Sunday, March 05, 2006

problems during zazen

me brought up the issue of the problems that arise during zazen (buzzing in his ears in his case). in my case it's pain in my lower back on the same side as the leg that is twisted up onto my other leg (half/quarter lotus). today was the first day that i didn't experience any pain or cramping in my back but i'm not sure what i was doing differently this time.

is this pain just cos of inflexibility or am i sitting wrong? any suggestions?

15 Comments:

At March 05, 2006, Blogger Siren said...

I'd suggest looking up some very simple yoga hip opener exercises, and/or taking a gentle yoga class. You may want to simply sit 'Indian style' as you work on opening your hips slowly over time.

The knee should not really twist in 1/2 or full lotus. The ability to get into lotus is directly dependent on how open your hips are. The rotation comes from the hips not from the knees!

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger me said...

Does anyone else have this slight buzzing in the ears? I recall first noticing it years ago and thinking how ironic it would be (if all people had this slight buzzing ) for audiophiles who spend thousands of dollars for perfect sound reproduction - minus any 'noise' - when, in fact, there remains noise inherent in our hearing that no amount of dolby can reduce!

But later, as I sat more, I began to worry that maybe this isn't universal, maybe my hearing is a little messed up? My wife says she's got it too and said "everyone has that" but I really don't know. It's not a bother except when I'm in a quiet place - then I notice it, more now that I'm sitting regularly, because I notice everything more now...

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

siren: thanks for that i'll look into it!

me: i don't want to alarm you but it sounds like a mild form of tinnitus. did u ever go thru a perios of listening to loud music or anything?

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger karen said...

When it is very, very quiet, there is this noise or buzz that you can hear. I usually just listen to it because it's there. I don't always notice it. But the other thing you might want to think about if this is really bad for you is to try and notice how your hearing is on a day to day basis when you are at work or other activities. There is a condition that people get called tinnitus. It's a ringing or noise in the ear that is sometimes off and on but it's annoying and noticeable. My friend thought she was just aging and losing some of her hearing for a long time. She eventually realized when things were very quiet that this ringing was almost constant and it was the cause of her supposed hearing loss. What was really happening was that the ringing was always there and interfered with how she heard what people were saying to her.

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger me said...

Thanks Dan & Karen - I investigated tinnitus and found this:

In 1953 Heller and Bergman performed an simple and classic experiment. They placed 80 tinnitus free individuals (university members) in a sound proofed room for 5 minutes each, asking them to report on any sounds that might be heard. The subjects thought they might be undergoing a hearing test, but actually experienced 5 minutes of total silence.

93% reported hearing buzzing, pulsing, whistling sounds in the head or ears identical to those reported by tinnitus sufferers. This simple experiment shows almost anyone can detect background electrical activity present in every living nerve cell in the hearing pathways as a sound.

Although some areas of the auditory system may be more active than others, every neuron will contribute to some extent to the final perception of tinnitus. These electrical signals are not evidence of damage, but compensatory activity that occurs all the time in the auditory system of each one of us. Compensation can occur as a response to changes in our sound environment (e.g. silence) to hearing loss which may be a natural part of ageing, or to exposure to sudden noise.

It's good to think of the sounds produced by this compensatory activity as 'the music of the brain'. Of those who DO experience persistent tinnitus, population studies have shown that about 85% do not find it intrusive, disturbing or anxiety provoking (something tinnitus sufferers find very hard to believe!). The reason for this is not so much because the quality or loudness of the tinnitus is different; in fact we have found that tinnitus is of a very similar type of sound in those who are bothered by it and those who are not.


at http://www.tinnitus.org/home/frame/THC1.htm

The funny thing is the subjectivity of it - if I 'worry' the sound may be something 'bad' then it seems louder and more noticeable. If I think, instead, that it's normal it seems quieter and less noticeable...

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

I used to have the buzzing sound in my ears. I think it's pretty common. It's probably a sign that your holding alot of your tension in your neck and shoulders.

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger karen said...

me, that is very interesting to read what that noise we hear actually is. I thought it might be some kind of "air" noise but electrical activity is something I never really thought about. When I read things like this it always amazes me that there are so many things we can't see or hear in our normal state. When I was in art school, I thought it was fascinating to learn that we can't see certain wave lengths, like ultraviolet rays etc. We had to learn how we see the colors that we do say for instance on apples. Apples absorb every color except red (or whatever color they are)and the one they don't absorb is the one we see reflected. This is really off the subject of sitting problems but it's so interesting. It's why I can spend so much time reading on the internet because one thing leads to another.

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger me said...

Karen, yes.. very interesting. And not only is the apple absorbing every color except red - the image of the red apple does not exist ANYWHERE except inside our head.

All this, sound, light, perception in general etc. gets into some very zen issues.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

is this pain just cos of inflexibility or am i sitting wrong? any suggestions?

If you otherwise don't experience the pain, your posture is wrong. Inflexibility won't give you a back pain. Ask someone more experienced to observe your posture.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger oxeye said...

During my first go at morning zazen I can sit for 1/2 hour periods with little trouble except pins and needles feeling in my legs. But after about 10-15 minutes of sitting in the evening, I start getting sleepy and even when I successfully fight off sleep, zazen will be very strange. melting walls and weird open eye dreams. very different from morning zazen. Anyone else have similar problems?

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger karen said...

I have had the open eye dreams. I think I was actually asleep when it happened. And it didn't just happen at night. What I found out for myself was that I was eating too much sugar and having spikes and crashes in my blood sugar. I have since cut way back on sugar and these things have gone away. It used to happen to me at work also. I could be staring at the computer and my eyes would cross and my head would nod. Very weird.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger Erik said...

As for hearing the buzzing sound, here is a quote from Ajahn Sumedho, a popular Theravadin monk:

As you calm down, you can experience the sound of silence in the mind. You hear it as a kind of high frequency sound, a ringing sound that's always there. It is just normally never noticed. Now when you begin to hear that sound of silence, it's a sign of emptiness - of silence of the mind. It's something you can always turn to. As you concentrate on it and turn to it, it can make you quite peaceful and blissful. Meditating on that, you have a way of letting the conditions of the mind cease without suppressing them with another condition. Otherwise you just end up putting one condition over another.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger me said...

erik, thanks for that quote - I had suspected (and hoped) that it was a normal phenomenon. I liked your quote because I had been experiencing a similar event - when I would be, say, at work, and hear this sound I would suddenly notice it and think of zazen, then realize that everything I was sensing was more present than normal - that I was more present than normal.

Regarding the melting walls - I wonder if this isn't a problem with the wall-staring zazen method. After reading others' comments I tried the wall-staring this morning and boy I had trouble focusing my eyes - there wasn't enough depth to the scene so my eyes started going buggy. I never have that problem when I face into the room (although sometimes my focus will go a little soft, it is easy to interpret and handle).

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger PA said...

I have that buzzing too. It's kinda cool :-) I think it's cause I watch too much TV though!
As for wall staring, I face the wall but stare at the floor about a metre in front of me. That seems to allow the eyes to focus naturally.

 
At March 07, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

me said,

"...I tried the wall-staring this morning and boy I had trouble focusing my eyes...."

Don't try. Let your vision go soft, let your eyes slide halfway closed, with your gaze settled about halfway between eye level and floor level. Head erect, but eyes easy.

About listening closely ... hmm. Where was it I read about this guy? I think it may have been in the Vimalakirti Sutra. There's mention of one of the Buddha's main disciples, who reached enlightenment solely by listening, concentrating, listening verrrry carefully.... Bodhi by ear, seriously.

If anyone's curious, I can try and find the details.

 

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