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A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practicing without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.
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A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practising without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.

Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:31 pm

N f,

The thread of Meido's on zazen posture is here, begun on March 21 this year:

viewtopic.php?f=64&t=11063

EDIT: a secondary thread that's directly related to this is here:

viewtopic.php?f=64&t=11064

...and, a thread split off from the latter one:

http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... 64&t=11072

all best,

--Joe

Michaeljc wrote:
The Seiza postrure is the one I use

Meido introduced a very helpful topic on posture a few weeks back. If you did not see it It is worth going back to. It is rather relevant to Seiza, as if the cushions are too high there can be a problem. Seiza also requires some type of support for the hands.
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:39 am

Joe wrote

When I was starting, I did 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes in the evening


Personally I feel that 20 minutes is not long enough. I would much more favour a 40 minute sit with a static relief position for 3 minutes half way through the sit (if necessary)

A static relief position I favour without leaving the cushion involves stretch the legs out and the entire body forward and down such the the head is close to the knees. Hold this for 3 minutes

I am not the only one that finds that Zazen does not really start to take effect inside 30 minutes

For those that struggle with the time factor:

- Use a timer you can trust

- Take the attitude that you are going to sit for ever when you start. Commit to it 100%

- Be prepared to tolerate some pain (lets say no 4 on the pain scale of 0 to 10)

Just my way of seeing it :heya:

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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Jun 08, 2015 4:04 pm

Michael,

Michaeljc wrote:
Joe wrote:When I was starting, I did 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes in the evening

Personally I feel that 20 minutes is not long enough. I would much more favour a 40 minute sit with a static relief position for 3 minutes half way through the sit (if necessary)

Tee-hee, yeah. I'm remembering those two words we kindly share here so often, "Not necessarily so".

Here's a little ditty:

Five minutes is better than none. Provided it's done regularly (let's say daily).
Ten minutes may be better than five. Provided [ditto].
Twenty minutes may be better than ten [ditto].
Twenty minutes twice a day may be better than twenty minutes once a day [ditto].

For me, twenty minutes, twice a day, was a way of beginning. It was a way of building an excellent steadiness and steadfastness in the REGULARITY of practice, a base that I think is really necessary. REGULARITY of practice is MORE IMPORTANT than "total-time-sat", I'd opine, and urge.

"MORE IMPORTANT" for what, one asks? More important to insuring that one will continue this wonderful practice for a lifetime, or at least for pretty long intervals, years, in our busy changing lives.

Time(s) for me became longer as the weeks (and then certainly months and years) went on, rather naturally. Longer times seem to come as a matter of course. It's not something to push, I'd opine again. Nor to have expectations or demands about!

Biting off too much than one can chew at first is a common, well, mistake. It can drive people from the practice. Developing a wonderful regularity and familiarity and friendliness with the practice seems to be key to continuing. There's TIME to graduate to longer sitting times. What's more helpful in the long run is putting in a base. Really making a place for zazen in one's day, even several times a day. And, several times a day -- sitting even short sits at first if this is natural -- is a good way to establish this regularity, familiarity, and friendliness.

Somebody said (yes, that famous "somebody" fellow... ):

"Five minutes of zazen, five minutes of Buddhahood. No zazen, no Buddhahood."

Zazen, I think, is like pumping iron. One doesn't start with heavy weights. One becomes comfortable (and stronger!) with smaller weights, and comes to really LIKE this practice. Then, heavier weights are naturally adopted, and the heavier weights have a chance then to give THEIR benefits.

A progression is rather natural.

Anyway, a practitioner will adopt what suits their conditions at home. And that's important. Sometimes, it's more practical for a householder to sit shorter sits if they have a lot of responsibilities without much space of time between responsibilities. And it's great, GREAT training to put the MOST into a short sit, if it's what you've got. Such sits might be more focused and sincere than long "spacey" sits.

Again, I'm talking about "at first", about the early part of one's career in zazen, and Zen Buddhist practice generally. Of course, longer sits are naturally appropriate, if the body in fact supports them, and does not resist them. That later point is key to whether one retains zazen as a practice, or if one regularly comes to feel, "Nah, not today".

Among friends and in the Buddhist Yoga classes I teach, I always advocate physical practice, to support comfortable and undistracted sitting. Physical practices one might include before or after zazen, or before and after zazen, could be Yoga exercises. I suggest that Yoga exercises be learned safely and effectively with a teacher, in a Yoga class. Yoga teachers are (usually... ) not Zen Buddhist practitioners, nor Zen Buddhist teachers, and that's OK. Shakyamuni was a Yogi.

I'd say that zazen liberates considerable physical energy, and a finer-tuned awareness of bodily sensation and function. This leaves the body very well suited to exercise quite wisely, after zazen, to put some of this energy to use and into circulation, for the bolstering of one's health, and the flowering of one's total practice.

Contrariwise, exercise is a great preparation for zazen, I have found. I note it removes some holding of tension, and alleviates some residual stresses from our day. It also wakes us up a little further if we mean to sit first thing in the morning after sleep.

To sum up, I'd say that regularity of practice is a more useful guarantor -- and gauge -- of our practice than time-sat, especially at first. Again, I'm talking about the establishment-stage of a practice, here, not necessarily about a mature or old-hand practice. And, again, as there is TIME to build-up to longer sitting times, I mention my good experience (success) with sitting several times per day in dedicated, sincere sits, preceded and followed by some exercise, stretching, care of the legs, and self-massage.

I also feel that the extra experience one gains by sitting several shorter sits per day is valuable. You gain extra experience in beginning a sit, establishing the posture, taking up your method of meditation, practicing the method, ending the sit, rising from your cushions, perhaps doing exercises or self-massage, and taking up what comes next in your day. If you do this TWICE a day, you gain TWICE the experience of a fellow who does it only ONCE a day! And you put in a pretty solid and reliable base for continuance of this practice of ours over the long run (sit). ;)

That's how it looked from the Big City.

And that's how it looks from the desert,

w/ best regards,

--Joe

Michaeljc wrote:Joe wrote

When I was starting, I did 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes in the evening


Personally I feel that 20 minutes is not long enough. I would much more favour a 40 minute sit with a static relief position for 3 minutes half way through the sit (if necessary)

A static relief position I favour without leaving the cushion involves stretch the legs out and the entire body forward and down such the the head is close to the knees. Hold this for 3 minutes

I am not the only one that finds that Zazen does not really start to take effect inside 30 minutes

For those that struggle with the time factor:

- Use a timer you can trust

- Take the attitude that you are going to sit for ever when you start. Commit to it 100%

- Be prepared to tolerate some pain (lets say no 4 on the pain scale of 0 to 10)

Just my way of seeing it
"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.

"Least said is soonest disavowed". -- Ambrose Bierce (c. 1900)

"Politeness: noun. The most acceptable hypocrisy." -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:14 pm

Joe - thanks

In reality there will be those that find your approach more doable and vica versa

The reason I am advocating the longer sits is so the beginner may experience the direct effects of Zazen. Without feeling some new benefit beginners are unlikely to persist. I re-emphasis the all-important Physio/Psychological influence of Zazen. This takes time during each session

I agree that multiple sits during the day have an important contribution, but feel they need to be long

Furthermore, fitting 2 short sits into a busy working day is more difficult than one long (IME)

A long sit requires a type of surrender which is so important, rather like long sesshin vs short sesshin - different mind-set. People are less likely to think about time in a long sit as in the beginning 40 minutes feels like for ever - good!

The Aussies have a saying: "Sydney or the bush" - in or out, no half way

Whatever, we are both trying to coax beginners into practice. It is a delicate balance

:Namaste:

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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Meido on Mon Jun 08, 2015 9:28 pm

FWIW, for these kinds of questions I think it always best to affirm first that each practitioner's conditions, capacity, interests and so on are completely different.

There are situations in which shorter sessions done frequently are desirable. There are others in which longer sessions are. Either of these approaches could come to be necessary at various stages in a student's practice. We can balance it all against the understanding that Zen, if it is what it purports to be (i.e. a path by which liberation in one lifetime is possible) requires nothing short of full commitment and effort. Naturally this may initially require cutting off many of life's pointless activities, just as later it must necessarily include the encompassing of any/all activities within practice.

But again, no fixed methods or rules (which does not mean no methods or rules). Just an honest assessment of whether or not we are each doing our best, doing so correctly, and with what motivation.Thus sayings from teachers like Omori Roshi: "If you don't sit for at least two hours a day, you aren't serious" can be used as tools to help us determine the depth of our own aspiration, rather than taken as rigid pronouncements.

Not that there's anything wrong with what he said, of course :)

Naturally these kinds of things (what to practice, how much, when to change practices, how to determine true signs of progress, etc.) are classically part of a teacher's job to prescribe and oversee. For those choosing to go it alone, I personally don't have any real suggestions due to the complexity and potential pitfalls which can be involved...again, depending on the person.

~ Meido
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
Madison Rinzai Zen Community/Ryugen-ji [機山龍源寺]: http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:09 am

Michael,

Funny to say, perhaps -- or to hear -- but I've been blessed to have fallen-in with, and out of, practice a number of times. I won't say how many! In fact, I forget... .

Thus, I've been able almost to be truly a "beginner" multiple times over. It's always been modified by a nearly continuous practice of Hatha yoga, and other practices, though. But when it comes to Zen Buddhist zazen, I have been a recidivist. Not quite the right word, but I want to put a humorous slant on it, lest I regret unhelpfully and too deeply the times when I was not practicing zazen.

I've come back to the practice each time in different ways: sometimes sitting multiple short sits per day; sometimes sitting multiple long sits per day. But, always, the sitting times lengthen, or the number of sits in a day increase.

Usually in quite short order -- two weeks? -- the landscape begins to emit light again, separation between things and people is lessened, shadows are deeper, flowers seem lazy and a million years old, and moonlight seems to bathe everything (even in sunlight... ) as I go about my daily duties and activities. Things seem "wet", and not dusty. When the face of the world begins to look this welcome and familiar way again, I know that I am sitting an amount that is making a difference, and I sense that I am on a self-sustaining path in practice again, with a momentum that is easy to feed, and actually naturally necessary to feed. And, indeed, it's usually so. Until the next time I quietly go off the rails!

I don't recommend "going off the rails" repeatedly, as I have done. By the way, perhaps we all do / have done that? I haven't asked others about this, not wanting to put them on the spot. But I don't mind 'fessing-up about it myself. I have even hoped that, in my falling off the zazen wagon repeatedly, and then coming back, perhaps this (painful... ) experience of being off, and climbing back on, will help me be better able to help others who are beginning -- if I can ever do that -- since I haven't been a beginner myself just only once, but several times. Oops, I almost said "many" times. Well, almost true!

But as Meido writes, we're all so different (as people), and have such different and varying conditions of life, that's it's not clear in the abstract and by way of generalization, what might be most suitable for anyone taking up the practice ...or taking it up again. :tongueincheek:

So, then, in appreciation of these unique starting points, initial conditions, blessings, and opportunities within and upon all of us, I can only say,

Hail!,

and, strong practice.

--Joe
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:44 am

I've come back to the practice each time in different ways: sometimes sitting multiple short sits per day; sometimes sitting multiple long sits per day. But, always, the sitting times lengthen, or the number of sits in a day increase


Have the same experience Joe. The more I sit the easier it is to find the time to sit more

Thanks Meido. I do feel that someone does have to draw some lines in the sand on what constitutes a useful practice. A beginner reading this forum can easily think that it can entail just reading books and thinking.

Common people occur commonly. There has to be guidelines that work for most of us

The recommended minimum practice time to make progress in learning clarinet is 2 hours/day :)

Cheers

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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby fukasetsu on Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:18 am

Stuck in a loophole of our own narrative... and illusions multiply

The perks of "experience"

:Namaste:
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby fukasetsu on Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:41 am

desert_woodworker wrote:So, then, in appreciation of these unique starting points, initial conditions, blessings, and opportunities within and upon all of us, I can only say,

Hail!,

and, strong practice.

--Joe


Bless you Dear Friend.
Everyone for President!
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:59 am

fukasetsu wrote:Stuck in a loophole of our own narrative... and illusions multiply

The perks of "experience"

:Namaste:


I would prefer to say: Stuck in a loophole of our own perminance... and illusions multiply

Illusions do not multiply during the process of effective practice. Quite the opposite in fact

:Namaste:

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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Chrisd on Tue Jun 09, 2015 8:51 am

Hi Michael,

Michaeljc wrote:Thanks Meido. I do feel that someone does have to draw some lines in the sand on what constitutes a useful practice. A beginner reading this forum can easily think that it can entail just reading books and thinking.

Common people occur commonly. There has to be guidelines that work for most of us.


Did you feel as a beginner that it entailed just reading books and thinking?
I know I didn't. I wanted to sit and get enlightened :PP:
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:22 am

Chrisd wrote:Hi Michael,

Michaeljc wrote:Thanks Meido. I do feel that someone does have to draw some lines in the sand on what constitutes a useful practice. A beginner reading this forum can easily think that it can entail just reading books and thinking.

Common people occur commonly. There has to be guidelines that work for most of us.


Did you feel as a beginner that it entailed just reading books and thinking?
I know I didn't. I wanted to sit and get enlightened :PP:


Yes, - I did :) There was no sitting groups in NZ at that time
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Chrisd on Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:50 am

Well maybe that was all you were capable of at that time. Would you have been receptive if ppls told you it wasnt intellectual?
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:22 am

Fuki-ster,

fukasetsu wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote:So, then, in appreciation of these unique starting points, initial conditions, blessings, and opportunities within and upon all of us, I can only say,

Hail!,

and, strong practice.

--Joe

Bless you Dear Friend.

Ha!, you might think that the old man is mellowing a bit, eh? ;)

...the reason for which -- if not just simple aging -- is surely in some part due to participation and mingling with Bodhisattvas here, ...in recognition of which, I must say I'm grateful to know you, Marcin!

But now, too, it's said that "the first-half" of Zen Buddhist practice is to see the Unity of life; and that the second-half is to appreciate the Differences.

I'd add that the third-half is to see that there are in fact no halves. :tongueincheek: And that practice, no matter what, is endless ...to match the precise manner in which the Three Poisons arise.

Take good care of yourself!,

:Namaste:,

and be seeing you,

--Joe
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:26 am

Dear Chris,

Chrisd wrote:I know I didn't. I wanted to sit and get enlightened :PP:

I wanted to chop wood and carry water!

( ...and, that hasn't changed). ;)

--Joe
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:31 am

Would you have been receptive if ppls told you it wasnt intellectual?


Yes, I caught on to that pretty fast. My bible was Suzuki's Manual of Zen Buddhism

Recently I gave away all the other books I accumulated throughout the years, keeping only this one, Dōgen's Extensive Record and Wild Ivy :)

Thats plenty enough
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:44 am

Michael,

Michaeljc wrote:Recently I gave away all the other books I accumulated throughout the years, keeping only this one, Dōgen's Extensive Record and Wild Ivy :)

That's plenty enough

What, no Star maps? :tongueincheek:

Have you ever been up to see the "North Star", BTW? :heya:

(It's a full degree away from the true pole, in any case)

--Joe

ps (I sure loved your Clouds of Magellan, Alpha Centauri, the Southern Cross, and the Coal Sack, to name only a few).
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:25 pm

Have you ever been up to see the "North Star"


Oh, I was there a couple of times but the memory is rather dim now :)
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Chrisd on Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:57 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Dear Chris,

Chrisd wrote:I know I didn't. I wanted to sit and get enlightened :PP:

I wanted to chop wood and carry water!

( ...and, that hasn't changed). ;)

--Joe


I still want to get enlightened too :lol2:
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:01 pm

Chris,

Chrisd wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote:Dear Chris,

Chrisd wrote:I know I didn't. I wanted to sit and get enlightened :PP:

I wanted to chop wood and carry water!

( ...and, that hasn't changed). ;)

--Joe

I still want to get enlightened too :lol2:

Careful with that axe!

--Joe
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