Saturday, March 04, 2006

Regular Zen Practice


A friend of mine has had difficulty getting into the habit of sitting every day. I said, "Just make a habit of it, do it without thinking. I roll out of bed, get some water, go to the toilet, and go sit. I'm on the cushion before I'm even fully awake." My friend looked interested, but a little doubtful.

Does anyone else have any tips for practicing regularly?

19 Comments:

At March 04, 2006, Blogger endofthedream said...

Before regular practice became a habit, a "tool" that was useful for me was reading zen or buddhist texts which pointed out, in a clear and uncompromising way, the benefits, both short and long term, of sitting. These included psychological and emotional stability, clarity of thought, an increased ability to focus or be "on target" more often, and a general sense of well-being (being more "centered"). Reading about how one or more of the above might result from regular practice provided motivation for me to engage in zazen, even when there were other competing distractions.

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

If your friend doesn't sit any day, does it matter?

Is sitting every day good and not doing so bad?

If your friend wants to sit every day then he will find a way. If he does not then he will find a way not to.

Not the answer you were looking for... ;-)

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

I think S. Suzuki said something to the effect that it does not matter how long you sit, but just to make it a regular thing- even five minutes a day.

My regular sitting comes first thing in the morning also. When I started, it was like ten minutes (which seemed like forever). I crash at like 9 or 10 at night and wake at 4:30 while the house is still and quiet and sit for 40 minutes. It's a good length of time for me. I think it is a very common length of time to sit for a reason.

But it doesn't matter- just make a habit- yes- that's good. Many of us wish to make a good habit yet it seems hard at first to incorporate this into all our other habits.(good or bad)

Once it's within the stream though it comes quite easy.

Your friend seems to have the desire that MikeDoe talks of yet still trying to get over the hump of making it a full-fledged habit.

Maybe finding the proper time is key- no distractions which allow excuses not to do it. Thus my early rising...There is really nothing else to do at 4:30 :)

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

I had got into a regular habit of practice, but then I moved house and I've not done any Zazen at all for a month, so I need to settle back into myself.

I miss it, it does make a difference - my girlfriend notices it as well - I'm just calmer and happier, but actually doing it sometimes takes a bit of will-power.

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

mikedoe: i think sitting everyday is good and not sitting everyday is less desirable than sitting every day. i wouldn't call it bad.

jules: if your friends watchestv the chances are they'll sit thru a load of shit tv shows on a daily basis that they are only watching for lack of anything else to do. that would be a good time to remind themself that they do have time to do zazen!

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger 6billionghosts said...

i go to college. i live with another person. we get along well but i do not feel comfortable sitting zen in the room. plus, there are cars going by the house all the time.

going to a special place to sit is good for me. i go to the library. if you are living in a city or in a college the library can be a great place to find an isolated place for sitting.

for me, doing it every day is essentiall because i get more out of it when it becomes part of my life like that and i actually remember to do it.

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

Hi everyone! Long time reader, first time poster.

I had a lot of trouble with that when I first got into this Buddhism thing, too.

When I started trying to meditate regularly, I started with 5 minutes a day -- nothing too heroic or difficult. After a while I felt like sitting for 10 minutes, then later 15, and so on. If you start slow like that you don't have to worry so much about finding the time to do it, or about whether you can actually sit still for half an hour.

It's also important not to get too upset about missing a day, or several days for that matter. "Oh no, I'm terrible at this!" Best to just pick up where you left off. 'Course, it's one thing to say that and another to do it.

I think it's helpful to sit with other people on a regular basis, be it once a week, once a month, or whatever. I always find it easier to go sit with others than to sit at home.

And like you said, I try to work it into my daily routine.

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

I mentioned this before - but I wasn't able to fit in regular sitting until I "tied" it to something else I do consistently - making coffee. For me a morning without a pot of coffee is terrible & since I make the coffee before anyone else gets up I have usually 30 minutes of quiet every morning.

I used to use this time to read and enjoyed the peace and quiet (a family of 5 getting ready for the day is a pretty hectic affair).

Once I started sitting regularly I began to feel odd if I didn't sit.

There are problems that come up during my sitting - like a slight buzzing in my ears I only notice when sitting, and now I notice it during the day if things get quiet. But perhaps another post should be devoted to 'problems' arising while this post is focused on tips for regular sitting...

But now I wonder - am I "attached" to sitting? Am I using it as some sort of 'addition' to my life to smooth things out? I have no conscious goals in mind when I sit, but perhaps my subconscious has grown attached to it?

Questions...

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

On a related topic - sitting facing a wall or facing away? I'm new to sitting and have picked up that it seems that students of Soto zen face walls while Rinzai don't?

I find Soto much more appealing than Rinzai (in part because it lends itself so well to solo practice) - but I don't think I'd want to sit facing a wall. I like sitting with my back to the wall, in part because if any activity happens, say a noise made by a pet or such, I'd like to see it rather than wonder "what is that?" the wondering I think would add to the thought-stream in my head... whereas if I see the action it can be quickly dismissed without all that wondering.

It's hard to describe but sitting facing into a room simply feels more natural.

What do others do? Wall or no?

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

I often do something similar, like me. I love really strong peppermint tea. So I'll steep a batch while sitting. It is not possible to oversteep it, so the length of time I leave it doesn't matter, but it is setting up a little reward for myself. Also, I think it is really helpful when starting out to just say, ok, I am going to do 5 minutes. That's it. Even if you think you can sit for 1/2 and hour. I think that creating the habit of sitting is more important that the length of time. It is better to do 5-10 minutes twice a day every day, than an hour once every other week. It is easy to say to yourself, 'Well, jeepers, I can certainly sit still for 5 minutes!'. Zen or not, I think there are creative habits we can develop and destructive habits we can develop. And I do put sitting in the good/creative/beneficial category. And, yes, I understand what dualism is, folks. I'll proceed at my own peril!

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger K'vitsh said...

Wall. Otherwise I'd be distracted by everything I see. I have enough trouble as it is.

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

Sometimes Eyes open. Sometimes Eyes closed. Rarely a wall.

Distractions arise in the mind, not in the surroundings.

I tend to sit in the evenings rather than mornings.

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Yeah, wall.

You're right, Me, it seems unnatural at first, having your back to the room. But the wall is good in two ways: it's something to concentrate on, and it's a big, blank something. Good tool to quiet the mind.

Re: the original question: partly it's a "just get on with it" thing. I hate that.

But I'm also opportunistic about it. Busy brain, many books, much writing, scads of other projects, ten directins at once. Sometimes I get all scattered and say, "Whoa. Time to sit."

It helps: after sitting, I can center in on the project at hand, and perform it much better for having a bit of clarity. As endo said.

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

yeh i sit facing the wall with my eyes naturally open like dogen suggests. if i shut my eyes it's too easy for me to get distracted on daydreams. i'm lucky cos my bedroom happens to be incredibly soundproof cos of it being in a basement and having thick walls and doors so once the doors shut that's it. there's no outside distractions

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

Regarding the wall being a big blank nothing to help quiet the mind - wouldn't this perhaps make zazen too simple?

If one wanted to practice the same in a crowded subway station it might be too large a jump - too many stimuli.

Facing a room, perhaps in dim light at first (my usual method), at least provides some obstacles to clear mindedness - so that it then becomes less of a jump to practice during rush hour traffic, say.

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

I used to sit facing the window. Then I kinda liked looking out the window which made me daydream. Now I sit facing the wall. I still daydream, but a bit less.
As for motivation to sit everyday I think endofthedream's point is a really good one - as soon as I read Harcore Zen I started sitting 20 minutes every morning. As soon as I read Nishijima's text on How to practice zazen I did the same. Books about the validity of Zazen practice can be really motivating. In fact I think I need to read them again ;-) Another thing I sometimes do is just sit in half lotus with no intention to do Zazen. And then I find I'm not so stressed about it and often my mind just quietens naturally...and the Zazen is not so much of a chore.
G'luck m(..)m

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

just posted about this very subject.

i agree with what someone above said about not worrying about the length of your sittings, but just getting to the cushion every day is key to cultivating a regular, daily habit.

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

I face into the room, and mostly stare at the floor. But I don't think it makes much difference either way when you're practicing alone.

Thanks for your input, everyone.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger A Strange Day said...

I got into the habit much in the same way that EOTD mentioned. I kept telling myself that the only person I was hurting by not sitting was myself.

Now it's just to the point where it's something that is part of my daily routine, like taking a shower. If I didn't take a shower, I'd be smelly and sweaty, and likewise, if I don't do zazen, I'd be grumpy and unbalanced.

Interestingly, I'm going to face a challenge to my regular practice, because I'm going away to my family's place for my cousin's wedding. I'm not really sure if I'm going to have the time or, more importantly, the privacy to be able to practice. As an added complication, no one in my family knows I practice Zen Buddhism, and I'm not sure how they would react to it. I haven't missed a single day of practice since I started, but this may be the thing that breaks that routine.

 

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