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Thread: Zazen help?

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    Default Zazen help?

    I'm having a lot of trouble with breathing in zazen. I began Zazen about two years ago and since then I still find it hard to breath without taking extremely heavy breaths in and out, pushing the air out harshly and taking it in rapidly. I find this happens as soon as I focus on the breathing. Any help?
    Current notion: How would you define a 'skinny drink'?

    -Stephen Lewin

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    Don't think about the breathing- just breathe in and out gently thru the nose, relax the shoulders and allow the belly to move. Don't think about the breathing, it'll take care of itself.
    Lurking in dark alleys may be hazardous to other peoples health........

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    Quote Originally Posted by Green_Dreads
    I'm having a lot of trouble with breathing in zazen. I began Zazen about two years ago...
    Are you under the gauidance of a Zen master or experienced teacher, or are you doing this on your own?

    Quote Originally Posted by Green_Dreads
    ...I still find it hard to breath without taking extremely heavy breaths in and out, pushing the air out harshly and taking it in rapidly. I find this happens as soon as I focus on the breathing. Any help?
    If you don't have guidance, here's one suggestion: go back to the beginning.

    Start not by concentrating on your breathing as it is, but by adjusting your breathing; training your breathing.

    One method is to slowly count from one to ten (in your mind) as you breath in, and then again as you breath out. Keep repeating this until your session ends. (If practicing alone, use a kitchen timer or alarm clock to signal the end of your session.) Start with short periods of 10 - 15 minutes (even less if you really have trouble at first), and increase your time as you progress.

    Most people will find that suddenly they catch themselves mentally counting "13" or "21" -- an indication that their concentration waned. Unless you have a kaishaku with you to provide a reminder not to do that again just start over at 1 on the next exhalation. After a time you'll find your ability to stay focused -- without focusing -- improves, and you can move on to other types of meditation that suit you.

    BTW, if you really wan't to go all out, this company has some interesting timers for Zen and Yoga practice: Now & Zen

    Here's one of their nicer/pricier models:
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Hello,

    I train under a Soto Zen Sensei. From the perspective of our tradition, I would suggest not worrying about it. If you are forcing breath, be aware of forcing breath. Shikantaza is being as you are, don't try to make your breath conform to any set of expectations. Just be.

    Some awareness on breath, on body on what's around you on feelings, perceptions all that is, you should not focus on one and exclude any other. Let them all be, but don't get caught on any one.

    Shikan taza [za-zen] is not mind concentration training, as if often mistakenly taught. It is simply resting in what is, without expectation. When you make rules, for and against, failure and success, you miss it by 1,000 miles...

    I hope that helps.

    Good luck.
    Richard Ray Dojo-Cho
    Rick Ray's Warrior Arts Academy
    Bujinkan Makoto Dojo
    Cleveland Ninpo/Ninjutsu
    Makoto Dojo's Youtube Channel

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Owens
    Are you under the gauidance of a Zen master or experienced teacher, or are you doing this on your own?

    If you don't have guidance, here's one suggestion: go back to the beginning.
    Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any Zen sensei in the Luton area. Perhaps I could find a retreat over the winter?

    I will go back to the beginning, because I've messed up a lot. However, its all been down to sutble misunderstandings and I feel I can correct what I've done wrong.

    Start not by concentrating on your breathing as it is, but by adjusting your breathing; training your breathing.

    One method is to slowly count from one to ten (in your mind) as you breath in, and then again as you breath out. Keep repeating this until your session ends. (If practicing alone, use a kitchen timer or alarm clock to signal the end of your session.) Start with short periods of 10 - 15 minutes (even less if you really have trouble at first), and increase your time as you progress.

    Most people will find that suddenly they catch themselves mentally counting "13" or "21" -- an indication that their concentration waned. Unless you have a kaishaku with you to provide a reminder not to do that again just start over at 1 on the next exhalation. After a time you'll find your ability to stay focused -- without focusing -- improves, and you can move on to other types of meditation that suit you.
    Regarding the other forms of meditation, I've been reading about some forms and attempting to find one that works with me. I don't remember the name (I think it was in Hindi), but there was one which basically involved sitting watching a cloud, not seperating oneself from the cloud. I don't know if its a popular one but it worked pretty well.

    I will try my breathing with counting. Thank you for the advice.

    [quote =MokotoDojo]Some awareness on breath, on body on what's around you on feelings, perceptions all that is, you should not focus on one and exclude any other. Let them all be, but don't get caught on any one.[/quote]

    This was also helpful. I was under the impression that the focus should be on the breathing, to the exclusion of anything else. I'll try and work less from that focus.

    Thanks.
    Current notion: How would you define a 'skinny drink'?

    -Stephen Lewin

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    Greetings:

    Breathing difficulties in zazen can be for several reasons.

    First, check your posture. If your back is not straight, you may be collapsing the diaphragm area in front, which gives rise to the need to take fast deep breaths.

    Second, are you in a room with fresh air? I have found that people who meditate on their own often do so in a small room with little or no ventilation. This also can cause a need for taking a deep breath.

    Third, are you eating before zazen? If you are eating a heavy meal before zazen this can also cramp the diaphragm, giving rise to the need for the kind of breathing you are describing.

    Are your legs falling asleep while meditating? For some people, the sensation of the legs falling asleep can give rise to a kind of low-level panic, manifesting in the breath. If your legs are falling asleep you probably need greater elevation in your sitting; meaning a higher cushion.

    One suggestion is to drink a small cup of tea before sitting. This has many beneficial effects, increases alertness, which helps to maintain correct posture. Remember to make it a small cup of tea.

    Gasping for air is sometimes the result of trying to consciously manipulate the breath. Most often I have observed this in people who are trying to accomplish a long exhale relative to the inhale (they may have gotten this idea from yoga, or from Hakuin's Yasenkanna). If you are attempting this kind of yogic breathing, remember that it is the RELATIVE durations of the inhale and exhale that produces the desired energy circulation effects. It is not the absolute duration of the exhale. So the idea is to create the desired rhythm in a natural time frame of natural breathing. This can be accomplished by shortening the overall breathing cycle. In this way one is not gasping at the end of the exhale.

    Finally, if problems like this persist I would recommend standing zazen, a form which is taught in Korea and China (I'm not sure about Japan, but I haven't seen it). Standing zazen is a respectable, and ancient, form of meditative practice. Basically, you stand with your legs shoulder width apart, or a little wider. Do not lock the knees. Hold your hands at your belly, right encompassing the left. The rest of the instructions are the same as for zazen in the sitting form; back straight, head securely on the shoulders, eyes open, breathing from hara, settling the mind into its natural spacious awareness by letting thoughts and feelings come and go as they will.

    Standing meditation of this form is a good way of correcting various problems that arise in zazen practice as it cuts off a habit pattern which the body/mind may be developing. After the breathing problem ceases, you can try sitting zazen again.

    And it is always good to find some other people to meditate with. Keep looking.

    Best,

    Jim Wilson
    Dharmajim

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