Sitting Instructions
Issho Fujita on posture PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 20 July 2019 17:59

Please read a brilliant essay by Issho Fujita on posture from Dharma Eye.

 
Posture Instructions: The Breath PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 15 April 2019 15:59


When we hear an instruction to keep returning our attention to the breath, we need to unpack that instruction.

It is an instruction primarily given to people who keep having random thoughts. For these people, the instruction is quite simple. But many people have different problems. They may experience thoughts with a persistent, distressing theme - thoughts of torture, for example - or they may consistently experience a particular difficult emotion or cluster of emotions, the common ones being fear, anxiety, boredom, dissatisfaction and such like. For these people, the instruction, without further explanation, is likely to feel at best unhelpful, and at worst an attempt to ignore or minimise their experience in favour of a vacuous serenity.

So, to unpack:

It is not regarding the breath as the object of concentration. It is not as if the breath and the distracting/distressing thoughts or emotions are like two irate fat men, ceaselessly competing to sit on the one chair of attention.

It is the breath, not your breath.

It is our actual experience of the breath as a dynamic, non conceptual moving space within us. There is no barrier between that space and the greater 'external' space. Thus, the entire body is hanging in space, and both are fluid. In this way, we directly experience both 'form' and 'emptiness', and can thus access a vast compassionate space within which our distressing thoughts - along with everything else - can emerge, express and change.

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2019 16:01
 
Practice Instructions - What part does concentration play? PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 12 December 2018 21:50

Q: what part does concentration play in sitting?

A: Often an instruction is given that we should bring our attention back to our breath and body. But that instruction is given in a context, and that context is what to do if we notice the mind wandering off in thought.

It doesn't mean that the breath or the body is the object of our concentration. Once we have brought our attention back, we don't keep it on the breath and the body, we open out into a broad expansive awareness, which has no object. If we say "concentration", that assumes both something that we concentrate on, and something that we can succeed or fail at, and both these assumptions are not helpful.

Obviously, we don't wish our awareness to be dispersed, and so we sometimes say 'concentrated' or 'focused', but we should use these words with caution.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 December 2018 21:57
 
Practice Instruction PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 18 September 2018 15:31

 

When we talk about zazen, we need to be careful that our instructions do not casually reinforce the habitual dualities of body/mind and self/world. Yet, the most common instruction that newcomers are given does exactly this, the injunction to allow thoughts to come and go freely.

Perhaps we give this instruction because newcomers are always surprised and distressed at the unrelenting cascade of drivel that appears to be surging through them the moment they start sitting. But zazen is the practice of all of us, not just the mind.

After a while, what becomes more apparent is the persistent colouring of experience in a way that is often very disagreeable: agitation, fear, torpor, boredom, despair. How do we advise the student then? If we call these emotions, we somehow allocate them to the mind. If we call them disturbances of the nervous system, we somehow allocate them to the body. Either way, the duality is enforced.

We need to find a way to talk about practice which doesn’t take these familiar dualities for granted, only to try to dissolve them later.

One way is through the actual experience of breathing. If we pay careful attention, it is not that our breath is the movement of air in and out of our lungs, in and out of our mouth and nose. Our actual experience is that our breath goes everywhere. It goes up, into our head, it goes down, into our pelvis. It extends everywhere.

And, experiencing the breath in this way, it is possible to see a different duality: the dynamic movement of this spacious breath, like an expanding and contracting pillar of emptiness at our core. And around this pillar, likewise alive, likewise moving, the fabric of form; a fabric which is sometimes the body, sometimes the mind, sometimes the heart, sometimes the world.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 September 2018 15:35
 
Posture Instructions: The Breath PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 11 May 2018 14:31


My first teacher said that we should have a long, deep, complete exhalation, pushing our belly out as we press down, and a short natural inhalation. I am sorry to say that I believe these instructions to be completely mistaken.

Dogen said hardly anything about the breath. He just said to let a short breath be short and a long breath be long. At first glance, these instructions aren’t exactly comprehensive, but I think the import is clear: we shouldn’t try to control our breath.

Sometimes this is rendered as an instruction to just breathe naturally. Note the word. Not breathe normally, as you would when slumped over your computer, or slouching in a chair, but naturally.

Naturally for the zazen posture. When we are balanced, it is as if there is a vast cavern of breath inside us. There is nowhere it doesn’t reach. Sometimes it is breathing the bones of our pelvis. Sometimes our belly. Sometimes our intercostal muscles. Sometimes our clavicle. Sometimes our head. This natural breath breathes us, and as long as it does so, the body is no longer ‘the body’. It is no longer an object in our consciousness. It - everything - is free.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 11 May 2018 14:37
 
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