Sitting on a chair

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  • Ryumon
    Member
    • Apr 2007
    • 1706

    Sitting on a chair

    Lately, I've been sitting on a chair. I have an office chair in my home office, and I sit with my legs apart in a V shape (about the same angle as when I sit on a cushion), and my legs are bent downwards: my feet rest on the ground on the balls of my feet and my toes, with my heels off the floor. I find that this lets me sit comfortable, without the pain in my arthritic knees, but also with much less pain in my back and neck.

    Now I know that Nishijima thinks that sitting on a chair is very wrong, but I think that Jundo has said that it's ok if you can't sit on a cushion. (I think that Brad, on the other hand, feels it is evil.)

    This led me to reflect on something: the obsession with sitting in the lotus position is, in part, because the Japanese didn't have chairs (and only recently adopted them). They were used to sitting on the floor, so it was easy for them. I don't know about India in the time of the Buddha, but I'm guessing that it's the same: they sat on the floor or on cushions.

    So can't we just use the context in which we live and sit in a way that's comfortable?

    Kirk
    ---
    Ryūmon (Kirk)
    流文

    SAT/LAH

    I know nothing.
  • will
    Member
    • Jun 2007
    • 2331

    #2
    Re: Sitting on a chair

    One point that I heard and find suiting is: we should be able to do Zazen anywhere.

    I sit in burmese comfortably and have no problems. If you don't have the capability (equipment) to sit in lotus or even burmese posture, then a chair is fine. However, the above point is clear I think.


    From Sodo no Gyoji (Practicing the Buddha way- clothing, eating, and housing...) by Tsugen Narasaki Roshi:

    Today in Japan many people live a western lifestyle using tables and chairs, so the custom of sitting on the floor is becoming a little troublesome for them. They need to train themselves for sitting on the floor. It seems as though young or modern peoples personalities are changing through this new lifestyle. Siting on the floor is a Japanese traditional custom. Some people think it is archaic and feel a strong resistance to it. When a traditional way is changed into a modern or more convenient way, the true nature becomes abbreviated. As a consequence, the fundamental thought can touch less of true nature. Our practice is comprehended only through our body. If we have a desire to practice the authentic Buddha Way, we should practice sitting on the floor.

    In both kekka-fuza and hanka-fuza the knees should touch the floor or mat. This position settles our equilibrium and is very steady. This is not only true of the Japanese, but also of foriegners in their own countries who say that sitting zazen on the floor is more stable than in a chair. Some people feel that sitting zazen on a chair is the more comfortable way, but this needs to be considered carefully.

    Overweight people or people who don't have the flexibility to bend or cross their legs can loosen their bodies by soaking in a hot bath and massaging their muscles and joints while sitting in the lotus posture.
    Gassho
    [size=85:z6oilzbt]
    To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
    To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
    To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
    To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
    [/size:z6oilzbt]

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    • murasaki
      Member
      • Mar 2009
      • 473

      #3
      Re: Sitting on a chair

      Yesterday, I was waiting in the car to pick someone up, and realized I had 10 good minutes for zazen. So I sat, right there in the driver's seat.

      I am mostly a "floor-living person", but sitting in proper zazen postures is still a challenge for me, because the positions I am accustomed to sitting in on the floor are different than the standard zazen positions, and I change position frequently. When I sat in a real zendo the first time, I thought my leg was going to fall off, it became so numb. I thought this aspect would be easy for me because of my floor-sitting habits, but it wasn't. So the zazen positions really are a drastic change for some people.

      I think you have to respect your body. It's no use sitting zazen while you're in howling pain, or distracted to an extreme. I also have some arthritis problems in my knees, although it's not that bad (yet). Full lotus position is out of the question for me because of this. I end up sitting Burmese or slightly half-lotus, but I still have to fiddle with cushion positioning and experiment. I can tell this is an issue that will take time to resolve, and I will have to keep listening to my body all the while.

      My just-now-closed local zendo had a row of chairs in it...obviously the sensei understood and respected the possible needs of some sitters.

      gassho
      julia
      "The Girl Dragon Demon", the random Buddhist name generator calls me....you have been warned.

      Feed your good wolf.

      Comment

      • disastermouse

        #4
        Re: Sitting on a chair

        An office chair is likely not a good type of chair. There are very few chairs with totally 'flat' seats. Most try to 'scoop' you in and back. This makes it difficult to sit with the back truly straight.

        I use a seiza bench. That way, I experience less pain than I did in half-lotus, but am more stable and solid than I would be if I sat on a chair.

        Everyone makes their own choice.

        Chet

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        • Ryumon
          Member
          • Apr 2007
          • 1706

          #5
          Re: Sitting on a chair

          Actually, it's quite good. I sit on the front edge which is slightly tilted downward, which puts my back nice and straight. I don't sit leaning against the chair back...

          Kirk
          ---
          Ryūmon (Kirk)
          流文

          SAT/LAH

          I know nothing.

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          • chicanobudista
            Member
            • Mar 2008
            • 864

            #6
            Re: Sitting on a chair

            Originally posted by kirkmc
            Lately, I've been sitting on a chair. I have an office chair in my home office,
            You know, even John Daido Loori, who I think is more of the "traditional" kinda of Zen, allows the lay folks to sit in chairs. :mrgreen:

            From their Zen center web site:






            (I think that Brad, on the other hand, feels it is evil.)
            From some of his latest blogs, I think age is softening that position. :P

            FWIW, I use a seiza bench.
            paz,
            Erik


            Flor de Nopal Sangha

            Comment

            • disastermouse

              #7
              Re: Sitting on a chair

              Brad let me sit on a bench when I sat with them in SM. He did answer (in an email) that he didn't like them.

              An interesting (to me, anyway) side note: It was only a month or so after I bought my own zafu that I stopped my regular sitting practice ten years ago. Up until then, I used a combination of folded pillows.

              Chet

              Comment

              • Ryumon
                Member
                • Apr 2007
                • 1706

                #8
                Re: Sitting on a chair

                The Loori photos are interesting; I wouldn't think of sitting with my back supported. However, I do do Jundo's Patented Instant Zen™ in waiting rooms and the like sitting like that.

                Kirk
                ---
                Ryūmon (Kirk)
                流文

                SAT/LAH

                I know nothing.

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                • chicanobudista
                  Member
                  • Mar 2008
                  • 864

                  #9
                  Re: Sitting on a chair

                  Originally posted by kirkmc
                  The Loori photos are interesting; I wouldn't think of sitting with my back supported. However, I do do Jundo's Patented Instant Zen™ in waiting rooms and the like sitting like that.

                  Kirk
                  Ooooh. Does that include Ralph Macchio as spiritual advisor?

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6d9wXdQesU[/video]]


                  :mrgreen:
                  paz,
                  Erik


                  Flor de Nopal Sangha

                  Comment

                  • Jundo
                    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                    • Apr 2006
                    • 39459

                    #10
                    Re: Sitting on a chair

                    I love to sit in my car! (more about that in a minute)

                    But let's talk about traditional ways of sitting first ...

                    The basic principle is that balance of body is hand-in-glove with balance of mind, one nurturing the other, truly just body-mind. For millenia, the Full Lotus, and to a lessor extent, the Half Lotus have been considered positions of great poise and balance. The Burmese position is also very balanced. The lifting of the rump, straightening of the back with slight curvature of the lower back, the stability of the legs with good circulation, the comfortable head position ... all lend themselves to our forgetting about the body during Zazen. Once mastered, they are intended as incredibly comfortable and stable positions ... not torture

                    My teacher, Nishijima, is against Seiza and, even more so, chairs. They do not provide such balance in his view, and furthermore, were not the tradition in the Zen schools. Now, the official "Soto" school line (for Westerners, at least) is that chairs, Seiza and Burmese are acceptable ... if not ideal.

                    Nishijima makes the valid point that many Westerners give up on the Lotus postures for lack of trying, lack of giving it time and stretching. He is right. He may be a little stubborn in not yielding on this issue to people's needs who have legitimate physical issues, and I sometimes think so (this is a very Japanese attitude). But most westerners give up much too easily.

                    So, you should try many ways and make up your own mind. However, if you are physically capable of Lotus or Half Lotus (or Burmese), that is the best I think.

                    The philosophy around Treeleaf Sangha about sitting is that everyone should try out for themselves, and adjust, the fine points of sitting Lotus (Full and Half) and Burmese. Seiza and chair sitting, is tolerated as maybe necessary in some cases, if there is a true and uncorrectable physical need.

                    So, please tinker away with the Full/Half Lotus and Burmese in minor ways. You will know when you are balanced because, quite simply, you will feel balanced, and generally comfortable in sitting for long stretches day after day. The proof is in the pudding. Just make sure you are not sagging in the back, that the back is straight, that the chin is tucked in and the head not dropping forward, and that you are not leaning to the side.

                    Getting one's knees on the floor flat is important, and if you can't, try temporarily (emphasis added) putting pads or cushions under the knees until you can by stretching the groin muscles and such to get the knees down.

                    Because I cannot help with posture because of the distance (one of the few things we cannot do in this Sangha because of distance), I am recommending folks to consult with a local Yoga instructor in your area about getting in a good Lotus or Half-Lotus, or Burmese if needed, posture (just bring your Zafu when you do, as some Yoga folks do it slightly differently, sitting directly on the floor).

                    If you float around this Forum, you will find lots of discussion threads on sitting tips.

                    Remember too that "Zazen" is not only the times we spend on the cushion. So, sitting, crouching, back flipping, walking, running, skipping, hopping, falling or spinning is also Zazen (we still must spend that time on the cushion however). Thus, I do often "sit" Zazen other places, such as in a car ...

                    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2 ... sic-1.html

                    Gassho, Jundo (I used to sit mostly Full Lotus. Now, I mix Full, Half and Burmese)
                    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                    Comment

                    • Ryumon
                      Member
                      • Apr 2007
                      • 1706

                      #11
                      Re: Sitting on a chair

                      You see, I can sit in the Burmese position, which is what I've done for twenty-odd years. But I have arthritis in my knees, and it hurst more and more to sit like that (and, yes, my knees are on the floor). In addition, sitting on the floor causes a lot of pain and tension in my back and neck; obviously, it's because I'm not sitting "right", but there's not much I can do to fix that. You can find the right posture for a minute, with our without someone showing it to you, but the body does not freeze in the correct position, and, over time, during a sitting, that changes.

                      Kirk
                      ---
                      Ryūmon (Kirk)
                      流文

                      SAT/LAH

                      I know nothing.

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                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39459

                        #12
                        Re: Sitting on a chair

                        Originally posted by kirkmc
                        You see, I can sit in the Burmese position, which is what I've done for twenty-odd years. But I have arthritis in my knees, and it hurst more and more to sit like that (and, yes, my knees are on the floor). In addition, sitting on the floor causes a lot of pain and tension in my back and neck; obviously, it's because I'm not sitting "right", but there's not much I can do to fix that. You can find the right posture for a minute, with our without someone showing it to you, but the body does not freeze in the correct position, and, over time, during a sitting, that changes.

                        Kirk
                        Hi Kirk,

                        Then, yes, if there is a medical need and it is unavoidable, you can certainly sit another way such as Seiza, in a chair or something else. I believe that if you have been sitting for twenty years, you will be the best judge of what is appropriate.

                        I also am having trouble with my knees and ankles if sitting in Full Lotus, something I attribute to my 'Made in USA' thunder thighs, something skinny little Asian Zen fellows rarely have. I sit mostly in Half Lotus and Burmese, but mix in Full Lotus about once a week or so just to stay "in shape".

                        Gassho, Jundo
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Ryumon
                          Member
                          • Apr 2007
                          • 1706

                          #13
                          Re: Sitting on a chair

                          Originally posted by Jundo
                          I also am having trouble with my knees and ankles if sitting in Full Lotus, something I attribute to my 'Made in USA' thunder thighs, something skinny little Asian Zen fellows rarely have. I sit mostly in Half Lotus and Burmese, but mix in Full Lotus about once a week or so just to stay "in shape".
                          It's not just "thunder thighs", it's the fact that the Japanese are more used to sitting on the floor, and their bodies have developed to do so as they grew up. This said, I imagine that they often sit in chairs now - at work, if not at home - so this is changing. I do see, however, in pictures of people playing in go title matches (I'm a go player) that they still sit on the floor, but they have kind of seatless chairs: things with backs and armrests that actually look quite nice.

                          Kirk
                          ---
                          Ryūmon (Kirk)
                          流文

                          SAT/LAH

                          I know nothing.

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                          • BrianP
                            Member
                            • Jun 2008
                            • 83

                            #14
                            Re: Sitting on a chair

                            Anyone tried sitting on one of those kneeler chairs they use in offices. I have and they are very comfortable(perhaps too comfortable) but I found it better than a chair.

                            I agree about not supporting the back when using a chair. Sit forward towards the front and the height of the chair is important - preferably just a fraction higher than the knees. Using firm foam wedge helps. Zafu is best if you can manage it.

                            Daiku

                            PS. I have a photo of one but can`t see how to upload it :?

                            Comment

                            • Ryumon
                              Member
                              • Apr 2007
                              • 1706

                              #15
                              Re: Sitting on a chair

                              Originally posted by BrianP
                              Anyone tried sitting on one of those kneeler chairs they use in offices. I have and they are very comfortable(perhaps too comfortable) but I found it better than a chair.
                              I had one of them for a number of years. I find that it's quite good if you really pay attention to the way you sit - to the position of your back. But it can be very bad if you don't; you can get into a very bad posture with it.

                              I had to give mine up because I have a neurological condition which has symptoms including dizziness. I found that sitting on that chair made my back hurt - it's because I had one where they two knee pads were independent, and they were made of wood, so they were fluid in space. It would make me constantly adjust my posture, putting a lot of stress on my back. I've since changed to a more standard office chair with a big seat that goes almost out to my knees, that is very stable. That's the one I've been using for sitting; sitting on the front edge of it.

                              Oh, another way I've been trying is sitting on a stool, with the back two (of four) legs raised by a small piece of wood. This tilts the stool just enough to put the pelvis forward a bit, which keeps the back straight. It seems to me - from my experience - that it's better to have the back free rather than supported by something. I feel it keeps me more "awake" in the sense of needing to be physically dynamic. If my back is supported, I can lean into the support and let go too easily.

                              Here's a phone camera pic of how I do it:



                              Kirk

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                              Ryūmon (Kirk)
                              流文

                              SAT/LAH

                              I know nothing.

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