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Thread: Zazen help with distracting thoughts...

  1. #1

    Zazen help with distracting thoughts...

    "If distracting thoughts arise, acknowledge them..."

    I know I am supposed to let distracting thoughts pass, but how? I am sitting daily, and doing well on putting in time, but the quality is....?

    For example, I had a snafu with my auto company when they did not receive my check last week. I canceled the check, and it showed up the next day at the financing company. It was a minor irritation, the payment is not due for several weeks, so there is nothing to stress about, but during zazen this morning I kept wondering why the check was late? Should I send another one this week or wait for next week? Why did it take so long to arrive? Etc...?

    I understand that thoughts will come up, but how do you acknowledge and let them pass by?

  2. #2

    Re: Zazen help with distracting thoughts...

    Well it is not is not like there is a secret technique where all your distracting thoughts will just stop every time you sit. (I wish there was)

    But keep doing what you are is correct. When you sit, notice all the thoughts that come, then without judging them as either good or bad, just return to 'just sitting'. Just return to the sensation of your breathing. Then thoughts will come back up. when that happens, notice once again that you are thinking, and simply return back to your sitting. Back to the inhalation and exhalation. The more you do it the more you will find that your distracting thoughts become less distracting.

    It is a practice of putting our minds where we want it, but since our entire lives have been trapped in the jungle of our thoughts it is not easy for them to settle down so quickly.

    So every time you have distracting thoughts, see them, notice them, return back to your sitting. eventually the thoughts will leave you on there own. Do not rush it, let it happen naturally. But be on top of it at the same time.

    And it is a good thing to have distracting thoughts in my view because it gives you the chance to see just how overly active our minds can be at times...not a problem in practice but a great teacher....

    This is just my humble ideas...if anyone feels that something in them are wrong, please correct me....



  3. #3

    Re: Zazen help with distracting thoughts...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibrahim
    ... Should I send another one this week or wait for next week? Why did it take so long to arrive? Etc...?

    I understand that thoughts will come up, but how do you acknowledge and let them pass by?
    Hi Ibrahim,

    Yeah, finance companies easily come to mind for a lot of folks during Zazen! 8) By the way, when you call "Customer Support" and they put you on hold for 30 minutes ... a WONDERFUL opportunity for "On Hold" Insta-Zazen©! ... zazen.html

    As to your question ...

    Thoughts drift in and out of mind during Zazen ... neither clutch at them, wallow and roll around in them, play with the thoughts or stir them up ... just let them go. However, we all tend to clutch and wallow and stir up sometimes, lots. If you find yourself wallowing, just let it go ... tell yourself silently something like "let's think about this later, after sitting", maybe adjust your posture a bit ... get back to just sitting. When the stirring up comes back (it likely will) ... notice it and let it go again. Repeat, even 10,000 times and 10,000 times again during Zazen. Somewhere in there, one will encounter moments when thoughts ... including thoughts of finance companies ... fully drift away or (and this is what we call "thinking non-thinking") are seen through as not quite as they were before. When they drift back (good chance they will) ... repeat ... repeat ...

    I sometimes describe it like this ... the 'ol drifting clouds and sky analogy ...



    There is no "right" or "wrong" Zazen ... even Zazen when done WRONG ...

    One of the key points about Master Dogen's approach to Zazen is to allow the clouds (of thought) to drift naturally out of mind (our thoughts of this and that, likes and dislikes, judgments, events, etc) and we come back again and again to the clear blue sky. Do that again and again, 100 billion times and 100 billion times again. So, no need to "catch" the thoughts and chase them away, even as we seek during Zazen to find the open, blue sky.

    HOWEVER, Dogen taught "non-thinking" (also called "thinking not thinking"). That means that there is nothing "wrong" with the clouds. It is not that blue sky is "good" while clouds are "bad" (some Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies imply that). We allow the clouds to drift out of mind, but neither do we resent the clouds when present or on very cloudy days. Even on those days when the sky is all cloudy, and not an inch of blue is present, the blue sky is still there behind the clouds. WE DO NOT SEEK TO BREAK UP OR RESIST ANY PART OF THE SKY, CLOUDS OR BLUE ... It is all the unbroken sky. Understand?

    Thus, allowing things to just be the way they are, no judging, not resisting, being with the flow, allowing 'happy' days to be happy and 'sad' days to be sad, all while dropping all idea of 'happy' and 'sad', whether really enjoying or really not enjoying ... fully dropping away any and all thought of doing Zazen 'right' or doing it 'wrong' ... THIS IS DOING IT RIGHT. And when you are doing it right, it will usually feel like you are doing it right, for there is no resistance, and a great sense of balance, insight and brilliance..

    Fighting things, wishing things were some other way that how they are, judging, resisting, going against the grain and the flow, wishing 'sad' days were happy or 'happy' days were happier ... filled with a sense of self bumping up against all the other 'selfs', with a mind held by thoughts of doing Zazen 'right' or doing it 'wrong' ... THIS IS DOING ZAZEN WRONG. And when you are doing it wrong, it will usually feel like you are doing it wrong, for there is resistance, and a sense of imbalance, cloudiness, greyness.

    But as well, even at those times when Zazen feels 'wrong', when there is resistance or imbalance ... it is still 'right', still 'Zazen', still just what it is. IT CANNOT BE WRONG. This last point is vital to understanding.

    Yes, that is a Koan. Is it clear? Please really really penetrate in your body and mind what I just wrote.

    I hope that helps. And by the way, as we "do" Zazen", Zazen does us ... and ultimately there is just the "doing" ... .
    Now, if one really really really cannot settle down in Zazen, and the thoughts and emotions are running rampant, chaos in your cabeza ... one can try some temporary anchors to "gather one's mind". I am usually a "follow the breath" fellow for those times.

    But then come back to Just Sitting.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Thank you, Seiryu. I have noticed several wise comments by you several places around the Forum, including the above advice.

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