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The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby Meido on Fri May 05, 2017 7:00 pm

In some methods, yes, we can say that. For example in susokukan (breath-counting), the count is unified with the exhalation; it is not so much that one "counts the breath", but rather that one "breathes the count." During inhalation, one relaxes and remains present/non-distracted. If one tries to count with intensity on both inhalation and exhalation, however, this will often cause fatigue and the method will not deepen.

~ Meido
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby flutemaker on Fri May 05, 2017 7:07 pm

Meido wrote:one "breathes the count."

Yep, saw, and thoroughly enjoyed your video demonstration of the "o-n-n-n-n-n-n-e", "t-w-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o" on your site. It can... it can through (or blow?) the unprepared watcher like 2 - 3 meters back from the computer screen.

If two students, sitting and facing each other, started to do it in an asynchronous manner, we'd have a kind of a amplified resonator..
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby Meido on Fri May 05, 2017 7:08 pm

Hehe, glad you liked it.

It's poor quality resolution and sound, we'll eventually re-do it to make it more clear.

~ Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby flutemaker on Fri May 05, 2017 7:17 pm

Meido wrote:Hehe, glad you liked it.

It's poor quality resolution and sound, we'll eventually re-do it to make it more clear.

~ Meido

Actually, each good Bansuri (Hindustani classic flute) player demonstrates it quite visually while playing a phrase on a single [out]breath, and after a short inhalation -- continues with the next one. And thus, for an hour or two. You-tube has a lot of these.

See a passage at 01:26 --- 02:02. (Though I doubt you will be able to hit "stop" at 2:02.....)
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby Meido on Fri May 05, 2017 7:42 pm

Naturally in music, and also chanting, the in-breath must be short so as to continue the sound. Easy to hear it here as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGzng5BZRVU

In meditation, though, the in-breath need not be so rapid at that. A not uncommon rate of breathing in zazen for folks with some experience is around 2-4 times a minute, with the inhalation being unhurried (this does not mean one should consciously try to regulate the breath in this manner).

~ Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri May 05, 2017 9:57 pm

Hi,
flutemaker wrote:My quoted question relates specifically to the yoga teacher of Joe...

I've answered this (tnx for the interest).

But I can see that maybe one man's "Yoga"
may be another man's Goya:

Goya_Saturn_devouring_one_of_his_Children.jpg

Or, a more recent painter by a century or so gives us:

P_Picasso_Old_Guitarist_chicago.jpg

Here, the artist puts the figure in a rather uncomfortable-looking asana, though (both artists do: coincidence?). ;)

But maybe it has to be looked-at with a (blue?) cubical-eye, and not a spherical one. In any case, it was Picasso who taught, "Art is a lie that reveals the Truth".

Something to aspire to and attain in one's chosen art, or the art that compels itself upon one,

Here's to following a trustworthy Muse,

Yours in sawdust,

and, Best!, All,

:Namaste: / Namaskaram,

--Joe
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby flutemaker on Fri May 05, 2017 10:16 pm

Meido wrote:Naturally in music, and also chanting, the in-breath must be short so as to continue the sound. Easy to hear it here as well: ...

But what would your comments be, if neither in music, nor in chanting, but in meditation, the in-breath becomes short and quick (less than 1 second), yet strong and full, directed into the lower part of the abdomen, full almost to the point of feeling its limits, followed by a moderate pause, followed by gradual and not forceful out-breath, with all that forming absolutely naturally ("by itself"), means with no trying to regulate the breath?
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby Meido on Fri May 05, 2017 11:40 pm

I can only speak from my experience, which may be different from what you are discussing (and the thread, of course, deals with Rinzai practice, so I will only be discussing that here).

With that said: I would say that such in-breath during zazen, being short and quick in that way, is likely either

a) extremely shallow, or
b) deep, and occurring in that manner because the out-breath was in fact over-stretched...the in-breath occurs spontaneously and sharply, without effort, because a vacuum was created.

Neither is correct for zazen in the training with which I am familiar.

People who breathe in that manner during sitting, I have observed, have energetic movement tending upward with each inhalation. The result can be tension, increase in thought activity, emotional sensitivity or irritability, or a kind of manic energy. It is also not sustainable for long periods of time, nor is it a kind of breathing that can eventually manifest subtly and unconsciously at all times - sitting, standing, talking, working, even sleeping - as the breathing cultivated in Rinzai practice must eventually do.

It is important to grasp that though exhalation is emphasized in some practice methods for the reasons I mentioned, and will tend in training to manifest longer than inhalation, eventually both must become quite long, settled, slow, and fine in quality. At times this will even be so to the point that it seems there is a cessation of breath; as has been said, in a mature practitioner even a feather held in front of the nose may not move.

Things like this - breathing, use of the body, and so on - are the kinds of things it is important for a teacher to observe closely, in order to gauge what is appropriate instruction for the student's condition.

~ Meido
明道禅徹
The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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
http://rinzaiheartland.blogspot.com
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat May 06, 2017 12:38 am

Meido,

Meido wrote:The general rule though is that the solar plexus should be soft, even concave.

Thanks, Meido (reading over everyone's shoulder, here).

That's interesting. But, "concave?" May I ask, pls.?, you don't mean "convex"?

Pardon my expression of befuddlement (perhaps -- and, I hope -- it's alleviable).

Maybe I mis-identify what the solar plexus is; I'm thinking of "the belly". There have been modern teachers who speak of themselves having a "Zen pot", a belly a bit in form like a toddler's, naturally round and relaxed, not taut nor sunken. I think Aitken Roshi mentioned this (and he seemed to sport a bit of that in person, I noted a number of times, for such a tall and thin, very elegant, man).

I point to my own, sometimes, and pat it, and say, "this isn't FAT, this is Chi!" Folks laugh: "Yeah, yeah" (Fun).

Roshi Jiyu-Kennett spoke of a "Zen-pot", too, and rather humorously, she did. But she was, well, somewhat corpulent (or we might say, today, "had an elevated-body-mass-Index". Certainly no disrespect intended; it's hereditary in many folk).

I'd say my breathing went entirely to belly-breathing by virtue of physical-yoga in the early 1970s (mostly Mr. Iyengar-trained teachers, in USA). And then, more so -- if that's possible -- with my Ch'an teacher, and afterwards, up to and including today.

I guess I'm uncertain now what and where the solar plexus is (my Astronomy knowledge -- such as I carry it -- is cross-talking with other disciplines). I'll Google the thing. I suppose it's higher up than anyone's notion of "belly". In that case, maybe there IS a convex stretch of real-estate, between the last (lowest) rib, and the rise in terrain South of that. Yes, there is (convexity), just checked. But we may be at cross-purposes (sorry). I've yet to "Google" solar-plexus... .
Comin' up.

_/\_ ,

--Joe
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby Avisitor on Sat May 06, 2017 12:40 am

When is the book expected to come out??
Disclaimer: There is no intent to be offensive in my posts. None was intended and none should be interpreted as such.
Sorry, got a message that I was not being PC.
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat May 06, 2017 12:47 am

Many plexi. I'm a lost puppy.

Humane-Society of USA, where are you?

--Joe

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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby Meido on Sat May 06, 2017 1:01 am

Solar plexus (Jp: suigetsu): the soft spot below the sternum. Another name for the celiac plexus. Yes, concave.

Below that, the belly and lower abdomen down to the pubic bone (Jp: hara) will indeed become, as Hakuin says, "round and pendulous like a new ball" (in old Japan there was a kind of kickball made of leather or cloth stuffed with straw or somesuch; a new ball would be taught and firm).

The book should be available next year, February.

One thing I want to stress again after reading my last post: the breath as trained and integrated in Rinzai practice is something that must become unconsciously constant. It takes years of training for most people. In the beginning, exercises are used to train the breathing, and can seem unusual or difficult; indeed there are some that might appear similar to sitting down to do a kind of pranayama (we would say: kokyuho). Beginners hearing that they must eventually integrate these unusual ways of breathing with zazen generally find it impossible to do so, and are directed to just breathe naturally during zazen (or at least, to work on consistently being belly-breathers).

But eventually, slowly, the breathing changes, and with it the zazen. Unless you knew what to look for, you would not see that a mature practitioner was breathing differently. But they are, and ideally continue to do so seamlessly and unconsciously after rising from the cushion.

What I am trying to say is that the breathing we are talking about is not just an exercise or exercises. It is actually a training to fundamentally change, permanently and 24/7, the manner in which one breathes.

In this light, I can mention an anecdote RE Omori Roshi, a teacher in our lineage. Though he lived to 90, he was in a coma for the last years of his life due to a stroke. During that time one of his successors decided to test him, putting a hand on his stomach while he lay there. It was discovered that, even then, he still breathed in the manner he had cultivated.

So, something to shoot for (minus the stroke).

~ Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby flutemaker on Sat May 06, 2017 6:28 pm

Meido wrote:I can only speak from my experience, which may be different from what you are discussing (and the thread, of course, deals with Rinzai practice, so I will only be discussing that here).

With that said: I would say that such in-breath during zazen, being short and quick in that way, is likely either

a) extremely shallow, or
b) deep, and occurring in that manner because the out-breath was in fact over-stretched...the in-breath occurs spontaneously and sharply, without effort, because a vacuum was created.

Neither is correct for zazen in the training with which I am familiar.

People who breathe in that manner during sitting, I have observed, have energetic movement tending upward with each inhalation. The result can be tension, increase in thought activity, emotional sensitivity or irritability, or a kind of manic energy. It is also not sustainable for long periods of time, nor is it a kind of breathing that can eventually manifest subtly and unconsciously at all times - sitting, standing, talking, working, even sleeping - as the breathing cultivated in Rinzai practice must eventually do.

It is important to grasp that though exhalation is emphasized in some practice methods for the reasons I mentioned, and will tend in training to manifest longer than inhalation, eventually both must become quite long, settled, slow, and fine in quality. At times this will even be so to the point that it seems there is a cessation of breath; as has been said, in a mature practitioner even a feather held in front of the nose may not move.

Things like this - breathing, use of the body, and so on - are the kinds of things it is important for a teacher to observe closely, in order to gauge what is appropriate instruction for the student's condition.

~ Meido

Thanks for your comments. Yes, deep in-breath, sharp, yet without effort. With the out-breath subtle gradual and slow, still without effort. The circumstances were, I'd bet, you must be familiar with. For months, back then, I've been about to explore the "concentration on the entire body" in a very intensive way (very much like in your "breathe the count") that included prolonged sittings. There was a several days long period marked by a "desire" of the body to perform in certain ways, and my "allowing" it to do so (under a reasonable control). Not entirely spontaneous, not entirely controlled. Many things followed, including various bodily movements, one-time or periodic (rhythmic), various breath patterns (some of which I later recognized as known pranayamas, some of them left unrecognized), various sensations and flows in the body. Sort of, an energetic rearrangement. It has all been forgotten, mostly, but a number of things tend to reoccur. Like, sort of a one-time quick "shaking" (ever seen like a dog is doing it after swimming in water?), starting somewhere in the lower part of the body, accompanied by a sharp, strong, noisy out-breath through the nose. This is like an indicator when some "barrier" is hit upon during meditation. Otherwise when a stray thought is recognized. So, my original example originated back then, as a very comfortable (for me) and stable breath pattern, with no feeling of energetic movement tending upward, no tension, nor increase in thought activity, nor emotional sensitivity or irritability, nothing of that sort. Just another "mode of functioning". Never shared this with anyone, and am not going to (as quite often just doing things at my own risk and discretion). Hopefully this clarifies the context a bit. Thank you for listening.
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby flutemaker on Sat May 06, 2017 6:42 pm

partofit22 wrote:I've noticed what I want to call "congestion" of some sort to the north/northeast of the navel, which feels to me is the location where I'm holding onto my stress, which in turn impacts the rest especially posture and breathing because my body seems to want to surround and protect that spot instead of release it- Sounds crazy, I know- Just something I've noticed ..

If I may, I'd like to comment. Can we talk of the "bodily" body, the "body of breath", the "body of emotional sphere", and the "body of thought", as some of the "fields" where we mostly "are" during meditation? If you can recognize them, and see the difference, then try to see where you tend to feel the "congestion"? I'd bet, in the "body of emotional sphere". Sometimes your successful "release" in the "bodily" body, and the "body of breath" doesn't lead to the total release in the "emotional body". First, tie ("glue") them all together, and this establishes connection, then - "release" the whole ("composite") thing totally. I know, sounds no less crazy...
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby Meido on Sat May 06, 2017 6:48 pm

I see.

It's true sometimes there can be energetic shifting and release that causes such things. It is sometimes the case that incorrect practice can cause such symptoms.

If something like that happens spontaneously while doing a simple, basic practice, it does usually pass on its own. We should be careful not to think it is somehow important, or evidence of anything special; we shouldn't seek it or try to reproduce it after it leaves. The teacher's job in such cases is to remind us of those points, to observe us closely, and based on that to prescribe remedies if necessary...which may include ceasing practice for a while. In this way we can stay on track, and not go off in a mistaken direction leading to harm.

If one is practicing on one's own in the beginning without recourse to a guide, then the safe course of action is to at least stick to basic practice methods that do not have the potential to cause harm. When and if we start to experience some fruition of those methods, then it will be necessary to consult with a teacher.

Beyond that I couldn't say what's appropriate or inappropriate for a specific individual, of course. Take care!

Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
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http://rinzaiheartland.blogspot.com
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat May 06, 2017 11:48 pm

Teresa,

partofit22 wrote:I didn't know that was common- I had noticed it about myself, that my breath isn't necessarily rhythmic -- or balanced- My breath tends to be shallow, heart rate low and blood pressure also- But .. I've noticed what I want to call "congestion" of some sort to the north/northeast of the navel, which feels to me is the location where I'm holding onto my stress, which in turn impacts the rest especially posture and breathing because my body seems to want to surround and protect that spot instead of release it- Sounds crazy, I know- Just something I've noticed ..

This is very interesting.

I know that if one were to attend a Zen Buddhist practice center, a teacher or senior practitioner there could help you establish a good posture, for the practice. Then, as you continue to practice repeated sittings there that day or night, you could have posture again corrected, or adjusted, several times. As you continue to attend, week after week, etc., posture could become further refined, by your own corrections, and by corrections of others there who know how to do this.

If you attend sesshin, say 7-day intensive practice, your posture will adjust itself, and may also be adjusted by others on sesshin. It's possible to have old injuries completely clarified during those 7 days, or to have old habits of "holding", etc., dissolved and erased.

If Zen Buddhist practice of this kind is not an option for you, how about Yoga classes? "Yoga" varies so much as taught in studios in USA, but if we're lucky, some of it may "get-at" areas where we suffer, or feel asymmetric, or etc.

best,

--Joe
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby partofit22 on Sun May 07, 2017 2:43 pm

flutemaker wrote:
partofit22 wrote:I've noticed what I want to call "congestion" of some sort to the north/northeast of the navel, which feels to me is the location where I'm holding onto my stress, which in turn impacts the rest especially posture and breathing because my body seems to want to surround and protect that spot instead of release it- Sounds crazy, I know- Just something I've noticed ..

If I may, I'd like to comment. Can we talk of the "bodily" body, the "body of breath", the "body of emotional sphere", and the "body of thought", as some of the "fields" where we mostly "are" during meditation? If you can recognize them, and see the difference, then try to see where you tend to feel the "congestion"? I'd bet, in the "body of emotional sphere". Sometimes your successful "release" in the "bodily" body, and the "body of breath" doesn't lead to the total release in the "emotional body". First, tie ("glue") them all together, and this establishes connection, then - "release" the whole ("composite") thing totally. I know, sounds no less crazy...


Thank you .. yes- Sounds equally as crazy but makes complete sense-
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby flutemaker on Sun May 07, 2017 6:36 pm

partofit22 wrote:
flutemaker wrote:
partofit22 wrote:I've noticed what I want to call "congestion" of some sort to the north/northeast of the navel, which feels to me is the location where I'm holding onto my stress, which in turn impacts the rest especially posture and breathing because my body seems to want to surround and protect that spot instead of release it- Sounds crazy, I know- Just something I've noticed ..

If I may, I'd like to comment. Can we talk of the "bodily" body, the "body of breath", the "body of emotional sphere", and the "body of thought", as some of the "fields" where we mostly "are" during meditation? If you can recognize them, and see the difference, then try to see where you tend to feel the "congestion"? I'd bet, in the "body of emotional sphere". Sometimes your successful "release" in the "bodily" body, and the "body of breath" doesn't lead to the total release in the "emotional body". First, tie ("glue") them all together, and this establishes connection, then - "release" the whole ("composite") thing totally. I know, sounds no less crazy...


Thank you .. yes- Sounds equally as crazy but makes complete sense-

But. It could make sense only if we talk just about a "congestion", and not an old injury. Try to "release" injury on your physical body... We must try to heal it first, cure it, by all means known to us. This healing is not just a matter of a one-time right effort. I am almost 50, and perhaps not looking "old" from where you are, still my observation is that old injuries to the emotional "body" are accumulating, and are no less injuries than those to the physical body. And of course, the major "emotional" centers (incl. the one near the solar plexus, means the place where we physically "feel" sadness, or fear) are affected directly.
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby flutemaker on Sun May 07, 2017 7:04 pm

Meido wrote:... This is also the crux of what is called the untransmissable advanced practice. It is untransmissable because there is no way for someone to teach us how to do it. Having awakened and clarified that recognition, we arrive at the edge of this chasm where we are now required to completely embody it. If we are able, after many years of really exhaustive practice, we will be able to leap over to a new life. If we are not able, we will fail; as the saying goes, "the field is littered with skulls." If we do fail at this point, it will likely be entirely due to our own insufficient motivation.

I'm stressing this point a bit strongly here because just this is actually the real meat and heart of Zen practice. But popular books don't talk much about it, or how exhaustive it is...

Would like to comment, based on my understanding of yoga vs. Zen. Will try to be brief.

The world creator (let's call him lord Shiva), just for the fun of it, decides from being one -- to become many, and intentionally limit the ability of all the created to "see clearly". Then the "play" starts, and to restore our "vision" to its original state (return to our "original face") is the essence of the whole game. The ability to see and function is limited so thoroughly, almost "closed/blocked", so that our chance to "clean" ("purify") that which we are presently is extremely slim. And no, the system is not just "clogged" here and there, so that removing some "blockages" makes it again functioning rightly. Rather, it is like almost one solid "blockage". So that the task is not like an attempt at blowing through hollow bamboo with just a couple of "blockages" - membranes, it is like drilling through solid rock, wherein our tools are just our will and our breath (and not all that modern high grade composite steel equipment). Exhaustive, and much more than that! "Sweating with blood" - oh, yes. And even "purified" -- the system can be compared to just a web of [sometimes only partially] restored wiring -- wherein we must learn how to create "tension", so that the "electric current" can start to freely pass through. Only there -- the actual work can be done (that would correspond to rather advanced stage of the post-awakening practice).

My only concern would be, why has the work to be only started "post-awakened"? Means, even when a blind man is tasked to uncork a bottle, without knowing what the "cork" is, and where the hell this "cork" is, he still have a chance. Not to say that even a small bit of success in "purifying" just a little space in our system ("body") would be not bad, and could lead for example to improved physical health.
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Re: The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Postby desert_woodworker on Sun May 07, 2017 7:27 pm

Attend sesshin with teacher and sangha, and trust that the magic will work. Don't go there expecting anything, though.

I think this advice is worth all the other words that could otherwise be generated instead. Well, experience shows it.

--Joe
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