Why do I avoid my practice?

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  • disastermouse

    Why do I avoid my practice?

    Usually when I sit zazen, it's actually very easy. It's also usually pleasant, not that I try to make it pleasant, but frequently it's a rest from automatically acting on thoughts and feelings and instead letting them wave around in space with nothing to drag around. Life is allowed to be very simple, just breath in and out, sounds going around, my back aching or what have you. There is no urgent need to improve anything or fix anything or prevent anything. It's not like going on an exotic vacation or doing anything special, it's like just being at home - the world feels very friendly and instead of assessing each sensory input to gauge whether it's friend or foe, these things don't have to be decided.

    I'm always surprised by how good it feels and how peaceful it is - even though I've sat zazen thousands of times. Why do I forget this? Why is it that sometimes many days pass by and I don't sit zazen?

    Chet
  • Hans
    Member
    • Mar 2007
    • 1853

    #2
    Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

    Dear Chet,

    you ask: "Why do I forget this? Why is it that sometimes many days pass by and I don't sit zazen?"

    Obviously I cannot know why,because I am not you, however allow this novice to make a wild guess.

    Maybe, it is simply because you have not made sitting Zazen into a real habit yet. Creating habits is just as difficult as destroying habits. Once the habit has firmly grown roots right into one's daily life, it becomes your best ally.

    Just like brushing one's teeth. After a few years of forcing oneself (or being forced by one's parents) to do it twice daily, you just do it. It doesn't matter anymore whether your breath stinks, your teeth are rotten, or whether there is absolutely nothing wrong with your teeth. You just do it. Why? Because you do it. Period. Sometimes massaging your gums is nice, sometimes it isn't. But you do not have to think about doing this practise anymore.

    Since you seem to have no problem with discipline when it comes to working out, may I suggest you just set yourself a realistic sitting goal and stick to it for one year, no matter what. Completely detach yourself from ideas about why and how - and just do it. After that, sitting daily should come easy. But then again, everyone is different and my suggestion might work for some and could be poison for others.

    I am not qualified to tell you what to do, so all I can offer here stems from my own limited experience alone.

    The short version of the above paragraphs would be: Create a habit through goalless discipline.

    It worked for me, but everyone has to find their own way ultimately.

    Gassho,

    Hans

    Comment

    • Rich
      Member
      • Apr 2009
      • 2587

      #3
      Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

      I think Hans is right. You have to make it a habit so you just do it. If you think about it you'll find a reason not to do it. You'll question yourself with ideas like 'is this really any good' or 'I can skip today and I'll be fine'. Just being present for one moment is worth the effort. Maybe you could try keeping your just sitting mind in all your activities then the actual sitting would be no different.
      _/_
      Rich
      MUHYO
      無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

      https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

      Comment

      • Seiryu
        Member
        • Sep 2010
        • 620

        #4
        Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

        just an idea
        Maybe your ego doesn't want you to practice, you know it is good for you and that is exactly why you forget. Because you don't want what is good for you. So I would suggest like what everyone else said to make it into a daily habit.



        Gassho


        Seiryu
        Humbly,
        清竜 Seiryu

        Comment

        • Dojin
          Member
          • May 2008
          • 562

          #5
          Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

          I must agree with Hans and the rest. a habit might help you. but there are other things that might be a reason for not sitting. it might be just that you are tired and when you sit late it feels like you must force yourself. i know because i sometimes sit late at night and am falling asleep so i can barely stay awake while sitting. another thing might be that when you sit and feel like you got it you might think you dont need sitting anymore and begin to cut corners. i am sorry for the comparison but sometimes psychiatric patients tend to stop taking their medication when they get better because they feel they dont need it anymore. might be something like that.

          anyhow just my thought no the matter.

          Gassho, Dojin.
          I gained nothing at all from supreme enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment
          - the Buddha

          Comment

          • Heisoku
            Member
            • Jun 2010
            • 1338

            #6
            Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

            I'm always surprised by how good it feels and how peaceful it is.
            Don't be surprised Chet!!!!! I do zazen when I first get up, so I am only surprised at how bad I feel if I don't do it!!

            I think on the thread about schedule rigidity some comments suggest that flexibility in practice is preferable. Personally I find a set time reinforces habit...but each unto their own. :wink:
            Heisoku 平 息
            Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

            Comment

            • Eika
              Member
              • Sep 2007
              • 806

              #7
              Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

              Hi, Chet.

              I'm not sure how helpful this is, but here's my story (which has some similarities in the beginning).

              I started sitting in 1994 (breath counting) and would sit every day for about a month or two at a time, then gradually shift into sporadic practice until I wasn't sitting at all for a few months. Then I'd come back to it in great seriousness, only to drift away gradually again. This cycle continued for more than 10 years. I attribute part of it to not having a sangha or a teacher to inspire and inform my practice, and part of it to youthful lack of discipline. Whatever the case, I ran hot and cold with practice until about 4 years ago. Various life-events made that a particularly stressful time and I returned to sitting as a relief. Somewhere in those first few weeks back, I found Treeleaf and made a vow to myself to practice. Especially just before Jukai, I had this feeling that to really do Zen in the serious way my "spiritual ancestors" (TNH's term) did, I needed to live up to some minimum expectations. For me this meant sitting everyday. I still feel that way mostly, "Am I living up to the standard I inherited when I took Jukai?" So, once that priority was set, sitting has been solidly consistent. The only days I have missed since joining Treeleaf were because of the flu or migraines. I treat these vows just like wedding vows: not to be entered into lightly, not to be taken for granted, and a lifelong commitment. Pretty damn serious when I say it like that. But, ultimately, it is about priorities for me. In the list of things that must be accomplished everyday, zen practice is one of the higher priorities (along with other things like food, shelter, family time, etc.).

              I have no idea if this helps or applies to your life in any way. I offer it only because something "clicked" in my life a few years ago, and since then finding time for sitting has never been a problem.

              Gassho,
              Eika
              [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

              Comment

              • AlanLa
                Member
                • Mar 2008
                • 1405

                #8
                Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                Avoidance serves a function, but that function can sometimes become dysfunctional, as in not helpful. These kinds of functions tend to be personal idiosyncrasies, so only you can know what function avoiding zazen provides you. What do you get out of avoiding it? The answer is the function of your avoidance. Then, once you know the answer (which is probably nothing simple and might require lots of time to figure out or understand), then you let it go.

                In a very real way, I think this sums up our practice overall. We find our hindrances and then we let them go.
                AL (Jigen) in:
                Faith/Trust
                Courage/Love
                Awareness/Action!

                I sat today

                Comment

                • Heisoku
                  Member
                  • Jun 2010
                  • 1338

                  #9
                  Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                  Thankyou Eika for reminding me of the power of 'vow' and of my jukai vows.

                  Deep gassho.
                  Heisoku 平 息
                  Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

                  Comment

                  • disastermouse

                    #10
                    Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                    It's just weird to me that although zazen is usually pleasant and feels right, I somehow keep forgetting that and avoid it. This thread is an expression (written after zazen) that it's so weird to me that although sitting zazen feels like the very best thing to do, I still somehow avoid it.

                    I had zazen as a daily habit in my early 20s and it became obsessive and unhealthy, but I think that this time it wouldn't be.

                    Comment

                    • Heisoku
                      Member
                      • Jun 2010
                      • 1338

                      #11
                      Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                      Hi Chet

                      I don't know if you've changed your practice much...but..you sound so much....calmer...coherent and easier to read now!!! Its a revelation actually!
                      Best wishes in your endeavours.
                      Heisoku 平 息
                      Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39065

                        #12
                        Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                        Originally posted by Eika
                        Hi, Chet.

                        I'm not sure how helpful this is, but here's my story (which has some similarities in the beginning).
                        Hi Eika,

                        I know that you also teach music at the concert level. How does one get students motivated to do their scales and other practice?

                        I think there might be some similarities, as our practice may be a bit like learning to play beautiful music on life's piano.

                        Here, one gets grades even though there is no way to fail.

                        Gassho, J
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Stephanie

                          #13
                          Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                          Pick up Unlearning the Basics off of your bookshelf and read pages 51-52

                          (I would quote it here for all to read but typing two pages of book text with an iPhone is an exercise in masochism I'd rather avoid...)

                          Comment

                          • Keishin
                            Member
                            • Jun 2007
                            • 471

                            #14
                            Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                            Hello Chet and to all others posting here!

                            Why? Why indeed! Forget 'why.'

                            I think avoiding practice actually in some strange way is part of practice.

                            It changes over time. It is not the same for everyone. Face to face with self and there is no escape. Even if you never sit again, there is no escape from practice, having ever practiced. Let's call it practice in suspended state. Like seeds in the dry soil of the desert. It is practice awaiting circumstances to arise and flower.

                            We could psychologize 'why' (maybe it is so much of a 'good' thing you don't 'deserve' it; maybe you don't believe it will always be so 'good,' and so you avoid encountering that possibility). But while it is entertaining and might even once in a great while come close to or hit the mark, 'understanding' is not necessary and (from my experience) is unnecessary.

                            It is what it is. So. That being the case: Sit. Avoid sitting. Avoid avoiding (sit). Avoid avoiding avoiding sitting (don't sit).

                            Some people sit (to avoid other things).

                            I'll wager that thinking about the sitting you are avoiding is a form of sitting itself albeit a remote form.
                            I think this kind of thinking is a way I can soothe or excite myself--depending on what I am thinking of.

                            I can take this thinking and go ahead and sit anyway--I can say to myself: avoid all you want for the next 15 minutes! and set a timer and sit down. I can give myself permission to continue avoiding, if that's how it is going to be, and I can also give myself permission to 'sit' if I want to after all.

                            Sometimes I think it is the thought of sitting that gets me avoiding sitting, not the actual sitting of sitting.

                            Apologies, Chet, for not making much sense here, but the situation you are describing isn't one that can be REASONed out of, Spock would tell you it isn't logical. This doesn't mean it doesn't have it's own mysterious logic to it.

                            I haven't found a way through it--when I have had bouts of avoiding sitting, I just have had bouts of avoiding sitting...sometimes they've lasted a brief time, sometimes a longer time. Like breathing a short breath or a long breath I have just been aware that some bouts are brief and some are longer. I return when I return.

                            Good luck to you, and to us all with this recurrent theme

                            Comment

                            • disastermouse

                              #15
                              Re: Why do I avoid my practice?

                              The original post was more an exclamation of wonderment over the situation than anything else, I think.

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