really good idea.
    Lately, though... not so much.
    To this end I have noted that the more I make my meditation surroundings like a sensory deprivation chamber, the more difficult it is to transfer my practice from the zafu to everyday life.
    After all, real life (for me) is a loud, chaotic mess.
    (Perfect example: yesterday was my oldest son's 6th birthday party during which my 2 year old son fell and split his scalp open on the "foot" of the kitchen table. Lots of blood soaked paper towels, a trip to the ER and two stitches later, everything was back to "normal"...)

    So this morning I said "the hell realms with it!" and decided to come out of the closet! (Errr... Uh. I mean literally come out of the closet!) ops:

    Today (Sunday) after breakfast my wife passed out on the couch and my three boys were busy playing while I watched the news.
    Suddenly, I got a crazy idea. The boys were engaged, my wife was dozing, nothing worth watching on TV... How bout more zazen?!

    So I went upstairs, grabbed my pillow and trekked back to the living room. My wife opened one eye and asked what I was doing and to my surprise, when I told her she was OK with it!
    So while she was sleepily supervising the kids, I settled down and started doing my thing. In the next room I could clearly hear the television and three rambunctious children having fun.
    Quite a difference from my usual, womb-like meditation environment!
    Pretty soon, my two year old wanders into my nearby vicinity to see what dad is up to.
    He gives me a hug, I hug him back and get back to "just sitting".
    He toddles over to the pile of wrapping paper and packing materials from yesterday's celebration and begins rummaging through it.
    I figure he's OK so I keep focusing on "everything and nothing in particular" until I realize:
    someone has dropped a wad of tissue paper in my "cosmic mudra"!

    "OK," says I, "I'm busy dropping off body and mind so I'm just going to let him have his way with me!"
    The baby continues to slowly bury me in garbage as I face the wall.
    I smile at the thought of how ridiculous I must look and soldier on; the garbage-strewn Buddha!
    After a while, I realize someone is trying to insert a plastic tie-down into my ear canal!
    Now it's become outright war!
    I force myself to stay put as tiny fingers, ribbons and styrofoam peanuts are repeatedly inserted into my various facial orifices.
    It is simultaneously both hell and hilarity.
    After beating the crap out of me for about 20 minutes, my opponent grows weary and wanders off, presumably to harass the cat.

    Well, I finished my sit and you know what? It was actually pretty damn terrific!
    No, there wasn't much "inner peace" but I figure if I can keep still while foreign objects are being rammed into my nostrils then I have a pretty good chance of maintaining my center the next time I find myself faced with an irate customer or other minor irritation!

    Now, just for the record, I'm not suggesting that I intend to pursue this to ridiculous ends.
    (I'm not shopping around for a bed of nails or anything!)
    But this has opened my eyes a little bit to the benefits of an occasionally noisy meditation environment.
    (I remember reading somewhere that silent moments are the "bookends" to sound. You can't have one without the other.)
    So if you are already hip to this, just ignore my little story.
    But if you haven't taken the plunge and tried to sit while "under attack" then by all means, give yourself a challenge!
    Just make sure not to put yourself in physical danger, OK?


  2. #2

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    Thanks, K2. Great story. I've got three kids of my own (6, 5, and 5) and there is never a dull moment . . . so much the better for our practice I think.


  3. #3

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    Hi K,

    It is perfectly proper Zendo etiquette to, discreetly and quietly, offer a brief Gassho, remove the peanut from one's ear, then return to sitting.

    Actually, this is closely tied to the related subject of when we "sit with pain" or other circumstance (baby putting peanuts in ear) and when we attempt to move or take some steps to remove the issue (or peanut) ...

    Hi Guys,

    Here is my perspective on sitting with itchy noses, aching legs and backs, crawly spiders (as in this case) and such ...

    Let me mention first that one day I was sitting at Sojiji (head temple of Soto Zen in Japan) in a 150 year old wooden building, with rafters nibbled by termites and with an overly heavy roof, when a big earthquake hit ... the roof is swaying. Everyone but me was Japanese. I looked around to see if folks would run for the door ... nobody moved from Zazen or even looked around but me! There is a great cultural tendency in Japanese culture to just "bear up" with pain and disturbances, and I have rarely if ever seen an experienced Japanese sitting move, shift legs or scratch during Zazen. In fact, my Japanese dentist tells me that there are two main difference between his Western patients and Japanese patients: (1) Westerners ask a lot more questions about the dental procedure and everything else; (2) Westerners moan and scream much more easily. :shock:

    So, I have to balance my recommendations by taking into consideration what is just "Japanese culture", what is "Zen teachings", and what may be "BOTH"!

    Generally, our Way of Shikantaza Zazen is about "just sitting" with whatever is, just how it is. As in life-in-general, not every moment is peaches and cream, fun and games. So, it is wonderful Practice for us to sit with discomforts, pain, annoyances. We drop all thought of the words "discomfort", "pain", "annoyance", "like" "dislike" "good" "bad" ... and just sit with what is.

    On the other hand, the Buddha's way was never one of masochism or asceticism, complete denial of the body. In fact, ours is the Middle Way, the path of moderation in all things. Furthermore, we do not harm the body.

    Thus, my advice is to just "sit with" the itches, discomforts and spiders (unless a highly poisonous spider!) . Note it briefly, then move back to open, spacious sitting. In fact, you will find that the more your mind fixates on it, and thinks about it, the more of a problem it becomes. By not thinking about it, the so-called "problem" may even fade away on its own, or not be experienced as a problem.

    But if you reach the point that there is truly the risk of harm to the body, then please give a small "Gassho" and discreetly and quietly change position (even do your Zazen standing or do Kinhin walking), or move the giant killer spider away.

    Furthermore, our Way is not about ALWAYS having discomfort, so if your legs or back hurt all the time, you may have to change your sitting position or wait for your legs and back to adjust. We do not sit with leg pain every day or most days.

    But, on the other-other hand, if you have a physical condition that means you ALWAYS have pain and there is absolutely no way to avoid that (for example, if you have arthritis that is always there), you just sit with that. You allow it, not thinking "good" or "bad".

    You have to decide for yourself when is the time to sit with the ache or spider, when is the time not to.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    Hi K2,
    Wonderful story thank you very much for sharing!!
    Hehe The mental pic of you being buried by your little one is priceless! Sumi -e that on a scroll please

    Yes hiding away isolates you from the goings on and as you said, I found it made it a bit tougher to practice this "Thing" off the cushion.
    Anywho I sit in the evening when everyone has access to me... in our bedroom the tv is usually on lately the A/C's pounding, my baby boy trying hard NOT to sleep behind me, my 3 year old "helping" and 4 cats meandering about. I keep everything going on because everything IS going on whether I want it to or not. Still some nights/mornings its nice to just hear gentle breaths of someone sleeping or the birds/frogs/crickets/wind singing.


  5. #5

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    so funny lol!
    heres what my kids did to me yesterday
    often I get scribbled on with crayins etc. this time I was covered in little planes front & back and all over my legs too. My eldest tried to convince me I now had enough planes on me so I could fly

  6. #6

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    What an awesome, hilarious story! And, I'm a bit jealous, because I still haven't 'come out of the closet' yet, but maybe some day...

    This morning I took my new zafu and towel out to the front yard with 2 dogs, and tried sitting in the dew. The golden retriever started a non=stop bark, so I had to break, put her inside, and then went to the back yard with just the german shepherd. Now I'm in the grass, perfectly still among a thunderous cloud of GNATS. sitting, sitting, buzz, buzz. As long as I was still, they pretty much minded their own business. Only when the shepherd jumped up and mauled my face with a young exhuberant and very curious paw did I scream, then apologize, and then return to sitting. I found out that the tiny gnats, the only way they bothered me was if they took 5-6 steps, and itched my arm, which I could still pretty much sit through, but for the most part I was the mountain to the tiny birds. It got me thinking, that when my fears, insecurites and so forth become my 'mountain' in my mind, then as soon as I take 5-6 little steps to 'move the mountain', then the roles reverse, the mountain of fear dissapates, and I get to be the mountain again, and watch the emotional clouds float on by.

    Okay, I don't know if that makes sense, but since I don't have kids, I figured a cloud of gnats was the next best thing :P

    G, ann

  7. #7

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    Gnats, itches, IRS auditors, kids, obsessive thoughts.
    Six of one, half dozen of the other!

    Or, if you wanna get all Zen:
    "I thought that Bhodidharma had a red beard and here before me I see the red-bearded barbarian himself!"

    Good for you for taking the zafu someplace new!
    How else are you going to get from letting your thoughts and emotions drift past you in shikantaza to letting your thoughts and emotions drift past you in your day to day life?!

    I'm starting to think that Zen Buddhism is like cosmic Pam; spray it on your brain every day and the eggs won't stick to it so much! :P


  8. #8

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    Quote Originally Posted by kliffkapus
    I'm starting to think that Zen Buddhism is like cosmic Pam; spray it on your brain every day and the eggs won't stick to it so much! :P

    I'm guessing this is something American cause I'm not getting it lol whats (who's) pam?

  9. #9

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    LOL! It's a brand name for an aerosol can of spray that you use to spray pots or baking sheets so food doesn't stick to them. It comes now in several flavors even, like olive oil or butter, or just the original plain Pam that my husband sprays on the barbeque grill before cooking steak or burgers. gassho, Ann

  10. #10

    Re: Zazen Mauling!

    Haha, very helpful thread. My cat has taken to grooming himself VERY THOROUGHLY whenever it is time for zazen. You know, the kind of grooming with lots of licking, digging in, and biting. I think he is working through a seasonal change in his fur, happens a few times a year. Noisy!And a little yucky-sounding.

    But he also has a nice habit of "headbutting" my hands as they sit in my lap during zazen, I find it very endearing.

    Lately, when I hear my 8-year-old daughter make noise, or hear the neighbor's circular saw while I am meditating, I kind of like it. It is almost like the bell of the meditation timer, bringing me back to here and now over and over.

    I feel funny saying gassho still, but thank you,


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