Zazen and Reflection

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  • Troy
    Member
    • Sep 2013
    • 1318

    Zazen and Reflection

    Hi, I want to talk about some benefits I have been getting from both Zazen and a meditation I am calling Reflection meditation. It might be called something different but I don't know.

    When I Zazen, I let my self just be. I sit with my thoughts and emotions. I allow them to come and go without clinging to them. They arise and dissipate, arise and dissipate, forever and ever amen :-) Most times (but not always) my thoughts slow and my emotions calm down, and I have a great sense of well being and calmness. I have a better clarity about life. I don't make this my goal but it is what happens naturally to me and is why I continue to do it.

    For me, it has also been beneficial to meditate Reflectively. It is kind of the opposite of Zazen. The yang to its yin. It is sitting and contemplating myself. I do it in a room free of distractions where I can really really focus on myself.

    For example, I am a shy person. I have always struggled with it. When I look deeply at it during Reflective meditation, I realize it causes me a lot of stress and anxiety.

    Shyness makes me a passive person and I allow myself to be a door mat, and when I can't take it anymore I suddenly become aggressive and act inappropriately. The aggression leads to stress and anxiety for how I bahaved.

    Shyness has made me less successful in my career because I am not assertive enough to express myself in an effective way. This leads to more stress and anxiety.

    Shyness has prevented me from having a lot of friends. I have missed out on many meaningful relationships which again leads to stress and anxiety.

    You can see how this list can go on and on. One aspect of my personality permeates every part of my life.

    With out taking the time to Reflect on myself, I would have never realized this. In fact, I was in denial thinking oh, I am not shy because that is weak and I am not a weak person.

    Discovering I was shy, accepting it and here is the most important part: BEING OK WITH IT, has brought indescribable relief for me. A near end of suffering in that part of my life. The suffering diminishes daily as I discover how this realization affects my life. In this case, the "being OK with it" is enough I don't need to focus on solutions. The solutions happen naturally. This is what Reflective meditation has and is doing for me.

    Thanks for listening :-) Thoughts?
  • Dosho
    Member
    • Jun 2008
    • 5784

    #2
    Troy,

    I am very glad to hear that your practice has been helpful to you. Yes, we do it with no thought of gain, but over time I don't think we'd continue doing it if we didn't feel some benefit.

    I can't say that I have ever heard of reflection meditation as such, but I think this is a process that arises naturally. For me it happens sometimes during zazen, sometimes in a dream, and sometimes when I am sitting on the toilet. For me, all is zazen...no separation.

    So, while I am only a novice priest trainee, I will simply encourage you not to think of these practices as two different things. I can relate to everything you described and one pitfall for me was eventually starting to keep a "scorecard" of what had been "improved" and what had not. I don't think you are doing that, but it is something to be aware of in your practice.

    You can be a weak person in some experiences or a strong person in others. But just focus on being a person; the rest will sort itself out.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

    Comment

    • Geika
      Treeleaf Unsui
      • Jan 2010
      • 4977

      #3
      I am glad that Reflection Meditation has helped you, however, here we focus on the practice of shikantaza. It may seem restrictive to focus on this one style of sitting, but it is very important that we do so that this place remains a valid resource and sangha for Soto Zen Buddhist practice and study.

      Shikantaza is yin and yang as one, complete. It requires no complementary practice.

      I am not telling you not to do Reflection Meditation. Also, I am not a teacher. There are many "medicines". Here, it's Shikantaza. I encourage focus on zazen while you're here, but of course you may do as you wish.

      I have a lot of anxiety too. Zazen doesn't fix it, but I am now able to look a bit past it as it occurs, within it, but present and knowing it will pass. It occurs less and less.
      求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
      I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

      Comment

      • Troy
        Member
        • Sep 2013
        • 1318

        #4
        I just made up that word "Reflection meditation." I do not know if it is technically meditation (what ever that means, lol) but it kind of feels like it is. Dosho, I like what you said about not keeping score. I think that is important. I don't know if I am doing that, but I do take note when I see changes in myself. I feel like the two are different process (maybe I don't have a clear understanding of Zazen), but I think Zazen led me to reflection and in a way they are connected and the same. I did think of it that way before, but it makes sense to me now thank you.

        Amelia, I have great respect for Zazen and I do it daily. It remains the center of my practice. Reflecting on the roots of my suffering has been beneficial to me as well. For me, it does not take away from Zazen, but complements it. Maybe yang to the yin were the wrong words. What I was trying to say is during Zazen I let the thoughts and feelings come and go. I take note of them, but don't cling to them. During reflection I dive deep in to my thought process and the reasons I am having those emotions. But, like Dosho said maybe it is really the same. I can see how they are interconnected.

        Comment

        • Risho
          Member
          • May 2010
          • 3179

          #5
          Originally posted by Dosho
          Troy,

          I am very glad to hear that your practice has been helpful to you. Yes, we do it with no thought of gain, but over time I don't think we'd continue doing it if we didn't feel some benefit.

          I can't say that I have ever heard of reflection meditation as such, but I think this is a process that arises naturally. For me it happens sometimes during zazen, sometimes in a dream, and sometimes when I am sitting on the toilet. For me, all is zazen...no separation.

          So, while I am only a novice priest trainee, I will simply encourage you not to think of these practices as two different things. I can relate to everything you described and one pitfall for me was eventually starting to keep a "scorecard" of what had been "improved" and what had not. I don't think you are doing that, but it is something to be aware of in your practice.

          You can be a weak person in some experiences or a strong person in others. But just focus on being a person; the rest will sort itself out.

          Gassho,
          Dosho
          Gassho,

          Risho
          Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

          Comment

          • shikantazen
            Member
            • Feb 2013
            • 361

            #6
            Your reflective meditation sounds to me like a kind of self-inquiry. I think it is a natural outcome of lot of spiritual practices and is a good thing. The teachers can speak more on this but to me it sounds good

            Gassho,
            Sam

            Comment

            • Jinyo
              Member
              • Jan 2012
              • 1957

              #7
              Hello Troy,

              I can understand why you might describe your reflections as 'reflection meditation' because it feels like a very focussed process - perhaps more
              focussed than the normal reflective thoughts that come up as we go about our daily lives.

              I think it's fine to differentiate between Zazen - 'letting go and letting be' and the more analytic diving into introspection and self analysis.

              It's all fine - and no doubt interconnected - but maybe not quite the same?

              So I can see where Amelia's coming from - though I don't feel you're introducing another method here - more just writing about a process that's helped you.

              I like what you wrote Dosho

              Gassho

              Willow

              Comment

              • Troy
                Member
                • Sep 2013
                • 1318

                #8
                Zazen and Reflection

                Yes, this is not any thing new . It is more something I am discovering :-)
                Last edited by Troy; 02-20-2014, 10:48 PM.

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39221

                  #9
                  Hi Troy,

                  I would say that so long as one is sitting Zazen with no thought of gain or payoff at all, complete in the Complete Wholeness of that action, sitting like Buddha sitting Buddha, the Sacredness of Just Sitting as the only place to be and only thing to do in that moment in all time and all space ... no points, no scorecard (for the game is won & one just by taking the field of sitting!) ... nothing in need of adding or taking away, nothing to improve ... Yes, as in your lovely description, Troy, we do not buy into, grab onto or wallow in thoughts and emotions during Zazen (I took out the "I" to emphasize):

                  When Zazen, let just be. sit past thoughts and emotions ... all comes and goes without clinging ... arises and dissipates, arises and dissipates, forever and ever amen :-)

                  ... then, rising from the cushion getting on with our day, one can do many things. No problem. One then even finds that the "many things" and Zazen are not two. So if something is helpful, then good.

                  I would say that this "reflection" rings of the following, a kind of Vipassana awareness. I sometimes write this:

                  ================================

                  Pretty much all schools of Buddhism instruct us to become aware of the games the mind plays, the "monkeymind", or "mind theatre" as I sometimes call it.

                  When sitting Zazen, we "just sit" ... we let thoughts go without analysis during Zazen. There is nothing to do or attain in the sitting, nothing to examine or focus upon ... and that non-doing and non-examining is VITAL and SACRED. Even during our busy day, when annoyances or resistance, anger or upset come into mind, we can turn to a bit of "standing Shikantaza" ... just release them, let them go, do not become trapped.

                  However, "vipassana" (in the meaning of insight into the human mind theatre) is also vital in about every corner of Buddhism, Zen included. For example, "thought awareness" as thoughts and emotions arise during our busy day ... when tired, hot, a little angry, happy, etc. ... is a wonderful practice. I might not go so far as to encourage a practice of detailed labeling morning until night, but I also advocate a practice of being aware of the different thoughts that come into mind (just not --during-- Zazen itself, when we are not to be adding anything). This awareness is, however, a very important part of learning to observe our mind's workings and tricks. So, for example, instead of just feeling angry, greedy or tired, and instead of just saying to ourselves merely "I am feeling angry/greedy/tired now", we should learn to say to ourselves such things as "this is my mind now temporarily feeling angry/greedy/tired during present conditions ... I can feel it arising, I can feel it developing, I can feel it passing away, I can let it go". When we learn to do that, experiencing the emotions of the mind becomes just watching a bit of theatre.

                  All that is good, just not a practice for "during" Zazen, when we observe everything and nothing in particular.

                  Here is more that I wrote on the topic ...

                  Buddhist Practice is usually described as flying upon the twin wings of Samatha (calming thoughts and emotions, illuminating and dropping body-mind) and awareness and understanding of vipassana (insight and awareness primarily into the nature and workings of 'self' and mental functions). That is true in Zen practice no less than most other forms of Buddhist practice.

                  In a nutshell, Vipassana might be described as insights and awareness, based on Buddhist psychology, as to how the mind works and plays it games. It is an understanding of the Skandhas (form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness ... those words always sung in the Heart Sutra), how our thoughts and emotional reactions arise, how we label and divide the world. We should also understand the Buddha's ideas about how suffering arises within us, which is intimately tied to all that.

                  However, unlike some schools of Buddhism, in Shikantaza we do not pursue any particular practices --during-- Zazen itself in order to cultivate such vipassana insight ... and much insight naturally arises from Zazen as "Zazen does its thing". Perhaps we might say that, just in "just sitting" Shikantaza ... dropping thoughts of this and that, thus quieting the mind's "mind games" ... we develop a natural sensitivity and understanding of the mind's "mind games" (much like one first comes to really appreciate what "urban noise" is when one first drives out of the city to the middle of the desert or some other truly quiet place).

                  Off the cushion too, we can learn to bring Shikantaza out into the world, learning to release thoughts and emotions which arise without being trapped by them.

                  And, apart from "on the Zafu" sitting times, it is also good to develop some insight and insight into the "mind's games", and come to identify the workings of the Skandhas and such within us day to day.

                  For example, if you feel an angry or jealous thought arising within you during your day, it is very helpful to identify that as a "bit of temporary mind theatre" and "just the self judging and conflicting with another perceived self". That gives us some distance from the passing emotion, and we no longer see the emotion as quite as inevitable and "true" as we might have before.

                  For example, in the case of anger ... We need to develop a sensitivity to how anger arises within us, the triggers which tend to set it off, the first feeling of it starting to arise and the cycle it follows until vanishing. We need to catch ourself more and develop the ability to say, "I am feeling the emotion of anger now, but it is only the mind created theater which is present in this moment ... it need not be so." We need to see it as a story the self writes for itself, "catch it" and thus not be "sucked in" and fooled as much. (Most people who feel anger do not realize it is just a mind created bit of theater which can be replaced by something else ... it is not the way things "have to be". E.g., most people think, when they become upset, that they have "reason to be upset, and it is true and justified", not an optional response to the circumstances). That realization and understanding of how our inner theater works is a step to developing the ability to "rewrite and change the story" at will.

                  So, yes, "samatha/vipassana" are both important.
                  Again, here is a practice called Nurturing Seeds, related to all this and inspired by some of the writings of Thich Nhat Hahn, which we encourage around here.

                  Hi, Sometimes the simplest of practices can be most effective. The following is based on teachings by Thich Nhat Hahn as well as many others. It's roots stretch back to the very origins of Buddhism. It is a simple and common sense approach to changing how we think and feel ... realizing that our experience of life is always


                  Gassho, J
                  Last edited by Jundo; 02-21-2014, 02:57 AM.
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Joyo

                    #10
                    Hello Troy, much good advice has already been posted here. I just wanted to touch on your words about being shy. I too have been shy my whole life. Would you find it helpful to just let it go, to not, I guess, blame your shyness for missing out, or causing stress and anxiety? Perhaps if you did not focus on being shy, it would become less on a source of pain for you.

                    For me, in groups, I am very quiet and I'm just a very guarded person. I do not open up or make friends easily. I try to not focus on this though and label myself as "shy" as when I am around those I can trust, I'm not shy at all, in fact, very loud and outgoing. As for not being assertive I understand what you are saying. And yet, even a shy person, a soft-spoken person, can be assertive, just not in a loud, in-your-face sort of way. I don't know, does that make sense?

                    Gassho,
                    Joyo

                    Comment

                    • Troy
                      Member
                      • Sep 2013
                      • 1318

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Dosho
                      Troy,

                      I am very glad to hear that your practice has been helpful to you. Yes, we do it with no thought of gain, but over time I don't think we'd continue doing it if we didn't feel some benefit.

                      I can't say that I have ever heard of reflection meditation as such, but I think this is a process that arises naturally. For me it happens sometimes during zazen, sometimes in a dream, and sometimes when I am sitting on the toilet. For me, all is zazen...no separation.

                      So, while I am only a novice priest trainee, I will simply encourage you not to think of these practices as two different things. I can relate to everything you described and one pitfall for me was eventually starting to keep a "scorecard" of what had been "improved" and what had not. I don't think you are doing that, but it is something to be aware of in your practice.

                      You can be a weak person in some experiences or a strong person in others. But just focus on being a person; the rest will sort itself out.

                      Gassho,
                      Dosho
                      Hi Dosho, When I said "I did think of it that way before, but it makes sense to me now thank you." I meant to say "I did NOT think of it that way before, but it makes sense to me now thank you." Funny how one little word completely changes the meaning. Thank you for your insight

                      Comment

                      • Troy
                        Member
                        • Sep 2013
                        • 1318

                        #12
                        Zazen and Reflection

                        Originally posted by Jundo
                        Hi Troy,

                        I would say that so long as one is sitting Zazen with no thought of gain or payoff at all, complete in the Complete Wholeness of that action, sitting like Buddha sitting Buddha, the Sacredness of Just Sitting as the only place to be and only thing to do in that moment in all time and all space ... no points, no scorecard (for the game is won & one just by taking the field of sitting!) ... nothing in need of adding or taking away, nothing to improve ... Yes, as in your lovely description, Troy, we do not buy into, grab onto or wallow in thoughts and emotions during Zazen (I took out the "I" to emphasize):

                        When Zazen, let just be. sit past thoughts and emotions ... all comes and goes without clinging ... arises and dissipates, arises and dissipates, forever and ever amen :-)

                        ... then, rising from the cushion getting on with our day, one can do many things. No problem. One then even finds that the "many things" and Zazen are not two. So if something is helpful, then good.

                        I would say that this "reflection" rings of the following, a kind of Vipassana awareness. I sometimes write this:

                        ================================

                        Pretty much all schools of Buddhism instruct us to become aware of the games the mind plays, the "monkeymind", or "mind theatre" as I sometimes call it.

                        When sitting Zazen, we "just sit" ... we let thoughts go without analysis during Zazen. There is nothing to do or attain in the sitting, nothing to examine or focus upon ... and that non-doing and non-examining is VITAL and SACRED. Even during our busy day, when annoyances or resistance, anger or upset come into mind, we can turn to a bit of "standing Shikantaza" ... just release them, let them go, do not become trapped.

                        However, "vipassana" (in the meaning of insight into the human mind theatre) is also vital in about every corner of Buddhism, Zen included. For example, "thought awareness" as thoughts and emotions arise during our busy day ... when tired, hot, a little angry, happy, etc. ... is a wonderful practice. I might not go so far as to encourage a practice of detailed labeling morning until night, but I also advocate a practice of being aware of the different thoughts that come into mind (just not --during-- Zazen itself, when we are not to be adding anything). This awareness is, however, a very important part of learning to observe our mind's workings and tricks. So, for example, instead of just feeling angry, greedy or tired, and instead of just saying to ourselves merely "I am feeling angry/greedy/tired now", we should learn to say to ourselves such things as "this is my mind now temporarily feeling angry/greedy/tired during present conditions ... I can feel it arising, I can feel it developing, I can feel it passing away, I can let it go". When we learn to do that, experiencing the emotions of the mind becomes just watching a bit of theatre.

                        All that is good, just not a practice for "during" Zazen, when we observe everything and nothing in particular.

                        Here is more that I wrote on the topic ...



                        Again, here is a practice called Nurturing Seeds, related to all this and inspired by some of the writings of Thich Nhat Hahn, which we encourage around here.

                        Hi, Sometimes the simplest of practices can be most effective. The following is based on teachings by Thich Nhat Hahn as well as many others. It's roots stretch back to the very origins of Buddhism. It is a simple and common sense approach to changing how we think and feel ... realizing that our experience of life is always


                        Gassho, J
                        Hi Jundo, thank you for your thoughtful reply. All I can say is yes, yes and YES! I really like what you said about recognizing emotions (especially strong ones like anger) when they happen and understanding it is only temporary. That it is just mind theater. No one enjoys those emotions but catching ones self before those emotions turn into bad behavior can prevent a lot of suffering.

                        I am glad you mentioned Thich Nhat Hahn. His writings were the first ones I read when I began practicing Buddhism. He is a rockstar in my book. He said to truly love someone (including ourselves) we must understand that person and have compassion for them. Understanding equals love and love equals understanding. Because we are interconnected (or inter-are as he puts it), when we love someone we are also loving ourselves and when we love ourselves we are also loving the other person. (Jesus said it this way "love your neighbor as yourself").

                        For example, my wife and I went through a rough patch that lasted several years (how our marriage survived I will never know). We are just coming out of it now. When I heard Thich Nhat Hahn's teaching, I realized I did not understand my wife at all (or myself for that matter). I had built up so many walls between us that understanding was impossible. The pain our relationship caused me was immense. When I began taking time to understand her and treat her compassionately, it eased her suffering. And when she took time to understand me and treat me compassionately, my suffering began to ease. But it is not enough to take time to understand someone and have compassion for them, we must do that towards ourselves as well. His teaching is simple. To live it is a powerful unstoppable force of nature.
                        Last edited by Troy; 02-22-2014, 02:19 PM.

                        Comment

                        • Troy
                          Member
                          • Sep 2013
                          • 1318

                          #13
                          Zazen and Reflection

                          Originally posted by Joyo
                          Hello Troy, much good advice has already been posted here. I just wanted to touch on your words about being shy. I too have been shy my whole life. Would you find it helpful to just let it go, to not, I guess, blame your shyness for missing out, or causing stress and anxiety? Perhaps if you did not focus on being shy, it would become less on a source of pain for you.

                          For me, in groups, I am very quiet and I'm just a very guarded person. I do not open up or make friends easily. I try to not focus on this though and label myself as "shy" as when I am around those I can trust, I'm not shy at all, in fact, very loud and outgoing. As for not being assertive I understand what you are saying. And yet, even a shy person, a soft-spoken person, can be assertive, just not in a loud, in-your-face sort of way. I don't know, does that make sense?

                          Gassho,
                          Joyo
                          Hi Joyo, yes a lot of good advice has been given and I appreciate everyone's comments. I am working on letting go of my shyness. I do not think I am at a place where I can ignore it quite yet because it still impacts my life in away I don't like. Taking quiet moments to delve deep in to its causes (and believe the causes are deep, lol) and effects have shown me how interconnected it is in my life. It is hard to describe in words, but there was something that clicked when I accepted my shyness. I think it was because I accepted a big part of me that I had not been able to before. Since then, my shyness has begun to diminish and I am feeling comfortable in situations I had not in the past. At times, I still find myself acting shy. However, I am aware of it when it happens and because I have accepted it, I am able to calm my nervousness. I don't know if this method is the best way and it certainly is not the only way. However, it is working wonders for me. Much love and peace to you. :-)
                          Last edited by Troy; 02-22-2014, 03:36 PM.

                          Comment

                          • TimF
                            Member
                            • Dec 2013
                            • 174

                            #14
                            sometimes when I am sitting on the toilet.
                            Guilty! Unless, of course, there is a good book laying on the tank....

                            Gassho,
                            Tim
                            "The moment has priority". ~ Bon Haeng

                            Comment

                            • Mp

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Dosho
                              ... sometimes when I am sitting on the toilet ...
                              I used to travel with a Tibetan Geshe and he had the amazing ability to compile his teaching for that day while on the toilet just before class.

                              Gassho
                              Shingen

                              Comment

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