Balancing practice

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  • adrianbkelly
    Member
    • Jun 2012
    • 214

    Balancing practice

    Hi everyone,
    I'd be very grateful of some advice, as I am having trouble balancing my practice. I keep going from one extreme to the other. For a while, my enthusiasm is such that I can't wait to sit every day & will get up early every weekend to sit zazenkai. All I read is Zen books & websites & all I listen to is Zen podcasts & Dharma talks. It doesn't affect my relationship with my wife or my job, but all my other interests go out the window.

    Then, all of a sudden, I'll realise that I miss my other interests & I want nothing to do with Zen. I lose all interest in sitting & reading, I stop logging in here (although I'm so shy to post anyway, that I'm sure no-one notices ) & I lose all momentum in my practice. Then, inevitably, I will realise how much I miss practice & the whole cycle begins again.........

    I've tried giving up all together, but the Dharma has been part of my life for 20 years &, in my heart, I know this is the path for me. Does anyone have any thoughts on how I can keep up a steady practice, without going overboard?

    _/\_
    Ade
  • KellyRok
    Member
    • Jul 2008
    • 1374

    #2
    Hi Ade,

    I think this is a very good question; because personally, this has happened to me as well.

    Maybe you could designate a specific amount of time each day for Zen activities. Try sitting for 30 minutes and read or listen to dharma talks for 30 minutes. Don't go over this allotted time each day; when the time is up, move on to your other interests. Try that for a while and see if it is enough time and then you can adjust as needed.

    I tend to overplan things at times, so maybe this will work for you maybe not. I will be interested to see what others can offer here.

    Gassho,
    Kelly/Jinmei
    satbrieflytoday

    Comment

    • Kokuu
      Treeleaf Priest
      • Nov 2012
      • 6785

      #3
      Hi Ade

      This has been something I have experienced too. Over time things have become naturally more balanced but sometimes I feel more enthusiastic about dharma activities than others.

      Kelly offers good advice about planning sitting and study and sticking to it. If that feels too structured then at least try and maintain sitting during periods of low enthusiasm (and perhaps checking in to Treeleaf every couple of days) and give yourself a limit of how much time you will spend on Zen activities during the more intense phases. Making one day a week deliberately 'Zen free' aside from sitting may help maintain some balance.

      In essence, don't let practice be completely dictated by how you feel. Sit even when you don't feel like it, and sometimes put down the books and podcasts when you still want more. It is great to have enthusiasm but still getting to the cushion when we really don't want to is an important part of being consistent. Hell, some days I would prefer to be doing anything else but sitting with the resistance allows me to see it dissolve away (or sometimes not!).

      People here often tend to come and go based on their personal circumstances so if no one notices it is not because you are not considered an important part of the sangha (you are!) but because we are used to people dipping in and out.

      Gassho
      Kokuu
      #sattoday

      Comment

      • Yugen

        #4
        Ade,
        Perhaps a reasonable or easily maintained amount of zazen, reading and Treeleaf on a regular basis might help to neutralize the competition for time between Zen and your other interests. I don't know how long your zazen sessions are, but a manageable time (plug in your own goal - 10 minutes? 20 minutes?) daily, leaving some appetite, which also allows for other interests. Maybe settting this up as less of a binary equation or competition for time also points you towards the middle way. Our practice is a marathon, not a sprint. Be gentle with your heart, the Dharma is there and it is fine to be an often silent witness to conversations here. I also struggle with frequent posting.

        It might also help to set up a schedule with partner here at Treeleaf to meet once or twice a week for a short zazen. Getting on a schedule and supporting someone's practice is helpful, even if it is 15 minutes once per week.

        It's good to see you, and thank you for your post!

        Deep bows
        Yugen

        Comment

        • Mp

          #5
          Hello Ade,

          I think we have all fallen into this trap before, so not too worry. =) For me one of the things I do and Jinmei made a point to it is, not to over schedule or over do it. Trying to cram a lot of stuff in can sometimes make us choose this over that.

          For sitting I make it a daily routine like washing my face and eating breakfast. That time is scheduled and I make sure that I have enough time to do it (of course life can have other ideas at times and we also need to be flexible to those changes) ... whether you sit 15 mins or 30 mins is up to you, but set the time aside. Like now for example, I am writing to you while enjoying my breakfast ... getting some reading/learning in and fueling the body for the day ahead. Once done, then continue with life, work, family, playtime, etc. =)

          The old saying, too much of a good thing is not so good ... little bits at a time of all things in life will help us find balance. =)

          Gassho
          Shingen

          SatToday

          Comment

          • alan.r
            Member
            • Jan 2012
            • 546

            #6
            Hi Ade,

            I've been there before. It still comes and goes a bit, but really what I've felt over time is that when this kind of thing happens, I'm separating my life into neat little sections. So that what I'm really doing is going "oh, here's zen stuff over here and it's great" and then when I get tired of it, I go, "oh yeah, here's this cool stuff I forgot, music or art, and now I want to do that." Really that's just needless separation, the mind chasing "interests." Not that it's bad to have interests, but it is a form of separation, as though zen is just this stuff over here. Is there a way to see zen in your other interests? Maybe better, is there a way to drop zen and drop Buddhism and live it at once with your other interests. For me, coming to see that all my activities have the flavor of zazen, that is important. Not that I go around thinking about zen all the time. I don't. But also, not separating things either. This is what it means when Jundo says bring your zazen off the cushion. To me anyway. Mountains are mountains, right?

            Gassho,
            Alan
            sattoday
            Shōmon

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39452

              #7
              The Middle Way.

              Like the lute strings, not too tight or too lose.

              And like playing an instrument, keep it interesting and enjoyable (nobody said Buddhism had to be a painful grind ... even if there are grindy days sometimes) and keep practicing at a nice, steady pace. Play the music that makes your heart sing.

              Some good advice from folks above.

              Gassho, J

              SatToday
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Troy
                Member
                • Sep 2013
                • 1318

                #8
                Balancing practice

                Hi, I go through those cycles too. I think it is normal for a lot of people. For myself, I try to sit everyday even if I am not on the forum or doing a lot of reading. This way, at least I am doing something and it not does feel like a lot of pressure on myself. I really enjoy sitting. I sit on my lunch break at work because that is the one time of the day I get total me time so it does not conflict with the rest of my responsibilities. That is what works for me any way.


                ..sat2day•
                Last edited by Troy; 03-31-2015, 04:08 PM.

                Comment

                • Kyonin
                  Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                  • Oct 2010
                  • 6742

                  #9
                  Hi,

                  Yes, I've been there before... oh so many times.

                  I think it's a natural part of our learning process. Don't worry, the day will come when your interests turn naturally to another thing.

                  Just be mindful of not falling into obsession. The Middle Way is always the Way to go.

                  Gassho,

                  Kyonin
                  #SatToday
                  Hondō Kyōnin
                  奔道 協忍

                  Comment

                  • Josan
                    Member
                    • Aug 2013
                    • 137

                    #10
                    The Middle way definitely . Although, I find that it can be hard to determine what exactly is the middle way in much of our lives these days. Moderation in all things seems to be a useful maxim. Too much is as Kyonin points out "obsession" and one must be be aware of this too. I know that zazen is supposed to be enough in itself but I also find that I need to spend some time during the week reading about zen etc. and can easily go overboard with this activity. Note to (non) self: moderation moderation moderation

                    Gassho,
                    David

                    sattoday
                    If you miss the moment, you miss your life - John Daido Loori

                    Comment

                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39452

                      #11
                      Originally posted by David W
                      I know that zazen is supposed to be enough in itself but I also find that I need to spend some time during the week reading about zen etc. and can easily go overboard with this activity. Note to (non) self: moderation moderation moderation

                      Gassho,
                      Zazen is enough in itself ... when sitting Zazen! But that does not mean we should not do other things, like read a book or do the dishes.

                      However, even then ... all things in moderation and with balance.

                      Gassho, J

                      SatToday (and read a book and did some dishes)
                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                      Comment

                      • Heisoku
                        Member
                        • Jun 2010
                        • 1338

                        #12
                        Good to know we all go through this. I was talking to a friend about this and we both agreed that despite all the stresses and hard times, a day without zazen just doesn't sit right.
                        Gassho Heisoku
                        Sat today
                        Heisoku 平 息
                        Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

                        Comment

                        • Jinyo
                          Member
                          • Jan 2012
                          • 1957

                          #13
                          Hello Ade,

                          Seems like we all go through these cycles. I tend to burn up and burn out on the reading front. I have quite a conflict with this at times. Sitting is not such an issue - it's become a natural
                          part of my day now and because it feels natural I don't give it a lot of thought.

                          There is 'something' about the intellectual/reading/listening/thinking/discussing aspect of dharma that makes me want to investigate what the pull is and why I sometimes go overboard on the effort. I dare say we might all have a slightly different answer to this question.

                          Re - the Middle Way, it's a healthy default position to have in many areas of life and one of the main reasons I felt drawn to the dharma. But - as you describe - I often feel pulled away from that position and sabotage the peace of sitting with mental activity.

                          Lots of wise advice here,

                          I need to heed it myself

                          Gassho

                          Willow

                          sat today

                          Comment

                          • Risho
                            Member
                            • May 2010
                            • 3179

                            #14
                            I think just must be a normal thing for humans.. ups and downs with everything. For me, it's easy to sit with the ups, but when the downs hit, then I don't want to sit... that's the most important time to sit because slowly maybe it helps you to not listen to yourself, take your wants so seriously.

                            Gassho,

                            Risho
                            -sattoday
                            Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

                            Comment

                            • Kyotai

                              #15
                              Already lots said here but I too have experience this.

                              Here with you

                              Gassho, Kyotai
                              Sat today

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