SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

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  • Jinyo
    Member
    • Jan 2012
    • 1957

    SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I have a very different experience.

    Pretty difficult for me to sit zazen with my eyes open (I'm normally propped up anyway - so not actually sitting)

    I do keep opening my eyes to try and stay alert!

    In my everyday world of open eyes - because of neurological condition that affects vision/balance - I experience a lot of
    what's being described. The world shimmers/shakes - patterns jump out at me and throw me off balance. It's just all sensory stuff.
    But I can't maintain eye contact with what's infront of me - even if it's stationary.

    It's actually a relief to close my eyes and on a 'good' day I see no-thing - there is a corrolation between emptiness/unity that just
    seems to present as a calm empty space (might be visually white) within my mind.

    Perhaps this isn't shikantaza - but it's the best I can do - and it does make me ponder on the experiences of visually impaired/blind
    individuals sitting Zazen.

    Gassho

    Willow
  • Ryumon
    Member
    • Apr 2007
    • 1705

    #2
    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

    I was long used to sitting with my eyes closed, and it was very hard to make the switch. There are times when I close my eyes, because I just get distracted by what I see. I, too, have balance issues, and depending on how I'm sitting - on a cushion or on a stool, which I do if my back hurts too much - open eyes can give me a different feeling.
    ---
    Ryūmon (Kirk)
    流文

    SAT/LAH

    I know nothing.

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39419

      #3
      Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

      Originally posted by willow
      Perhaps this isn't shikantaza - but it's the best I can do - and it does make me ponder on the experiences of visually impaired/blind
      individuals sitting Zazen.

      Gassho

      Willow
      Hi WIllow,

      If that is truly how you need to sit ... then sit such way, sitting with and as "just what is". Such is good Shikantaza.

      Also, if sometimes dizzy etc. ... then sit (or recline etc.) with and as that too. Such is good Shikantaza.

      If sitting with eyes open or closed ... wanting the sitting to be some other way than what it is in order to be somehow better or one's image of ideal sitting ... then that ain't good Shikantaza.

      Gassho, Jundo
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Jinyu
        Member
        • May 2009
        • 768

        #4
        Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

        Originally posted by Jundo
        If sitting with eyes open or closed ... wanting the sitting to be some other way than what it is in order to be somehow better or one's image of ideal sitting ... then that ain't good Shikantaza.

        Thank you Jundo, i needed that.
        Shikantaza can't be good or bad, short or long, ... but we are doing on the cushion can be ... not Shikantaza!

        deep gassho,
        Jinyu
        Jinyu aka Luis aka Silly guy from Brussels

        Comment

        • Jinyo
          Member
          • Jan 2012
          • 1957

          #5
          Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

          Jundo - I always feel your response is encouraging and kind - and also for me intuitively correct - when
          I ask this question of 'correct' physical posture for zazen.

          It's clearly as issue for me else I wouldn't keep coming back to it for reassurance. ops:

          Brad Warner's book is on the reading list (I began it today) and he writes 'There are meditation teachers out there who'll
          tell you that it's not important what position you sit in, that it's what you do with your mind that counts.I don't buy it. Proper
          posture is an absolute requirement of zazen practice.'

          I understand that it cases like mine you are addressing a specific difficulty - that you categorically don't say that anything goes.
          But it really upsets me that Warner doesn't address disability at all in his book (not as far as I've read) and I'm bemused by this
          in its implication that Zazen is only for people who are able-bodied?

          This is a sensitive point for me because I often end up asking myself 'am I really engaging in zazen - and if not - what 'am I engaged in/with?

          Do many teachers adhere to Warner's view? It just feels intuitively wrong to me. :?

          Gassho

          Willow

          Comment

          • Nenka
            Member
            • Aug 2010
            • 1238

            #6
            Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

            Originally posted by willow
            Jundo - I always feel your response is encouraging and kind - and also for me intuitively correct - when
            I ask this question of 'correct' physical posture for zazen.

            It's clearly as issue for me else I wouldn't keep coming back to it for reassurance. ops:

            Brad Warner's book is on the reading list (I began it today) and he writes 'There are meditation teachers out there who'll
            tell you that it's not important what position you sit in, that it's what you do with your mind that counts.I don't buy it. Proper
            posture is an absolute requirement of zazen practice.'

            I understand that it cases like mine you are addressing a specific difficulty - that you categorically don't say that anything goes.
            But it really upsets me that Warner doesn't address disability at all in his book (not as far as I've read) and I'm bemused by this
            in its implication that Zazen is only for people who are able-bodied?

            This is a sensitive point for me because I often end up asking myself 'am I really engaging in zazen - and if not - what 'am I engaged in/with?

            Do many teachers adhere to Warner's view? It just feels intuitively wrong to me. :?

            Gassho

            Willow
            Willow, take a look at this. It explains Warner's point of view a bit more.

            http://www.hardcorezen.blogspot.com/201 ... ne_12.html

            Comment

            • Ryumon
              Member
              • Apr 2007
              • 1705

              #7
              Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

              What Warner says is, essentially, that if you have any kind of handicap, then you can't do zazen. I think that's a very wrong point of view.

              There are a lot of people who do say that, but many others who say that if you can't sit on a cushion, then that's fine. (And many who are far more qualified than Warner.) I do think - and this is from experience - that whatever one does, it's important to keep the back straight; I have a feeling that there's something going on in terms of nerve impulses when the back is straight.

              But I sit on a stool very often; I've sat lying down when my back was really hurting me.

              Who does he think he is to tell me that this is not zazen?
              ---
              Ryūmon (Kirk)
              流文

              SAT/LAH

              I know nothing.

              Comment

              • SoR
                Member
                • Dec 2011
                • 103

                #8
                Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                Originally posted by kirkmc
                What Warner says is, essentially, that if you have any kind of handicap, then you can't do zazen. I think that's a very wrong point of view.
                That doesn't seem to be what he's saying if you check the link Neka posted.


                On the topic of hallucinations during meditation, once time, while I was several hours into a one-day retreat, the whole room seemed to darken around me and I only really saw a small point in front of me, kind of as if I was looking through the tube of a roll of paper towels. My body also felt what I can only describe as "lightness." It was almost as if I were floating a half inch off the ground. This lasted what felt like 20 minutes or so but I really have no idea. It was as if time had disappeared.

                That was the first and last time I've had that experience and it was a little over a year ago. I still don't know what to make of it really.

                Comment

                • Omoi Otoshi
                  Member
                  • Dec 2010
                  • 801

                  #9
                  SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                  I haven't read Brad's book, but I know from his blog that he has helped some people with impairments find a suitable posture for Zazen. In at least one case, that was lying down!

                  EDIT: Sorry Nenka, missed the link! Was interrupted and several people posted before I did!

                  It's just that he, like his and Jundo's teacher Nishijima Roshi, believes posture is important.

                  Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said regarding the four horses that the student who can sit in a perfect posture from the beginning often takes longer to realize the true meaning of Zen.

                  Gassho,
                  Pontus
                  In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
                  you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
                  now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
                  the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

                  Comment

                  • Jinyo
                    Member
                    • Jan 2012
                    • 1957

                    #10
                    Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                    thanks for the link Nenka but I'm afraid I don't feel it's much better than what Warner clearly writes in his book. If he hadn't written such a strong
                    statement in the first
                    place people with MS would not be writing to him with their insecurities about not being able to sit Zazen properly :roll:

                    I feel he's being very defensive in his blog comments, and the throw away line about 'not worrying' about people with disabilities because they'll
                    always figure a way out for themselves is pretty dismissive.

                    To be honest I find it all a bit weird - why on earth is it better to advise someone to lay on a 'hard' floor - does discomfort necessarily have to
                    be part of this process? Maybe it is 'better' if people's spines are straight - energy can flow this way and that - but in my (no doubt limited view)
                    this has got little to do with living a caring life and training the mind not to get hooked into attachments.

                    It just sounds like 'my zazen is better than your zazen'

                    Sorry - great attachment to grumpiness this evening

                    Gassho

                    Willow

                    Comment

                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39419

                      #11
                      Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                      Hi,

                      Well, Taigu and I say that balanced posture is vital too. However, as is always so with Shikantaza, not always in the ways one might assume ...

                      Bro. Taigu, in his wonderful series on posture, emphasizes balanced posture (as do about all Zen teachers) ... although he and I advocate that sitting posture should be flexible, non-rigid, not forced, balanced but perhaps changing even during a single sitting, varying from person to person and body to body. Here is the first of Taigu's series ...

                      viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2925

                      This book we also recommend has much the same 'position' on that question (pun intended) ...

                      viewtopic.php?p=30208#p30208

                      Body-Mind are Not Two, and most intimately connected. A posture that lets one drop the body from mind, just "forget 'bout it", is good ... and a balanced posture helps bring a balanced body ... which helps bring a balanced mind ... and round and round. The traditional Lotus Postures (or Burmese Posture) are very balanced ... if someone can manage them. If not (truly not, despite one's sincere attempts over time) ... then a chair or bench or seiza are fine (if sat in a balanced way, with the back balanced ... not just slumped in a chair or leaning back).

                      HOWEVER ... HERE IS THE SPECIAL SHIKANTAZA ASPECT: TO WIT, WE SIT WITH AND AS WHAT IS! THAT IS "TRUE BALANCE"! If one finds oneself in a full body cast in traction in a hospital bed ... just "sit-lay" so. If (like one friend of mine with a spinal disease) one can only stand Zazen ... just "sit-stand" so. Got it? There is no "bad" Zazen ... and dropping all views of how it "should and must be" and "the good and right way" makes "GOOD & RIGHT ZAZEN"! Having a rigid, ideal form of Zazen in mind and feeling that one is "not doing it right" ... thinking there is "good vs. bad Zazen" or "right and wrong Zazen" IS BAD ZAZEN AND ONE IS SITTING ZAZEN WRONG EVEN IF ONE IS SITTING WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL POSTURE IN THE WORLD LIKE A GOLDEN BUDDHA STATUE! :shock: There is no way to "muck up" Zazen ... SO DON'T MUCK IT UP by thinking there is ... ... even while making a sincere effort to sit as best you can and not muck it up! (read the foregoing paragraph at least 3x please)!

                      More on "good vs. bad Zazen here", in this old post:

                      viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2783

                      Here is a quick analogy ... the Shikantaza way to play soccer (or "futbal' for the rest of the world!): In soccer, posture and balance are important, and there are good and balanced ways to jump and kick the ball. However, in Shikantaza-Soccer if someone has only one leg ... play like that. If someone has no legs, is in a wheelchair or hospital bed ... play and "kick" right there. The real beauty of the game is found in such way ... for in this match, all points are made from the first, and the game is WON by dropping all thoughts of win vs. lose. :shock: Think "win vs. lose" and you LOSE even if you play like Pele! However, play sincerely, do your best, keep moving (whether still or moving) and don't quit!

                      ALL AT ONCE AS ONE!.

                      Something like that.

                      Gassho, Jundo

                      PS - I see that Bro. Taigu had a post on this same question today ...

                      viewtopic.php?p=69252#p69252

                      PPS - Over the last ten years, I have seen many Japanese Zen temples, including the big monasteries, introduce some chairs at their lay folks' sittings for disabled and arthritic elderly folks. The Japanese, however ... come hell or high water ... still tend to avoid them. Part of the reason is something I wrote here in this "Shikantaza Misunderstandings" post ...

                      MISUNDERSTANDING I - "Just Sitting" is only to sit in the "Full Lotus Position" and no other position:

                      Japanese culture can be a bit rigid and incessant on the one "right" way to do any action, be it to pour a cup of tea (this is a cultural aspect of the traditional arts) or crossing the street, and about pushing oneself to conform to that 'One Way or the Highway' ... called a 'Kata' (if anyone has martial arts experience). Such teachers may tend to emphasize that the one and only way to sit Zazen is in the "Lotus Position". Here is a little description of "Kata" (I cannot verify the source of the following, but I can verify the conclusion from 20 years living in Japan):

                      .... an immovable set of rules that govern what is and what is not accepted as acceptable behavior or thinking in japan ... In reality, there are many “Ways” to do most things in Japan, although each group will have a tendency to claim that its pattern is “the Way.” As a medical researcher who has participated in procedures and experiments at many dozens of Japanese hospitals, universities and the like, I know that no two groups ever will follow exactly the same patterns. Each, however, will have a tendency to explain that its way is “the Way,” usually because the most senior person in the group will have come to that conclusion after having learned it to be the thinking of some other person ... that the senior person respects. (Also, one must be very careful in suggesting that a competing group might have a better way which contradicts the opinion of a senior member of group). Every group in every culture does this, but what is unusual in Japan is the inflexible, almost mechanical way the system operates. The emphasis on proper “Kata” (Boye de Menthe has a wonderful, hard to find little book on this) in Japanese society is reminiscent of any conservative, tradition based culture, though unique in the way is has developed to permit a functioning, industrial society.
                      On the other hand, as with "Oryoki" eating or "Tea Ceremony" (wonderful examples of "Kata"), there is a beauty in the fixed form that one literally can lose ones' 'self' in. So, "Kata" is also a very very good thing, don't misunderstand me on that point. Conforming to "classic" form has very many beneficial aspects. I am a big big fan of Oryoki and other Kata practices, and I teach them. In fact, Dogen seems to have only talked about the Lotus Position (no seiza benches for him in the 13th century), and my own teacher, Nishijima says that folks should sit in the Lotus Position (and he is not too open to alternatives ... he rightly says that some folks reject the Lotus position and such before really giving it a try). Uchiyama Roshi has said some things in his book that place him more or less in that category.

                      But when this is carried too far, the "Lotus Position" itself can come to be thought of as having some "magic power", or fetishized as working some miraculous psycho-physiological effect on the body to lead to "Satori". But that is not the meaning, I believe, of "sitting in the Lotus Position is enlightenment itself".

                      It is, rather, "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment' is 'enlightenment itself'. The Lotus Position itself is not the point. It is "doing one pure act in one moment". (Although, truly, the Lotus Position does have many advantages in allowing us to forget the body, and balance the body, leading to balance in mind ... chair sitting, for example, is just not as good in that way)

                      Well, in the fat thighed, bad back West, many folks just cannot manage the Lotus Position. So, the emphasis has changed slightly: As opposed to "sitting in the Lotus Position as a 'pure' act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment' ... it has changed to 'sitting as a pure act, the one and only act in the universe at that moment'. In other words, "sitting in a chair is enlightenment itself' is true too if approached with that attitude. Do "chair sitting" as a Kata!

                      By the way, while Dogen and others emphasized that sitting Zazen is "enlightenment itself", they also taught that everything is "Zazen" if approached that way. Dogen sometimes said that Zazen is only sitting (not walking, running, standing or lying down), but he also said that Zazen is walking, running, standing or lying down (that guy knew how to talk out of both sides of his mouth!) So, I teach that perspective too here at Treeleaf.
                      viewtopic.php?p=49416#p49416
                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                      Comment

                      • Omoi Otoshi
                        Member
                        • Dec 2010
                        • 801

                        #12
                        Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                        I see sitting in the lotus position as ritual, an important religious ritual that has been transmitted from person to person for thousands of years. Like all rituals it is perfectly useless, until at some point it may not be so useless anymore. Personally, for different reasons and no reason at all, I have chosen not to practice many of the classic Zen rituals. But I am keeping the ritual of the cross legged position. Through it, I feel grounded in my practice and I feel a connection with all those who have walked this path before me, who sat in a similar cross legged fashion. There's nothing magical about it. No two people sit the same anyway. So even if someone can't sit cross legged, don't worry, it's all in your mind. Make your own ritual, your own sitting practice and I believe you will connect with all of the ancestors in a more profound way than someone who is proud of their perfect lotus ever will.

                        Kodo Sawaki Roshi said:
                        "If it’s even the slightest bit personalized, it isn’t pure, unadulterated zazen. We’ve got to practice genuine, pure zazen, without mixing it with gymnastics or satori or anything. When we bring in our personal ideas – even only a little bit – it’s no longer the buddha-dharma."

                        Gassho,
                        Pontus
                        In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
                        you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
                        now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
                        the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

                        Comment

                        • Ryumon
                          Member
                          • Apr 2007
                          • 1705

                          #13
                          Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                          I've never been able to sit in the lotus position, but from looking at people in that position, it seems like it is very stable if you are sitting on a flat surface, ie without a cushion. So I don't think it is a ritual, but rather a practical tool. It may now be a ritual, as we have things like cushions and chairs...
                          ---
                          Ryūmon (Kirk)
                          流文

                          SAT/LAH

                          I know nothing.

                          Comment

                          • Omoi Otoshi
                            Member
                            • Dec 2010
                            • 801

                            #14
                            Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                            Yes, I agree it's a practical tool in that it is a very good way to sit!

                            But, as Jundo says, true stability includes both stability and instability.
                            When new to Zazen practice, I believe it's helpful to find the most stable position possible, sit comfortably, with a perfectly smooth white wall to face, adjust the temperature so it's not too warm or cold and make sure there are not too many disturbing sounds. That way, it's easier to give the monkey mind a rest, to get a taste of what it's like when the hand of thought opens. But after a while, it's OK if the position isn't perfectly stable, OK, if there's some slight discomfort, OK if you face something else than a wall, OK if it's a little to warm or cold, OK if the kids make a racket. It's what is in that moment. Nothing is excluded. With this attitude, when not too attached to my view of how things should be, once in a while I find myself doing Zazen, or Zazen doing me, when I'm walking the dog too, not only on the cushion.

                            Gassho,
                            Pontus
                            In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
                            you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
                            now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
                            the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

                            Comment

                            • Ryumon
                              Member
                              • Apr 2007
                              • 1705

                              #15
                              Re: SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing

                              Originally posted by Omoi Otoshi

                              But, as Jundo says, true stability includes both stability and instability.
                              I would describe that as "dynamic balance."
                              ---
                              Ryūmon (Kirk)
                              流文

                              SAT/LAH

                              I know nothing.

                              Comment

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