Zazen Is Good For Nothing

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jundocohen
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Re: Zazen Is Good For Nothing

Post by jundocohen » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:57 am

boda wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:03 pm

You seem to suggest that there's a way of sitting with 'disturbance' that's not 'in the drama'.
If I may offer here, although not addressed to me (so please disregard) ...

This "sitting with disturbance but not in the drama" is exactly right.

We develop though this Practice the wisdom and faith to know that even our momentary "mental drama" is just drama, passing theatre, and no need to buy into it and be further pulled in beyond that. In that way, one can come to "see through the drama" even as it rages.

Shikantaza develops the equanimity of "mirror mind," having a mind like a mirror which does not judge, ruminate or reject what appears in the mirror. One allows thoughts and emotions to be as passing things appearing and disappearing in the mirror without (as they say in police dramas) "engaging the suspect." That includes strong emotions or thoughts that may come up.

For example, usually a thought of a problem comes, of your boss whom you hate, or a fear about tomorrow. Now, in Zazen, the thought of the problem or your boss appears in the mind like a scene on stage or an image in a mirror. Even the feelings of "hate" or "fear" manifest, but now they are just like scenes on a stage one is observing, or images in the calm and clear mirror. Then, one is actually the "calm" observer or "calm and clear" mirror about even feeling strong emotions and anything BUT calm and clear in that moment. One is the "calm and clear" observer even of momentarily not feeling "calm and clear." One is peaceful and equanimious about even not feeling always mentally peaceful and equanimious all the time, for it is all passing theatre. One can then see the peace and wholeness that is present and shines through even scenes of war and brokeness, much like being able to see the entire stage and theatre that is present right through any particular passing scene of war and strife in the play.

Many forms of meditation only want to feel "calm and clear." Shikantaza is a higher wisdom, being an overriding "Calm and Clear" about times of being "calm and clear" and even about times when one is not!

That is when one knows that the blue and clear sky is present, the moon is always shining, whether or not hidden by the clouds, seen or unseen. Sky is just clouds and the absence of clouds, moon is illuminating even the darkest clouds.

I hope that I did not muddle things 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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[james]
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Re: Zazen Is Good For Nothing

Post by [james] » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:09 am

boda wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:03 pm
Hi James,
[james] wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:54 pm
Well, let’s say one is sitting for an hour and is agitated ... why not allow that condition to be during however much of the hour that it will be?
Because, as I've mentioned, it will affect my ability to concentrate. I've discovered that, for me at least, a level of mental relaxation is needed in order to quiet the mind, and a quiet mind is beneficial.
So the condition of agitation is at odds with the condition of concentration. Do you see, though, that allowing that sense of agitation for the period of an hour, not engaging or struggling with it but putting your alert attention to the task of patient, unprejudiced observation is already the beginning of a quiet mind?

boda wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:03 pm
[james] wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:54 pm
The agitation is endlessly modulating in response to other mental and physical factors in play during the one hour sitting. Resistance to a disturbance has, in my experience, the quality of nourishing the disturbance. Allowing a disturbance to be as it is presents the opportunity to observe dispassionately without preference or prejudice. The agitation may or may not dissipate during the hour, it may or may not be part of subsequent hours. One becomes less caught up and invested in the minutiae of the thought stream and less attached to desired outcomes. Nothing needs to be desired, accomplished or erased. And, if you wish, it’s only for an hour. The rest of the day is still there to be in the drama.
This appears to be the crux of our misunderstanding. What's the difference between ruminating about some agitating issue while sitting still on a zafu or ruminating about it during some other activity during the day? I don't see the difference myself.

You seem to suggest that there's a way of sitting with 'disturbance' that's not 'in the drama'.
Because you are not ruminating on the issue. For that one hour of zazen, at least, you are calmly and clearly allowing the expression of agitation and are observing the varying ways it manifests rather than being enmeshed in the niggling, naggling details. Rather than being in opposition you are cultivating, in that zazen period, a harmony. In fact you are welcoming this disturbance, you want to know everything about it.

How/why is a quiet mind beneficial to you? What is a quiet mind?

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Larry
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Re: Zazen Is Good For Nothing

Post by Larry » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:11 am

[james] wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:09 am
What is a quiet mind?
Nice little koan. Resonates with the NLP'ish "How do you know when your mind is quiet?"

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jundocohen
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Re: Zazen Is Good For Nothing

Post by jundocohen » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:21 am

James,

Again, lovely, I feel.

I wonder if I might ask you to clarify a couple of things you said, just for reference:
[you] are observing the varying ways it manifests ... you want to know everything about it.
This almost sounds as if you are studying it, considering it, thinking about it. I am sure that is not what you mean.

I am going to assume you mean some upright and alert, but quiet witnessing and allowing. Something like that. Yes?

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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[james]
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Re: Zazen Is Good For Nothing

Post by [james] » Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:30 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:21 am

I wonder if I might ask you to clarify a couple of things you said, just for reference:
[you] are observing the varying ways it manifests ... you want to know everything about it.
This almost sounds as if you are studying it, considering it, thinking about it. I am sure that is not what you mean.

I am going to assume you mean some upright and alert, but quiet witnessing and allowing. Something like that. Yes?
Studying, considering, thinking ... yes, elements of all that. But no, not essentially. For me zazen is, at least for now, the investigation of aversion and grasping. If I am experiencing any strong mental/emotional/physical sensation in zazen I hope to have the strength and courage to be completely awash in it. I can’t be trying to shut it down or sustain it. Concurrently I am holding to a place of observation. How am I reacting, how do my reactions influence and shape the situation, how does the cascade of reaction create what I am? The period of zazen is a place where I can be curious and courageous in looking deeply, calmly at “my self”. I am participating in myself.

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boda
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Re: Zazen Is Good For Nothing

Post by boda » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:13 pm

[james] wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:09 am
boda wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:03 pm
Hi James,
[james] wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:54 pm
Well, let’s say one is sitting for an hour and is agitated ... why not allow that condition to be during however much of the hour that it will be?
Because, as I've mentioned, it will affect my ability to concentrate. I've discovered that, for me at least, a level of mental relaxation is needed in order to quiet the mind, and a quiet mind is beneficial.
So the condition of agitation is at odds with the condition of concentration. Do you see, though, that allowing that sense of agitation for the period of an hour, not engaging or struggling with it but putting your alert attention to the task of patient, unprejudiced observation is already the beginning of a quiet mind?
Are you now suggesting that a quiet mind is desirable or a beneficial pursuit?
[james] wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:09 am
boda wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:03 pm
[james] wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 1:54 pm
The agitation is endlessly modulating in response to other mental and physical factors in play during the one hour sitting. Resistance to a disturbance has, in my experience, the quality of nourishing the disturbance. Allowing a disturbance to be as it is presents the opportunity to observe dispassionately without preference or prejudice. The agitation may or may not dissipate during the hour, it may or may not be part of subsequent hours. One becomes less caught up and invested in the minutiae of the thought stream and less attached to desired outcomes. Nothing needs to be desired, accomplished or erased. And, if you wish, it’s only for an hour. The rest of the day is still there to be in the drama.
This appears to be the crux of our misunderstanding. What's the difference between ruminating about some agitating issue while sitting still on a zafu or ruminating about it during some other activity during the day? I don't see the difference myself.

You seem to suggest that there's a way of sitting with 'disturbance' that's not 'in the drama'.
Because you are not ruminating on the issue. For that one hour of zazen, at least, you are calmly and clearly allowing the expression of agitation and are observing the varying ways it manifests rather than being enmeshed in the niggling, naggling details.
The expression of agitation is, at least partly, ruminating thoughts or 'monkey mind', with all its niggling naggling details. And one way of knowing that I'm "enmeshed" in them is that I'm less aware of what's going on around me. Attention is more internal and caught up in thoughts than external.
Rather than being in opposition you are cultivating, in that zazen period, a harmony. In fact you are welcoming this disturbance, you want to know everything about it.
What's the point of welcoming it? Normally there's nothing to learn about it. I see it as just a bad habit, essentially.
How/why is a quiet mind beneficial to you? What is a quiet mind?
A relaxed open attention that tends to not fixate on things and is 'quiet' in the sense of an absence of internal dialog or 'monkey mind'. Breathing tends to slow to about 3.5 breaths per minute, and in general the state feels rather good. Neurologically, this state is observed to show less activity in particular areas of the default mode network.

Anyway, I'm interested in this method that you're talking about. I still don't get it though. Maybe if you described your own experience in more detail it might make more sense to me.

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desert_woodworker
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Re: Zazen Is Good For Nothing

Post by desert_woodworker » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:44 pm

j.,
jundocohen wrote:
Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:34 am
Sure, Dogen had realization. There is no point to this Zen path without realization.
I agree with that, would say it is the summum bonum, as Wisdom (prajna) is, and would say too that what happens before realization stays before realization. If one glides into shikantaza after that as one's practice, for there being no need or even possibility for anything else, why, that's just fine. No need to advertise or front-load people about it beforehand, I'd say. Dogen doesn't overdo this, but most or many of his apologists do, especially modernly.

--Joe

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