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#1 2008-03-26 13:28:35

Alex
Member
From: Barcelona - Spain
Registered: 2005-10-17
Posts: 138

Zazen practice

Hello everybody,

I have been practicing Zazen on a daily basis for a few months now and I was wondering how many of you also practice Zazen besides playing Shakuhachi. Also, it would be nice to hear for how long you've been practicing and which benefits are you getting out of it (regarding your life in general and your playing in particular).

As for myself I find that since I started Zazen my focus ability has improved considerably, being more aware, efficient and attentive in everything I do, including my Shakuhachi playing (well, I'm usually a terribly unfocused person so I guess I had a lot of room for improvement!).

Besides, I think it is helping me understand the practice of Suizen, which I think it could become a substitute for Zazen but only under certain conditions ("not all blowing is Suizen as not all sitting is Zazen" kind of thing).

Anyway, looking forward to hear from your experiences

Alex


"An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's "at" somewhere. You always have to realise that you are constantly in the state of becoming. And as long as you can stay in that realm, you'll sort of be all right"
Bob Dylan

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#2 2008-03-26 17:14:13

Glenn Swann
Member
From: Central New Jersey
Registered: 2008-03-01
Posts: 151
Website

Re: Zazen practice

I practice zazen, both at home (though not absolutely every day) and with a zen group. Been sitting more or less regularly for about 10 years. Spent some time at american zen centers, including an amazing month at Tassajara which really influenced my practice deeply. Thus, I generally practice soto-style shikantaza, but sometimes reflect on koans, or occasionally practice Taoist microcosmic orbit sitting meditation.
I find zazen to be kind of a foundation practice for my other arts- shakuhachi, taijiquan, chado, and shodo. It kind of brings out into direct focus a certain essence underlying all of them, and I often feel that interplay between those arts. The issues I face in one are absolutely similar to what i face in the others, and in Life generally. "Advancements" in one usually help out the others.
It's hard to say just zazen, or just taiji, etc. has influenced my personality or practice, but I certainly feel different today than 10 years ago.... certainly better able to focus, stay calm in trying situations, manifest compassion, etc.  Also, little by little more confidence and a more direct approach to things, as well as better health.
I often play Honkyoku (suizen) before or after zazen, and feel they certainly support each other... perhaps zazen is the ultimately subtle suizen (the qin with no strings...)   
Of course, any genre of shakuhachi, sankyoku or honkyoku, can manifest this essence. I believe David Wheeler Sensei said once in response to a question that he plays sankyoku and honkyoku the same, that is with the same focus and ki, that one is not by nature definitively more "spiritual" than the other. Kawase Sensei also  said to me to use the same mind intent no matter what piece. Although the original intent of sankyoku and honkyoku may be quite different, the application and effects on the player (or listener) can be the same. thus any blowing can be suizen, depending on the player (or listener).
Interesting Topic .... one I think about often myself.
ps- there is already some discussion related to this topic here-
http://shakuhachiforum.com/viewtopic.php?id=643

Last edited by Glenn Swann (2008-03-26 17:37:34)


I followed rivers, I followed orders,I followed prophets, I followed leaders
I followed rivers, I followed highways,I followed conscience,
I followed dreamers... And I'm back here,
and I'm back here... At the edge of the sky       (New Model Army)

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#3 2008-03-31 16:07:45

Jordan
Member
From: Vancouver
Registered: 2006-12-08
Posts: 24
Website

Re: Zazen practice

Alex,
Others here have said some interesting things; I hope my reply isnít too boring, or too exciting either!

I think that blowing zen and sitting zen are compatible but not comparable hobbies.  I tend to sit zen two times a day, morning and night.  My blowing Zen practice has not been as regular over the last couple of years.  I am attempting to improve that lately.   

I do not think (and this is only my opinion) that they would be a good substitute for one another.  I do feel that sitting zen is beneficial to blowing zen and vice versa.


Be Well and Happy!
Gassho!

Jordan

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#4 2008-04-15 10:45:37

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

I have been interested in meditation and meditated in different modes since I was a pre-teen.  Last year, however, I finally decided to take Refuge, and a couple of months ago, I received transmission of the Five Precepts.  I've been practicing seated meditation on daily basis for the past year, plus a couple of months.  It has surely helped me calm my anger and shed a new light on the world through this regular practice.  I am looking to incorporate Blowing Meditation into my practice, but am not sure how to begin.  I have a flute and have been "practicing" with it, rather informally, for about three or four months.  Any pointers that folks could give about incorporating Suizen into a regular seated practice would be great.


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#5 2008-04-20 07:47:59

Jordan
Member
From: Vancouver
Registered: 2006-12-08
Posts: 24
Website

Re: Zazen practice

lowonthetotem wrote:

Any pointers that folks could give about incorporating Suizen into a regular seated practice would be great.

Sure,
When sitting, just sit, when blowing, just blow.

Palms together
Jordan


Be Well and Happy!
Gassho!

Jordan

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#6 2008-04-21 10:05:33

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

Sure,
When sitting, just sit, when blowing, just blow.

Actually, one very practical thing that I discovered, was switching from my usual meditation posture to lion/hero posture.  I was sitting lotus before, and the end of the flute nearly rested on my calf, and it was difficult to really get a deep breath.  Sitting on my heels with my knees apart allows for much more relaxation of the diaphram and also seems to allow for a much more controled contraction as well.  Slipping a pillow or cushion under the ankles seems to take some pressure off as well, allowing for a longer session.


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#7 2008-04-21 13:54:40

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

Here is a link to some free plans to build one if you are so inclined.

http://www.lwrightnm.com/medbenchinst.htm


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#8 2008-04-21 14:03:00

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

After taking a closer look at those plans, they seem a little incorrect.  It calls for the square edge of the legs to go under the bench and the angled end to go against the floor.  That is not consistent with the picture shown and would seem to promote sliding backwards.  Maybe I am wrong.

This link has plans that require no chiseling.  It seems a bit easier.

http://www.digitalunleashed.com/downloa … 0Bench.pdf


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#9 2008-04-22 10:46:08

Glenn Swann
Member
From: Central New Jersey
Registered: 2008-03-01
Posts: 151
Website

Re: Zazen practice

This Lion/Hero posture sounds like, as you described it, basically seiza. If you have trouble sitting that way for a time,  instead of a bench (which is of course excellent) you can just put a smallish zafu or just pillow under your butt, between your legs, which is typically what folks do at the zen groups I've attended. Seiza is of course traditional and ideal for playing, but  1/2 or full lotus should be fine as well regarding breath, and if the flute is hitting your your calf it sounds like you are too hunched downward, which also will affect your breathing. try looking up at the horizon line and raising your flute up and a little out, still with heavy elbows and a feeling as though you can just hold something in your armpits.
for extended seiza, benches or cushions are helpful(or perhaps necessary), but i feel they do detract somewhat from ones' feeling of rooting, or that both legs are like one big foot, as i've heard it described.i tend to not use them for shakuhachi, but do sometimes for general sitting or calligraphy practice. i think one important thing for seiza is to maintain a sort of realxed extension through the leg joints even as they are under you, so that the weight doesn't just sink like a sandbag onto your knees and ankles. that coupled with as we say in taiji a nice suspend from above can help lengthen your "seizability".... i actually don't use chairs at home (my main living area is tatami) and as i study chado sometimes have to seiza on tatami for 3 hours with only short breaks- and no bench or cushion. it is possible. if you check out aikido books or sites, there's alot of good info about proper seiza.


I followed rivers, I followed orders,I followed prophets, I followed leaders
I followed rivers, I followed highways,I followed conscience,
I followed dreamers... And I'm back here,
and I'm back here... At the edge of the sky       (New Model Army)

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#10 2008-05-22 14:47:29

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

This Lion/Hero posture sounds like, as you described it, basically seiza.

True enough, I am not used to calling it this.  I tend to use the yoga names.  I'll try to use more of the Japanese names as it seems more conducive to this forum.  I don't think I was hunching, I think I was holding the flute too low.  Everything is much better now.  I recycled some old wood from the garage and but together a bench for Shakuhachi practice.  I still sit lotus for Zazan.  It is the posture in which I feel most rooted.


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#11 2008-05-22 15:06:21

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Zazen practice

As far as sitting goes. I do feel that Seiza is the best position if done properly to prevent slouching. The problematic with Seiza for most Non-Japanese and also nowadays for most Japanese that do not practice any form of traditional arts is that it will cut your circulation badly and can also produce nasty problems in the long run. There is some techniques in order to make Seiza more comfortable that we had to learn since in temples ceremonies tend to be quite long and you donít want to look like a fool also especially when getting up.  One of the main things to do is each 5 minutes or so try to raise your butt 5 to 10 CM max in order to take the weight off your lower legs and feetís. But before doing this you will have to practice a bit looking at in the mirror in order for it not to show to much when you change position.

Now when I am at home I use a Seiza bench most of the time in order not to damage myself just for the sake of tradition.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#12 2008-05-22 16:04:07

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

I generally don't have an issue with slouching.  As far as joint damage and other physical conditions, I think a great deal of this depends on the fitness level.  With the tendency to sit in chairs, much of the trunk strength necessary to maintain an upright posture off a chair goes away.  Many people have warned me about sitting in lotus posture, but I have not experienced any problems.  I sit for 30 to 60 minutes on a regular basis without numbness or pain.  There is some stiffness upon standing, but nothing that lasts more than 5 minutes.  I should say that I did do some pretty extensive stretching to make lotus posture possible and maintain a stretching regimen to keep my hips from tightening up and putting pressure on my knees.  Tradition certainly should not lead us into joint damage, but even Dogen only mentions lotus and half lotus for Zazen.  Doing some yoga is good for loosening up enough to make these postures possible.

Nice shrine Gishin.  I recently just obtained my fifth Buddha to complete my Dhyani Buddhas set.  I had been missing Vairochana but found him on Ebay.  I noiticed on your profile that you have an interest in Rinzai (Linji/Lin Chi).  I ordained in the Linji tradition as an Uppasika a few months ago.  It is good to meet you.  In what tradition have you ordained?


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#13 2008-05-22 16:20:58

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Zazen practice

lowonthetotem wrote:

I generally don't have an issue with slouching.  As far as joint damage and other physical conditions, I think a great deal of this depends on the fitness level.

Nice shrine Gishin.  I recently just obtained my fifth Buddha to complete my Dhyani Buddhas set.  I had been missing Vairochana but found him on Ebay.  I noiticed on your profile that you have an interest in Rinzai (Linji/Lin Chi).  I ordained in the Linji tradition as an Uppasika a few months ago.  It is good to meet you.  In what tradition have you ordained?

For the fitness thing I totally agree and also disagree as well. Even if one is totally fit living in Japan or China and getting on your knees minum 5 to sometimes 7 days a week each moring and nights for a minimum of 1 hour in humid weather will usually bust you up at some point. I am lucky to still be ok but I am still only 33 years old so I guess we will see later down the road if my knees and lower legs are still good.

Thanks for the praise on our familly Butsudan. This piece is in our main room but now most people that come to our place get to see the one in the Dojo mostly since now with a Baby we needed to have privacy and make sure that we had a decicated room away from the main part of the house for Shakuhachi and meditation,sutra chanting etc...

I did ordain originally in China on Mount-Wutai at the Bishansi temple in the Linji/Rinzai school and later on when I went back to Japan trained in Shingon of the Chizan branch in Kyoto to learn more Shomyo and the 4 main rituals of their school. I also trained at various Rinzai and also Tendai temple in Japan on my search for Shomyo and other stuff.

If you have any questions I will be glad to help.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#14 2008-06-04 10:02:41

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

Nice shrine Gishin.  I recently just obtained my fifth Buddha to complete my Dhyani Buddhas set.  I had been missing Vairochana but found him on Ebay.  I noiticed on your profile that you have an interest in Rinzai (Linji/Lin Chi).  I ordained in the Linji tradition as an Uppasika a few months ago.  It is good to meet you.  In what tradition have you ordained?

Hahaha, I'm a dip sh**.  I meant Upasaka, don't you guys get any ideas, male strippers especially.


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#15 2008-07-11 11:20:29

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Zazen practice

Maybe some folks would find this helpful.  You can convert these to regular audio file and burn them onto CD's for use during meditation or just play them right from your computer or MP 3.

http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/timer/timer.html


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#16 2008-07-26 15:29:16

Harry
Member
From: Dublin, Ireland.
Registered: 2006-04-24
Posts: 221
Website

Re: Zazen practice

Hi Alex,

I've been practicing for a couple of years. I practice Soto Zen; shikantaza or "just sitting" Zazen as described by Dogen Zenji.

In that practice we just sit and drop all goals and methods... and everything else. We just let it come and go.

It has certainly helped me in the way you mention, but also in ways I can't really put my finger on.

An interesting way I think it has helped my playing of several types of music is that it has helped me not resist or be phased by making mistakes and sounding 'bad'. So the mistakes are just the way things happen to be at that moment: perfectly imperfect in other words.

Regards,

Harry.


"As God once said, and I think rightly..." (Margaret Thatcher)

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