Zazen and Breathing

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Caodemarte
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by Caodemarte » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:50 pm

bokki wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:36 pm
why, please, cao, highly interesting topic,thread, y y y would u think of closing it???
b
:namaste:
Because we have had a request to close it as it has wandered off the subject and become unfocused. Once a thread loses focus it becomes unreadable. It is usually far better to have a variety of topics than one giant thread that is composed of random digressions. If, however, there are more useful things to say on the topic of breathing in zazen in (traditional mainstream) Soto please do so. That is why I asked! :waving:

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jundocohen
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Sun Apr 08, 2018 2:48 am

I would not close it, as the topic of breathing in Zazen is important in Shikantaza.

There are many good ways of breathing (and the most important part is to keep breathing and not stop! ;-) ). However, the Shikantaza way of breathing without effort nor aim to achieve some special state of mind is vital (thus, by that very radical non-effort succeeding in achieving a most special state which can only be achieved by non-effort). I am glad that criticisms of this by people introducing various Rinzai and Taoist based methods of breathing (although all excellent, I am sure) were separated off so that they can be discussed outside this Soto section.

I wonder why the following criticism of Soto remains, however. What is the purpose of that here in this thread?

viewtopic.php?p=4274#p4274

Gassho, Jundo
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:14 am

There has been discussion recently about whether various artificial breath techniques were introduced into Zazen from Daoist or Indian sources. There is evidence for both. However, in truth, the question does not matter because in various flavors of Zazen in the early Chan and later periods, any form of artificiality was rejected, and both Indian and nativist Daoist ways of meditation were criticized. One should not employ one's Zazen as a tool, but realize Zazen as realization itself. Athough some flavors of the very diverse forms of early Chinese Buddhist meditation may have been inspired by Indian or Daoist forms, one would mislead if one implied that all forms of Zazen were so,

Historian Morten Schlütter writes the following (in "How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China" from p. 169):
[D]iscussion of meditation practice and the open acknowledgement of its importance remained an uncomfortable issue for the Chan
tradition that loomed large in the Song. Meditation, of course, is ordinarily considered to be the primary Buddhist monastic practice, and the Buddhist world has produced countless treatises and discussions on meditation and meditation techniques. Yet the Chan tradition had a difficult relationship with the concept of meditation from early on. The traditional understanding of meditation as a way to purify the mind and gain insight that could lead to liberation was directly contradicted by Chan’s own rhetoric. Thus, the earliest extant version of the Platform Sūtra from the eighth century states in strong terms that meditation (ding) and wisdom (hui) are identical and that one cannot reach wisdom through the practice of meditation.122 In several other places, the early Platform Sūtra further seems to reduce meditation to a sort of metaphor for the enlightened mind itself. This sentiment was only amplified in the later versions of the Platform Sūtra that would have been known by the Song-dynasty audience.123 And, of course, every person with any education would have known the story of Nanyue Huairang demonstrating to his disciple Mazu Daoyi the futility of trying to become a Buddha through meditation by mockingly pretending to polish a tile in an attempt to make it into a mirror.124

While meditation as a path to enlightenment is repudiated in these and many other Chan sources, there is much evidence that formal meditation was an important part of the regimen in Song Chan monasteries, and even the Platform Sūtra exhorts Huineng’s disciples to diligently sit in meditation after his death just as if he were still there.125 Thus, meditation was an important part of Chan practice, even if Chan masters found it difficult to make any proclamations about meditation—just as they found it difficult to make any kataphatic statement about enlightenment.129

Because of this state of affairs, little is known about the kind of meditation that was practiced in Chan monasteries through the Northern Song and earlier. In the early twelfth century, however, an unusual Chan meditation manual that provides practical meditation instruction came to be circulated widely.127 This is the well-known Zuochan yi (Manual for sitting meditation),128 a work probably written by the monk Changlu Zongze at the beginning of the twelfth century. The Zuochan yi is an extremely important work precisely because it breaks with the Chan school’s tradition of avoiding written meditation instruction. In spite of—or maybe because of—its straightforward discussion of meditation, it appears to have been very well received by its twelfth-century audience. Although it may have initially been meant for laypeople, the Zuochan yi was later included in Zongze’s famous manual for Chan monasteries, the Chanyuan qinggui, in an edition published in 1202.

...

Although it cannot be discussed in any detail here, Carl Bielefeldt has shown how the Zuochan yi seems to partly derive from Zhiyi’s discussions of Tiantai meditation and to accord well with early Chan discussions of meditation known from the Dunhuang material.136 I will further suggest that the Zuochan yi almost certainly depicts a type of meditation that was standard in Northern Song Chan and that continued to be seen as valid in the Southern Song. This is evidenced by the inclusion of the Zuochan yi in the 1202 edition of the Chanyuan qinggui. Also, an abbreviated version of the Zuochan yi was included in the Dazang yilan (Digest of the Buddhist canon), a Chan compendium for laypeople composed sometime before 1157.137 The Zuochan yi was transmitted to Japan before 1250, and Dōgen made good use of it in compiling his own meditation manual.138 If it had been a controversial work, it would hardly have circulated so widely. Bielefeldt suggests that the Zuochan yi appears to be a “throwback” that was out of tune with the times (presumably because it was written during the period when silent illumination and especially kanhua Chan was being formulated).139 The popularity of the work, however, seems to indicate that this was not how it was generally perceived in twelfth-century Chan circles. In spite of the powerful rhetoric of both silent illumination and kanhua Chan, the approach to meditation that was advocated in the Zuochan yi continued to be considered orthodox.140
https://terebess.hu/zen/How-Zen-Became-Zen.pdf
Dogen based much of his famous Zazen instructions, the Fukanzazengi, on this earlier Chinese text, the Zuochan yi (Manual for sitting meditation), probably written by the monk Changlu Zongze at the beginning of the twelfth century. The Zuochan yi simply advises on the breath in Zazen:
Press the tips of your thumbs together. Slowly raise your torso and stretch it forward. Swing to the left and right; then straighten your body and sit erect. Do not lean to the left or right, forward or backward. Keep your hips, back, neck, and head in line, making your posture like a stūpa. But do not strain your body upward too far, lest it make your breathing forced and unsettled. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders, and your nose in line with your navel. Press your tongue against the front of your palate, and close your lips and teeth. The eyes should remain slightly open, in order to prevent drowsiness. ... Once you have settled your posture and regulated [氣息既調 settled, adjusted, put in order] your breathing, you should relax your abdomen (然後寬放臍腹). Do not think of any good or evil whatsoever. ...

https://terebess.hu/zen/changlu.html

以兩手大拇指相拄。 徐徐舉身前欠,左右搖振,乃正身端坐。不得左傾右側、前躬後仰。令腰脊頭項骨節相拄,狀如浮屠。又不得聳身太過,令人氣急不安。 要令耳與肩對,鼻與臍對,舌拄上腭,唇齒相著。 目須微開,免致昏睡。... 身相既定,氣息既調,然後寬放臍腹。 一切善惡都莫思量,念起即覺,覺之即失,久久忘緣,自成一片。
http://blog.xuite.net/templeinmind/twbl ... 5%B8%AB%29
The absence of an further or elaborated instructions for the breath would seem to indicate that simple, natural, balanced, relaxed breath is the point and little more.

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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fuki
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by fuki » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:08 am

jundocohen wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:14 am
The absence of an further or elaborated instructions for the breath would seem to indicate that simple, natural, balanced, relaxed breath is the point and little more.
True for me, never dwelled on the breath, it's naturally fine as it is. Physical posture instructions/corrections I received but never any instructions/corrections regarding breathing. There's awareness, but no consciousness of breathing or non-breathing, the perks of non-dwelling I guess. Nevertheless "allow the 'mind' to float and sink"

A, "It's all good" moment :)
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by desert_woodworker » Tue Apr 17, 2018 8:26 pm

J.-Roshi,
jundocohen wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:14 am
There has been discussion recently about whether various artificial breath techniques were introduced into Zazen from Daoist or Indian sources.
Nicely "judgemental" (though I prefer the word "judgementative", not being of a western-psychological "bent").

Hmm, I would not say that "just because" a detail of breath is conscious to a practitioner that it is "artificial" (your word). It is merely ...conscious.

It might be a spontaneous "tweak" applied to the continuity or "rut" of breath that one has been in, supplied by the body (-/mind), spontaneously, and not "volitionally". I may say confidently, "It happens". Yep! Yeppers... . Yessiree, Bob.

Let's thank our lucky stars (we Astronomers..., etc.).

Not enough can be said for "the natural": so, we are mostly silent about it. I think that's good! But when (some-) one calls it "artificial", well, we must speak our best support for Nature. Thanks, Nature, and you, Nature, are most ...welcome, ...Nature! Did I mention, "Nature"?.

:hatsoff:

--Joe (Tennen)

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by michaeljc » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:56 am

I wish Guo Gu would comment on the role of breath. I recall that one of his teachers placed great emphasis on it. He probably wont on this thread as it is Soto. Fair enough. Maybe somewhere else?

I am yet to see evidence that when used appropriately it cannot be used to great effect

According to my perception right now the simplest of methods that we are tempted to poohoo can be the most powerful

Isn't there a story somewhere where a monk was asked what was he doing on the cushion?: "I have been following breath for 20 years"

M

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by desert_woodworker » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:59 am

Michael!,

It's enough to see your smiling face.

Worth 100 breaths.

Whew!,

breathing again,

--Joe

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by michaeljc » Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:09 am

You feeling good these days Joe? :)

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by desert_woodworker » Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:14 am

michaeljc wrote:
Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:09 am
You feeling good these days Joe? :)
Oh, thank you, Michael, yes.

Seven years retired (early... ). Every day is ...Saturday.

Enjoying my new association with a new Soto sangha and Sensei, here... . Early days, I've been with them 3 years, now.

Enjoying using 'scopes on the sky. All is new again, and always has been.

--Joe

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"Ignorance is to be ignorant of one's original mind." - Ma Tsu

"Liberation is awakening to one's original nature." - Ma Tsu

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Wed Apr 18, 2018 4:07 am

Ah, here is the nub ...
michaeljc wrote:
Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:56 am

... used to great effect
I am sure that it can, and many Buddhists and Daoists and the like do, much as a hammer can be used to great effect to build a house. A train can be used to arrive effectively at your destination.

But please understand the "Great Effect" of not needing to use and nothing in need of using.

Then the "house" is just our True Home here all along.

Then one Arrives at the station that never can be left nor need be left even as we go. This is the Train which goes round and round the Enso.

Image

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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jundocohen
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Sat Apr 28, 2018 10:43 am

In researching my book on Dogen, I found a section of Bendoho (a part of the Eihei Shingi) that I had forgotten, and which briefly describes his approach to Zazen. It is brief, but adds some small points and wording not found in his other Zazen manuals such as the two Fukanzazengi, Zazengi and the like.

It is very clear here that Dogen is calling for ordinary, natural breathing without special technique, effort or artifice. I highlight the key words. The entire section is short, so can be reproduced in full (Leighton - Okumura Translation from "Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community" p. 72. The [ ] appears to be by the translators):
When you do zazen always use a zafu. Sit in full-lotus position, which you do by first placing your right
foot on your left thigh, and then putting your left foot on your right thigh. Or you can also sit in half-lotus, in
which you simply press your left foot on your right thigh. Next put your right hand on your left foot and your
left palm on your right palm facing upwards, with thumb tips lightly touching. Sit upright, with the back of
your head straight above your spine, not leaning to the left or right, or to the front or back. Your ears should be
in line with your shoulders and your nose in a line with your navel. Place your tongue against the roof of your
mouth with teeth and lips closed.
Keep your eyes open, not too wide or too narrow, without eyelids covering
the pupils. Your neck should not bend forward from your back. Just breathe naturally through your nose, not
loudly panting, neither [trying to breathe] long nor short, slow nor sharp.
Arrange both body and mind, taking
several deep breaths with your whole body so that you are relaxed inside and out
, and sway left and right seven
or eight times. Steady and immobile, settle into sitting and think of what is not thinking. How do you think of
what is not thinking? Beyond-thinking. This is the essential art of zazen.
The original Japanese of the key passage is ...

鼻息は通ずるに任せ、喘がず、聲せず、長ならず、短ならず、緩ならず、急ならず

The expression "鼻息は通ずるに任せ" that is rendered as "just breathe naturally" is also something like "just leave it to as it goes," and "喘がず、聲せず、長ならず、短ならず、緩ならず、急ならず" can be rendered as "not panting, not making noise, not long, not short, not loose, not hurried." No mention of "hara" or the like.

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by Dan74 » Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:12 pm

I kinda wonder though, why the careful attention to tge specific posture, why sit at all? There are lots of other things to do. Sitting itself can be an artifice. And sitting in a specific way, doubly so.

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by fuki » Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:26 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:12 pm
I kinda wonder though, why the careful attention to tge specific posture, why sit at all? There are lots of other things to do. Sitting itself can be an artifice. And sitting in a specific way, doubly so.
It can for sure, if sitting is just another distraction from "what is" Sitting can be what drinking or playing video games is for others, the feeling of insufficiency, filling a hole etc.

I don't sit because there's an inner voice saying "go sit" that voice is a liar. As well as the one thinking there's a seperation between practise and non-practise, imo.

Nevertheless sitting can be spontaneous, or just the "sane thing to do" and revealing "what is" The motivation is key I'd say.

Sitting is just work, Nature's work.
But as you said not the only work, the wind doesn't blow for anyone in specific, it doesnt discriminate, it blows for the entire manifestation, sitting ideally is the same. But sitting for personal reasons I'd rejoice likewise, one day it might transform as Nature's/life's/love's work instead of sitting for an individual or personal preference. Planting trees, cleaning up the ocean is also work, whether "internal" or "external"
Breath is prior to thought, but who's breathing?

All good. :)
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Sat Apr 28, 2018 8:15 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:12 pm
I kinda wonder though, why the careful attention to tge specific posture, why sit at all? There are lots of other things to do. Sitting itself can be an artifice. And sitting in a specific way, doubly so.
It sounds strange, but there is no need to sit at all ... thus we sit. One sits rather still to realize that it was never about stillness or motion.

Many Japanese folks tend to fetishize specific posture, as opposed to sitting in some reasonably comfortable, balanced, stable way. Of course, if unable to sit in some comfortable stable way at a particular time ... such as when jammed standing in a crowded bus, or in traction in a hospital bed with broken bones, or when one's knees start aching a bit during a long sesshin (which aching I would call part of the sesshin process, by the way) ... just "sit" as what is. In fact, don't just sit Zazen in a quiet room facing a wall, but doing it on the bus too. It is all good Zazen, whether in a monastery or in the hospital.

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by fuki » Sun Apr 29, 2018 7:23 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 8:15 pm

Many Japanese folks tend to fetishize specific posture,
Would you consider a specific sleeping posture a fetish?
Screenshot_2018-04-29-21-17-47.png
Screenshot_2018-04-29-21-17-47.png (1.07 MiB) Viewed 388 times
Also could you elaborate the function of/behind a specific way to empty your water bowl, clear the water from the sink, and similair temple/practise rules in a monastery?
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by desert_woodworker » Sun Apr 29, 2018 9:11 pm

hi,
jundocohen wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 2:48 am
I wonder why the following criticism of Soto remains, however. What is the purpose of that here in this thread?
viewtopic.php?p=4274#p4274
Gassho, Jundo
No criticism of anything Soto or deSoto (the old cars that my neighbor had in the 1950s) is explicit or implicit there in that kindly reference.

A note here or there about a tweak or enhancement is not a diminishment, or slap. Unless you think so. And your thinking so may be very much misplaced, although very authentically and characteristically your own, peculiarly your own, no argument there. Practitioners, in the depth of practice, will do as they will, knowing what they do, or don't.

Such is Life.

--Joe
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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:12 pm

fuki wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 7:23 pm
jundocohen wrote:
Sat Apr 28, 2018 8:15 pm

Many Japanese folks tend to fetishize specific posture,
Would you consider a specific sleeping posture a fetish?
There is a fine line between "fetish" and "powerful practice based on maintaining form". For example, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, much like classical Western Ballet, is a dance of set forms in which one can lose oneself, then find oneself again. finding freedom in the seemingly inflexible movements. Oryoki eating is another like Practice. Much of the daily activity of the monastery was meant to be so. They are powerful and important practices of the body and mind.

However, if one goes further and implies too much to the form or posture, then it may move off into fetishizing, e.g, claiming that "one size fits all" and that only exact maintenance of a narrow physical form will bring about the desired effect, or claiming various physiological effects attributable to the posture that have no actual basis in medical fact. Thus, if someone began to claim that sleeping in such way (1) brought about better flow of the ki and (2) was the one and necessary way to sleep which, properly maintained, would bring about Satori, well, I would have my doubts.

The emphasis on balanced and stable sitting has moved from beneficial practice or "powerful practice based on maintaining form" into the area of fetish, in my small opinion.

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by desert_woodworker » Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:45 pm

fuki wrote:
Sun Apr 29, 2018 7:23 pm
Would you consider a specific sleeping posture a fetish?
I think that would "depend". If it distracts one from sleeping, or is uncomfortable, it's probably not to be recommended. Or, it could become a "ritual" practice of a negative kind such as people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive behavior of different sorts are prone to.

By the way, I recall that there were (or are) recommendations to sleep on the RIGHT side. The reason is that the stomach-contents (if any, so late at night at bedtime) will then be able to drain -- under gravity, alone -- into the next organs in the sequence, the Small and Large Intestines. Presumably, muscular peristalsis could thereby be minimized, and energy can be saved, and sleep can be more restorative.

We can question whether this attention to how the stomach "drains" really makes any difference in the quality of one's sleep, or in the use or savings of energy by the workings of the stomach or the body as a whole.

(In weightlessness, this is not an issue).

Others say, I think, that the heart is decentralized from the mid-line of the body, and is on the LEFT side of the body, so it is better NOT to sleep on the left side of the body so as to put less pressure on this pumping organ, and allow it to pump more easily (using less energy). So, this too would argue for sleeping on the right side of the body.

But fetish-izing is making a thing or a practice into something somewhat magical, not something "scientific". Is it a fetish to eat a "healthy" diet?
No. But can it be made into a fetish? Yes!, I think so!, and there are varieties and degrees of this.

It seems that only human animals make things into fetishes, and not other animals.

--Joe

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:25 pm

Hi Joe,

Personally, I doubt that Dogen and the Ancestors had any thought about draining stomachs or heart flow. I would imagine that sleeping on one side like that unable to roll over or flex the muscles would cause the blood to drain down on one side of the body, result in bruising, cramps and spinal issues, and have many harmful effects. I have tried it and it is only for the exhausted (which many monks are by bedtime).

Some reasons are set out here (Page 65). Probably it has more to do with keeping everyone unified and in a respectful direction. My understanding about the reason the "enchilada" developed is that the only way to keep someone in position all night was basically to tie them in tight.

https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=XJH ... de&f=false

It is a very old Practice (Footnote 57 here), much predating Dogen ...

https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=91O ... 22&f=false

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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Re: Zazen and Breathing

Post by jundocohen » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:47 pm

Just as a joke, I did a little searching ...
The Incredible Health Benefits Of Sleeping On Your Left Side

https://www.littlethings.com/why-you-sh ... left-side/
On the other hand ...
Why Sleeping on Your Right Side Could be Killing You

Even if you are not pregnant, you should try to avoid sleeping on your right side. This sleep position can give you a few health disadvantages, which include the following:

Heartburn: Most pregnant women are prone to heartburn. However, adults can also suffer from heartburn and sleeping on the right side can worsen the problem.
Numbness: If you are prone to sleeping on the right side or even the left side, you will notice that you usually wake up with squished arm numbness. This is because you are putting most of your weight on one arm, which results to restricted blood flow. You also press down on your nerves, causing pins and needles or the “rubber arm.” This may wake you up at night and some people are not lucky enough to get back to sleep immediately. Therefore it can also lead to disrupted sleep or worse, insomnia.
Precancerous: Because gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is bad for your esophagus, the muscular end region right next to your stomach could lead to cancer.

https://www.stethnews.com/1111/why-slee ... lling-you/
It is on the Internet, so it must be true. :555:

Gassho, J
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

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