Disgruntled

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  • Arquerin
    • May 2024

    Disgruntled

    Hi, all,

    This is the first topic I've started here at Treeleaf, and I hate to say it, but it's going to be filled with complaining. And there you have it. I hope you'll read this anyway.

    I've been meditating for quite a while now, two or three years at least, in a rather undisciplined way. I sit wherever I'm comfortable, and I don't fall asleep, but I can get so relaxed I could just let my arms drop right off my body. I always felt centered and very refreshed after one of these sittings. However.

    Now I'm trying to sit zazen, using more, um, "correct" technique, and I can hardly meditate at all. My blasted back hurts. I hurt between my shoulder blades. I am distracted by every little noise, every little itch, my legs want to twitch and jump, I just cannot bear it. I have tried different cushions in my chair, different chairs, different positions, sitting up straighter, not sitting up so straight, just gritting my teeth and bearing it so I'll get used to it, all of that. I am just plain frustrated. I guess I am a fat, lazy American who sits in cushy chairs too much, and on top of that, I am getting old and I am far from being in good physical condition. But this mess just makes me want to throw up my hands.

    Suggestions? Quitcherbitchin? What? :wink:

    Thanks, y'all,

    Jane
  • Hogen
    Member
    • Oct 2009
    • 261

    #2
    Re: Disgruntled

    As Taigu has mentioned elsewhere on the forum, don't concern yrself with the "correct" position. My body simply doesn't "do" lotus/half-lotus. I find it more important to have proper posture with the spine and the head and maintain an anchored butt and legs...whether that is seize or burmese or whatever.
    Hogen
    法眼

    #SatToday

    Comment

    • JohnsonCM
      Member
      • Jan 2010
      • 549

      #3
      Re: Disgruntled

      First, you should always stretch when begining sitting shikantaza. It can be somewhat uncomfortable. That being said, there are many ways to sit shikantaza, and Aitken Roshi points out in one of his books that he knew someone whose back went out on them and went through and entire sesshin on her back. He also says that you should sit on the "forward edge" of your comfort, where it might be mildly uncomfortable but not painful and damaging.

      As for the concentration part, every sound, every itch, every "distraction" is really no distraction at all, because they are the stuff of life, and all of life is zazen. Just sit and experience it, each itch the entirety of the universe. Body posture is important so as not to fall asleep or hurt oneself, but beyond that, zazen springs forth from the mind, not the spine.
      Gassho,
      "Heitetsu"
      Christopher
      Sat today

      Comment

      • Seiryu
        Member
        • Sep 2010
        • 620

        #4
        Re: Disgruntled

        Hi, Jane
        we tend to do things only when we feel comfortable and in the way we want it to be done. Why wouldn't we? our ways are always better... :wink:

        Although I wouldn't say there is a 'correct' way to sit, there are some ways that are more helpful then others. But what you are describing is normal. The ego doesn't want to sit still, the ego doesn't want to fall away. it wants to stay in control like it always is. so it will do anything to make you give up and stop. You have to see this, recognize it, and let it go. ask yourself; "who is it that is distracted by every little noise?" who is it that says; "I just cannot bear it?" Is this voice you? or is it something else?

        Now of course if you are really uncomfortable, it is better to move and change position. This practice is not about beating ourselves to sit like soldiers. But at the same time we shouldn't move at every little thing...you have to find the balance...

        Just keep at it. Remember; it is not easy, nothing that is truly good for you ever is.

        Keep in mind: The mind can only be still when the body is still. The body can only be still when the mind is still. Just sit. drop all thoughts of distracting, uncomfortable, etc...just sit and see how it goes...

        just some ideas....

        Gassho

        Seiryu
        Humbly,
        清竜 Seiryu

        Comment

        • Shohei
          Member
          • Oct 2007
          • 2854

          #5
          Re: Disgruntled

          Hiya
          Not much to offer really, but what little I can offer, requires more information from you

          I'll toss this out, Cushion or zafu can be height adjusted by adding or removing filling, this helps with the hips and which helps the back. Im not sure of what position your sitting but I did Full lotus until i put on weight, when i did it added to the thickness of my legs and lotus was no longer optimal for my body type (im a 6 foot tall 200lb guy currently) and so bending my legs so sharply put strain on my already weakened knees (snowboarder for 23 years). I switched to the next "correct" position, Half lotus as I thought was the requirement and this caused me the pain you are currently talking about. since half lotus causes me to twist a little to sit it, it put strain on my hips and morevoer my back and I had pain in the same places you described.

          Sitting "correctly" is comfortably all things said and done. Lotus was considered optimum for many reasons including the folks of yore could sit that way for long periods and it was very stable. I have discovered Burmese to be the optimal for me as it puts next to no strain on my hips, knees and thus my back is naturally straight(er) rather than "locked" into straight. If you feel you are forcing into a position and that you have to struggle to hold it, chances are it will not be sustainable and it will cause pain. We get enough of that daily and it we do not need add to it . You hit it big time there too... Sit in a chair if you need to sit in a chair! if Dogen had chairs and it was accepted seating method in his time and area I would venture to guess we would have a section in the Shobogenzo on the merits of sitting in and how to do so optimally in a chair

          This is to address the body bits!

          "I am distracted by every little noise, every little itch, my legs want to twitch and jump, I just cannot bear it."
          Now this I think Everyone who has sat Zazen can agree, they have run into in varying amount Through out practice. the good news is your not alone, beginner or long term practitioner (old beginner) it happens. The not so bad but not so good news is That is normal. that is part of zazen that we all run into.

          This seems to have real strength to "keep us from really meditating" because we are looking for something else, some other place we have to get. Then we are not sitting zazen (or being sat by zazen) we are going to work(late) in rush hour traffic or listening listening to a crying baby in a long que at the grocery store.

          This wanting X instead of what is really going on makes whats really going on seem extra annoying and X extra desirable. Doing this are Struggling against our selves its not the the world that has a problem its us.

          Accepting what is, as it is, whole and perfect in what it is, nothing to add or take away. Itchy nose... great its not going to fall of, its not going to drive you insane.
          Its just a trick of the mind - scratch that, body-mind, to get you to move. We tend to like motion its part, of the distraction tactic

          That said...who said you cannot scratch? It may be perfect, it maybe whole and still annoying so ...if its real, deal - scratch it, move it, cough snuff, what ever you need to do and get it over with. Then return.

          When you sit do not seek a bliss-ed out state, in fact do not seek. Just sit. if you catch yourself stuck in an annoyed state, notice it, let it go and move on (your mind does that on its own anyways). Find your self in a very calm and peaceful sit, great, enjoy and move on too! No need to seek and stick to things, or avoid them either, these are the basic causes of suffering!!

          All this said, and I will say I am no expert, and so many others will have some brilliant suggestions. I only offer what I do as it helped me and I hope it can help you too! After all Zazen is the gate of ease, it really shouldn't hurt

          Gassho
          Shohei

          **EDIT to say: ditto what Seiryu wrote!

          Comment

          • Geika
            Treeleaf Unsui
            • Jan 2010
            • 4971

            #6
            Re: Disgruntled

            Originally posted by Arquerin
            This is the first topic I've started here at Treeleaf, and I hate to say it, but it's going to be filled with complaining. And there you have it. I hope you'll read this anyway.
            I like it. It has a twist.

            Originally posted by Arquerin
            I've been meditating for quite a while now, two or three years at least, in a rather undisciplined way.
            Ah, me too.

            Originally posted by Arquerin
            Now I'm trying to sit zazen, using more, um, "correct" technique, and I can hardly meditate at all. My blasted back hurts. I hurt between my shoulder blades. I am distracted by every little noise, every little itch, my legs want to twitch and jump, I just cannot bear it. I have tried different cushions in my chair, different chairs, different positions, sitting up straighter, not sitting up so straight, just gritting my teeth and bearing it so I'll get used to it, all of that. I am just plain frustrated. I guess I am a fat, lazy American who sits in cushy chairs too much, and on top of that, I am getting old and I am far from being in good physical condition. But this mess just makes me want to throw up my hands.
            I have had this too. Here's how I figure it:

            When something rubs this hard against me, I now try to take it as a little hint from my ego that it might actually be working on me. It is producing friction-- it is causing some kind of change.

            Originally posted by Seiryu
            Although I wouldn't say there is a 'correct' way to sit, there are some ways that are more helpful then others. But what you are describing is normal. The ego doesn't want to sit still, the ego doesn't want to fall away. it wants to stay in control like it always is. so it will do anything to make you give up and stop. You have to see this, recognize it, and let it go. ask yourself; "who is it that is distracted by every little noise?" who is it that says; "I just cannot bear it?" Is this voice you? or is it something else?
            Shikantaza changed me up. I am tons more patient than I used to be, and I understand the value of concentration. If I can enjoy staring at my wall for half an hour, I can enjoy pretty much anything. I can see more details around me. "Going with the flow," is a real concept and not just a catchphrase. I can feel the ease with which gentleness brings force. I know better when I am lying to myself.

            Originally posted by Seiryu
            Just keep at it. Remember; it is not easy, nothing that is truly good for you ever is.
            I am starting to suspect that this is true.

            Originally posted by Arquerin
            Suggestions? Quitcherbitchin? What? :wink:
            Just go sit!
            求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
            I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

            Comment

            • Risho
              Member
              • May 2010
              • 3179

              #7
              Re: Disgruntled

              So I can tell already that I don't like you. hahaha I'm just kidding

              I get the same exact feeling. Right in my rhomboids (upper back in between shoulder blades) I feel a lot of tension like it's just really tight and it can get painful. But I realized that I hold a lot of tension there. When things are stressful I find that I somehow sit (not just in zazen but anywhere I'm at: e.g. the desk at work, etc), in an awkward position that causes me tension. It's not obvious but I definitely notice it. So I usually take a deep breath relax and start focusing on the tension rather than worrying about it.

              I don't know if that helps, but I sure as hell know it's annoying

              Gassho,

              Risho
              Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

              Comment

              • Arquerin

                #8
                Re: Disgruntled

                Thank you all for responding. These are amazing responses that you've given me.

                And what am I going to do now? I'm gonna go sit! :lol: Whatever it is, is what it will be.

                Jane

                Comment

                • Taigu
                  Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                  • Aug 2008
                  • 2710

                  #9
                  Re: Disgruntled

                  Jane,

                  Now, I know most people won't listen to what I am going to say: I have one and only one advice: find a good a good Alexander technique teacher. and start having lessons taking your zafu with you. Please, no strectching or correcting by yourself. I have been there Jane and had the good fortune to really experience painless and easy sitting after twenty years of real struggle.

                  Give it a go, you won't regret it .

                  gassho


                  Taigu

                  Comment

                  • Hogo
                    Member
                    • Feb 2010
                    • 497

                    #10
                    Re: Disgruntled

                    Originally posted by Taigu
                    Now, I know most people won't listen to what I am going to say:
                    Why? It sounds like you belive it helps greatly.

                    Originally posted by Taigu
                    find a good a good Alexander technique teacher.
                    is it along the lines of posture training? Strength? Will try to find more info.
                    Gassho ~ Dave.

                    Edit** No sooner asked than found http://www.alexandertechnique.com/at.htm

                    Comment

                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39078

                      #11
                      Re: Disgruntled

                      Hi Jane,

                      I just want to say ... make sure you sit with all the short "sit-a-long" talks for beginners (we're all always 'beginners"), including Taigu's fine talks on posture ...

                      viewforum.php?f=20

                      ... also these short essays on "how to do ... and non-do" Shikantaza ...

                      viewforum.php?f=23

                      ... and THEN we'll talk!

                      and also look at this Taigu approved book, also very helpful on finding the every changing postures right for you in that moment.

                      viewtopic.php?p=30208#p30208

                      Gassho, Jundo
                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                      Comment

                      • Rich
                        Member
                        • Apr 2009
                        • 2587

                        #12
                        Re: Disgruntled

                        Due to a knee injury I am sitting on a cushion on a chair. I do think it is important to keep the spine straight and the head balanced on top of it. To me it feels like my head is slightly leaning back. What position were you using when you meditated in the past and felt comfortable and centered?
                        _/_
                        Rich
                        MUHYO
                        無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                        https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                        Comment

                        • Ryumon
                          Member
                          • Apr 2007
                          • 1691

                          #13
                          Re: Disgruntled

                          Originally posted by Taigu
                          Jane,

                          Now, I know most people won't listen to what I am going to say: I have one and only one advice: find a good a good Alexander technique teacher. and start having lessons taking your zafu with you. Please, no strectching or correcting by yourself. I have been there Jane and had the good fortune to really experience painless and easy sitting after twenty years of real struggle.
                          A strong second to that. I had six months of Alexander lessons more than twenty years ago, and a handful of lessons in different cities since then. (The initial lessons were in Norway when I was spending a year there; I'm in France now, and found teachers in a couple of cities I've lived in.) While I don't have lessons now (I live in a rural area), I still remember much of what I discovered. I would very much like to be able to have lessons regularly, because I have problems with scoliosis and arthritis. But even if you can't keep it up, just getting a taste of it - for a long enough time - will go a very long way.

                          I always thought of the Alexander Technique as a sort of physical zazen...
                          ---
                          Ryūmon (Kirk)
                          流文

                          SAT/LAH

                          I know nothing.

                          Comment

                          • Kaishin
                            Member
                            • Dec 2010
                            • 2322

                            #14
                            Re: Disgruntled

                            Lots of discussions on this if you search "full lotus." If you really want to get to that point, lots of stretching over a long period of time. Here are some resources if you're interested. With all my busted joints, Burmese is the best posture for me:

                            http://zenmontpellier.voila.net/eng/lotus/lotuseng.html

                            http://www.ashtanganeworleans.com/Old%2 ... usGrow.htm

                            http://www.movingintostillness.com/book ... asana.html

                            Cheers,
                            Matt
                            Thanks,
                            Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
                            Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

                            Comment

                            • Taigu
                              Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                              • Aug 2008
                              • 2710

                              #15
                              Re: Disgruntled

                              I have to humbly disagree with you Matto, the right thing does itself, the right thing cannot done by direct work on the physical body. No fixing, correcting will do. Everybody is different. Yoga is great. For me, yoga is wrong. Not because I am against yoga, just because it is not the way my body can blossom.

                              Thank you, kirkmc, you obviously know what we are talking about, the release of the head forward and up...There is nothing like it, Alexander did find the way for everybody to unfold the being in action and stillness.

                              Dear Rich, your question is complex...you say: I feel...This feeling could be misperception. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. You may ask somebody to check if what you feel is what is ( and there is nothing wrong sitting on a cushion and on a chair ).

                              And I agree Matto, Burmese rules!!!



                              gassho


                              Taigu

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