Getting In Position

All things related to beginning Zen Practice. Here is where to exchange information between those that have already started Zen training and those planning to do so.

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Georgei
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Getting In Position

Post by Georgei » Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:12 pm

After jam packing a folded up blanket into a pillow case, found that still had to place yet another pillow folded in half beneath just to be able and raise myself so that can come somewhat close to my knees being forced forward into the floor. I can only get into a half lotus position, but the knee on my right is still not completely on the floor.

With all this padding under me, still not sure am up high enough.. At least for sure not enough to get both my knees pointed downward and also pressing into the floor..

Considering how much padding and packing is under me just to get up off the floor to this point, I can not imagine how the zafus seen for sale online would ever accomplish the same.. Unless they are almost rock hard and are able to keep a guy raised about a foot off the floor !

There is some discomfort where my legs are crossed and am sure will distract me while practicing zazen..

Not exactly sure what I am expecting in reply to this post, but would at least like to ask if others using online zafus purchases are able to be raised up off the floor enough ..

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fuki
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by fuki » Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:59 pm

Hi Georgei, thanks for sharing.

These days (years) I only sit on a chair but I've had the same when it comes to zafu's. I ordered several online in the past but none were suitable for me, including the ones in sanghas, so I always had to alter the height with towels or cushions. Same applies to seiza benches both online and in the sangha are too low for me, perhaps you have "too much" muscle in your upper leg and buttocks compared to an average sitter?

Teachers here will able to help you better here, ps are those throusers you are wearing comfortable? I would put on something less tight.
Also don't put on too much stress on your body, slowly build up the position which you are able to sit without causing injury, a mistake I made 20 years ago from which I "suffer" the consequences now, stretching/massaging and/or yoga is also something advicable before and after each session.
A belated welcome to the forum btw, best wishes in your practise.
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desert_woodworker
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by desert_woodworker » Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:49 pm

Welcome!, Georgei.

One can attend yoga classes and practice asanas there and at home which make one's sitting posture much more comfortable, with time (weeks; months; years). The yoga teacher there will know just which asanas to recommend and to demonstrate, if you ask.

The ligaments of the legs lengthen slowly as they are continuously encouraged to do so, and to grow. Usually, the correct asanas for this must be held at least 2-3 MINUTES for this growth to be stimulated to occur. Best wishes,

--Joe

Caodemarte
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:59 pm

At least you can sit cross legged! Still a dream for me.

Two Zafu or a Zafu and support cushion might be good. Dharmacrafts has the firmest kapok Zafu I know of. Or you could go the buckwheat hull route. The adjustable height KindSeat (made of wood) is also very good and might be best for your needs. I think Still Sitting has also come up with an adjustable bench. Both benches come apart for easy transport.

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KeithA
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by KeithA » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:45 pm

Hi Georgi,

If you google "stretches for opening the hips", you will see some article like this one: "15 Hip-Opening Yoga Poses...". Of course, lots of sitting helps too! Often times, if I am watching tv or something, I sit cross-legged on the floor to help with getting some time in the position.

Hope that helps!

_/|\_
Keith
You make, you get.

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[james]
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by [james] » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:52 pm

Georgei wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 4:12 pm
After jam packing a folded up blanket into a pillow case, found that still had to place yet another pillow folded in half beneath just to be able and raise myself so that can come somewhat close to my knees being forced forward into the floor. I can only get into a half lotus position, but the knee on my right is still not completely on the floor.

With all this padding under me, still not sure am up high enough.. At least for sure not enough to get both my knees pointed downward and also pressing into the floor..

Considering how much padding and packing is under me just to get up off the floor to this point, I can not imagine how the zafus seen for sale online would ever accomplish the same.. Unless they are almost rock hard and are able to keep a guy raised about a foot off the floor !

There is some discomfort where my legs are crossed and am sure will distract me while practicing zazen..

Not exactly sure what I am expecting in reply to this post, but would at least like to ask if others using online zafus purchases are able to be raised up off the floor enough ...
It seems that everyone puts themselves through this ordeal. Why is that? I admit that I did too, at one time, and only abandoned the effort when my knees could no longer sustain it.
desert_woodworker wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:49 pm
One can attend yoga classes and practice asanas there and at home which make one's sitting posture much more comfortable, with time (weeks; months; years).
What’s the point? One can sit on a bench, on a stool, on a chair, on a log, on a rock ledge or a stair and make one’s posture much more comfortable, immediately.
Caodemarte wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:59 pm
At least you can sit cross legged! Still a dream for me.
Why complicate ones meditation practice with dreaming?
KeithA wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:45 pm
Often times, if I am watching tv or something, I sit cross-legged on the floor to help with getting some time in the position.
Is the cross-legged posture really so essential, fundamental, necessary? Why so?

Caodemarte
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:17 am

[james] wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:52 pm

What’s the point?...
Is the cross-legged posture really so essential, fundamental, necessary? Why so?
None of this is essential for zazen. There is no magic posture required. However, most people who do zazen do the best we can to find the healthiest, most stable way to do so. The lotus followed by the Burmese and other cross legged postures are the most stable and comfortable positions for sustained zazen if you can do them properly, so I find it worthwhile working toward them. Additionally, working toward that increases flexibility and/or slows the decline of over all flexibility with age. This is a major health benefit.

Personally, I live with people who sit on the floor comfortably and I would like to join them.

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desert_woodworker
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by desert_woodworker » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:44 am

Hi, j.,

I miss your rainy-day window sometimes. We need rain in this desert. The monsoon, one month into its date-range, has thus far been unproductive.
[james] wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:52 pm
desert_woodworker wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:49 pm
One can attend yoga classes and practice asanas there and at home which make one's sitting posture much more comfortable, with time (weeks; months; years).
What’s the point? One can sit on a bench, on a stool, on a chair, on a log, on a rock ledge or a stair and make one’s posture much more comfortable, immediately.
People seem ceaselessly interested in "what the Buddha taught" after his awakening, but seem less to care about "how the Buddha sat". Always puzzled me!!

Having established a stable posture in lotus since age 20, I can say it is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, especially on long sits, say, 7-10 days. I'll never sit in a chair (except on airplanes; and in dentists' treatment rooms [where they have you lie down, anyway, essentially] ).

Like Keith, I watch TV and movies in lotus on the living room floor, using a homemade buckwheat hull cushion (no breakfast pancakes left in it). ;)

My Dad used to tell the short story of Joe Rose: "Joe Rose sat on a tack; Joe Rose".

:namaste:

--Joe

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KeithA
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by KeithA » Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:49 am

James asked:
Is the cross-legged posture really so essential, fundamental, necessary? Why so?
Cross_legged posture is not essential. Plenty of folks I know sit in chairs, straddle cushions, use benches, etc.

The OP asked about how to sit cross-legged more comfortably. So, I offered some advice.

_/|\_
You make, you get.

New Haven Zen Center

Seeker242
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by Seeker242 » Wed Jul 25, 2018 1:15 am

I find it easier just to sit Burmese style and with that a mat and buckwheat hull cusion work good. It provides the necessary height. But of course the necessary height is depending on your own personal flexibility. You would probably be better off with a round cusion because it’s easier to get your knees down as your thighs can be blocked from going down by the sides of a square cusion.

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[james]
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by [james] » Wed Jul 25, 2018 1:58 am

desert_woodworker wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 12:44 am
Hi, j.,
I miss your rainy-day window sometimes. We need rain in this desert. The monsoon, one month into its date-range, has thus far been unproductive.
A casualty of ZFI’s meltdown, that window. I miss it too.
People seem ceaselessly interested in "what the Buddha taught" after his awakening, but seem less to care about "how the Buddha sat". Always puzzled me!!

:namaste:

--Joe
The Buddha sat as the people of that time and place sat. Why must we do the same? He also lived outside most of the time. Sitting meditation was introduced to this culture by people whose own culture recommended floor or ground sitting of some sort, with or without cushioning. Most everyone sat this way, as a matter of course, from infancy on to old age ... not a problem. We are not similarly habituated and I am puzzled as to why the postural expectation in sitting meditation in this Euro-American culture is, firstly, the sitting customs of long ago and far away rather than how we commonly sit here and now. I have yet to sit with any group where the majority were not struggling and straining with a posture that was not natural to them but was believed to be a necessary component of Buddhist meditation.

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lindama
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by lindama » Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:49 am

To be the straight act.... I found that I could sit comfortably on the floor with three cushions in a pile... ofc, the obvious down side was toppling over with no base of support. Once in a while, it happened... :lol: I've used a chair, it works for me.

I've tried various other methods with cushions and pillows, etc. None provide a comfortable posture... my body was already beyond that. I would offer a caution.... I know many ppl who ruined their backs and knees 40 years ago forcing postures that didn't work for them. I'm with James.... why

Caodemarte
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Jul 25, 2018 3:19 am

[james] wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 1:58 am
...The Buddha sat as the people of that time and place sat. Why must we do the same?
You can sit as you like, of course. We do not have to sit as Buddha sat. It is not essential for Buddhist meditation. People can injure themselves if they sit improperly, without good support, or are not prepared properly. However, this posture has been almost universally recommended by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike for thousands of years and has good anatomical reasons for being so strongly recommended if you can properly do it. For example, I and most people have great difficulty with zazen in a chair or on a step. The posture simply does not support an alert stable mental state. In my group I saw people who had to sit zazen in a chair for medical reasons constantly struggle as a result. I sit in a kneeling position which is the best I can to keep a stable, alert body and mind. It is not as stable or supportive as a cross legged posture, but the best I can do. Someday I may have to move to a chair. At that point, that will be the best I can do. No reason to look down on that; no reason not to try in a healthy manner for a more stable posture. After all, they are just postures.

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Dan74
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by Dan74 » Wed Jul 25, 2018 5:04 am

The teachers I've known have strongly encouraged at least a half-lotus, but allowed easier postures, or even a stool. But whatever the posture there are still aspects that we have to adjust to maximise stability, ease of breathing and energetic aspects.

The reason for the importance of posture is not only protecting the back and making longer-term sits possible, but for people who master a correct posture, there is a distinct energetic advantage, which means less distractedness, less drowsiness and more focused energy for practice. Meido goes into the posture in some detail in his recent book and makes its importance very clear.
In general, if our meditation does not deepen steadily over time with adequate practice, it is likely that misuse of the body or breath is among the causes. This is important to remember.
Beginners often imagine, I think, that there is something wrong when they experience discomfort or that it must mean they are practicing incorrectly. But often this is not the case at all. Everyone is different, and each day is also different. Some days we will feel discomfort, while on others we may experience a blissful meditation. With time, we will learn to relax through discomfort and even dissolve it using our breath unified with the posture. For now, the main point is to accept and join with these constantly changing conditions, relax, and do our best. Beyond that, we should of course discuss our experiences with our teacher.
To be clear, the cross-legged postures have advantages and should be used by everyone not physically precluded from doing so.
The degree of mental and physical stability experienced in kekka-fuza [full-lotus] is unmatched.

Moore, Meido. The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice (p. 89). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.
On a personal note, after several years of very slack practice, my posture is shot. I've always been very stiff in the hips and even at the best of times, my feet would fall asleep after an hour-long sit. Now I can feel that the stiffness is at a level when I can't "drop" into the posture and remain quite unstable even in Burmese - it will take some time to adjust. So not preaching here from any position of superiority here.

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Larry
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by Larry » Wed Jul 25, 2018 8:28 am

I've got an iffy back & knees & now an Achilles heel as well! So I now sit in a chair & resonate with James & Linda. I've come across a few people who've done permanent damage by being too gung-ho in their early years. Probably without proper guidance. Although that's not the case with me. But I understand completely where Meido, Joe & others are coming from.

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Georgei
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by Georgei » Wed Jul 25, 2018 8:38 am

Dan74 wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 5:04 am

The reason for the importance of posture is not only protecting the back and making longer-term sits possible, but for people who master a correct posture, there is a distinct energetic advantage, which means less distractedness, less drowsiness and more focused energy for practice. Meido goes into the posture in some detail in his recent book and makes its importance very clear.
Thank you all for the wonderful and helpful comments..

I also am one who usually sits cross legged on the floor to watch television..

Not sure if this is the energetic advantage your talking about Dan, but one thing that I notice while experimenting. The more I can elevate myself resulting with my knees in the most forward and downward position, is that when straightening my back upwards it feels much more comfortable and natural as compared to sitting cross legged with no padding at all.

It is almost like what ever the energy flow is, I can feel the difference, and even more so as I adjust the crown of my head slightly upward.

Ended up with jam packing two pillow cases with blankets, and feels stable. Just Googled, and I do like the looks of a buckwheat hull cushion..

Image

narhwal90
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by narhwal90 » Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:14 pm

Though its also takes some training to adopt, I sit seiza. The seiza benches are a big help early on, and as an alternative quite often the zafu is placed edge down between the ankles to take most of the body's weight. With training its possible to sit on a bare floor for 30 minutes or more without extreme discomfort. Its a handy position for the tv watching, likewise in the shop for getting down low in a machine for instance- quick to enter and exit even when carrying tools. Sometimes when all the chairs are used in the office I'll plunk down in seiza in front of the desk, kind of awkward to type but it drives the "chair people" crazy which is good fun.

I worked a bit with the lotus positions, it was evident that I'd need a lot of training to make that happen so I stay with seiza since I find it a lot more productive and less distracting. Coming from the Nichiren side of things, seiza is de rigeur (or was in some quarters)- one of the schools has a formal sitting ceremony where rows of zabutons are arranged in staggered fashion so when everyone bows they don't bump their heads on the backsides of those in front which is funny to consider.

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desert_woodworker
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by desert_woodworker » Wed Jul 25, 2018 8:17 pm

[james] wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 1:58 am
The Buddha sat as the people of that time and place sat. Why must we do the same?
To affect my most convincing Zero Mostel impression-voice, "Trad-i-tion!"

Where "tradition" takes us back to the beginning of our species. Granted, some would throw out the baby with the bathwater; let them sit as they like. Others may want to sit as our ancestors did; let them sit as they like.

Those needing help to sit as our ancestors did, there is help available to lengthen connective tissue (if it has shortened, by habitual use of chairs), if you'll attend Hatha Yoga classes, and ask for specific asanas that work on the ligaments involved. It's do-able, and conveys wonderful benefits.

best, all Sitters!,

--Joe

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lindama
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by lindama » Wed Jul 25, 2018 8:36 pm

Georgei.... I've seen cushions that have the shape that you created... Gomden/Shambala cushion... it consists of some firm foam and is as high as what you created. trying it out, I thought it was comfortable and doable.

https://www.samadhicushions.com/gomden- ... /c-500.htm

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fuki
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Re: Getting In Position

Post by fuki » Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:58 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 3:19 am
I and most people have great difficulty with zazen in a chair or on a step. The posture simply does not support an alert stable mental state.
I understand, yet there are those when "just sitting" there is no 'place' from where a (perceiving) center arises and differentitates, so it has nothing to do with a "mental state" nor posture. Since a "mental state" is local and dualistic/relative to a "meditator"not boundless or "open". I do remember in the past when laying in bed for instance there was a distraction in the headspace while with an erect posture there wasn't (as much) but I and many people can perfectly "sit" in any posture. Anyways this topic was about Georgei's position not opinions about the position of others, or their imagined limits or advantages to any posture.
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