Zazen Forms and Impermanence

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i being

i'd like to describe what it was like when i came to b c c
for my first sauce and instruction and it was my entry into send practice
it was october of nineteen seventy six and i had just landed in california in berkeley having moved here from the east coast normally not knowing what i was doing in fact i thought it was just visiting and i wanted to study sand so
the first thing on my agenda was to check out the zen center
so i came on after noon to the little to the house on dwight way which preceded the santa we have now on russell street so it was a weekday afternoon and it was nothing official zazen was not
really offered than but i heard if you show up at five o'clock somebody walked give you instruction so i showed up with a friend and on we received instruction and i'm just going to describe it a little bit to you
after the first thing i learned was to bow
that was even before meditation
i thought that the most important thing was meditation and what you do with your mind
anyway i was taught how to bow the very first thing
and then i was shown how to sit down
i was i learned that the next thing you do is you bow to your cushion
next you turn one hundred and eighty two grays clockwise and bow away from your question into the room
next you sit down on the christian
and then you turn one hundred and eighty degrees clockwise to face the wall
then you stretch and spend a few minutes
adjusting your spine and i was told exactly how to do that
you sway
slowly and you make circles
and he starved its lot with large circles
and you feel your spine
you feel your tailbone
and you settle eventually into what is a straight posture

you make sure your chin is not sticking up
the nose is in line with the naval
and the ears in line with the shoulders
we learned how to do the mudra like this
which everyone i'm sure knows here the cosmic will draw the way to hold our hands that the elbows should not fall against the body
we learned how to gaze downward
so all this
happened before the bell rang to begin the meditation
now this for may at that time was not really what i wanted to learn
my mind was
i mostly ah
was a mental person i would say
i like to study
and i liked ah i read a lot
but i had unwanted repetitive thoughts in my mind that i didn't like so for me
zaza was like
hiking through a whole
forest full of mosquitoes that i would be swatting because those would be thoughts unwanted thoughts on that and i had thought that that was what with meditation was about calming the mind making a quiet not here in those buzzing sounds
and not being stung so
anyway i was a little disappointed at first
but i did it anyway

so i learned that slowly that
tarzan is the harmonization
of body mind and breath
so didn't roast she loved to give sauce and instruction
and he said that every time we sit down we should give ourselves instruction

during this year and a half on zoom we see each other in our little stone boxes and sometimes i see people bow
sometimes i i see people sitting all different ways
there really isn't just one way to said it's really the intention and the effort that matters
in the very beginning in the attic on toit way we didn't even have chairs that i remember there might have been some but i don't remember any so now we have chairs and it's really the same practice in a chairs at his own cushion
your legs are in a different spot but that's the only real difference i can think of

so i've been missing watching people practice with their bodies in the zendo
one way was really come to know each other i think and part of why are sanga is so close is because of all this practice we've done together

i came to know how people walk how they practice can him or walking meditation
i could usually tell who was who buy their movements
we serve meals and receive meals in the sand down

we've cooked together garden together
years and years of practice


moving a little further
go again said in his zooey monkey text which was really address the monks about how months shirt practice and behave he said the most important thing is understanding
the impermanence you can't practice unless you understand it permanence
and he at a dogan who lived in the thirteenth century became a monk at a very young age he lost his parents i think the forty was twelve years old and so he really
he had a very deep and early understanding of loss
we all learn this as we grow and aged some of us
experienced this sooner than others
and along with last and impermanence is
that naturally comes together with an understanding that we don't have an
an inherent essence we often call it no self
but a lot of this is
this is not something we understand intellectually
reading a book about it isn't enough we have to experience it through our bodies and minds
and so in zazen
we experience
physically often discomfort
we stay without discomfort there's no escape
i teach sauce an instruction i've done it for years and people often ask
can i move
is it okay to move if my leg falls asleep or something like that
and i always say of course it's okay to move but before you move just stay still
experience exactly what is making you uncomfortable and observe
does it stay the same what does it change

i remember i used to think what am i
one thing i wanted to get from practice
we talk about often about how we want
we don't get things from practice
we aren't the chief things
but i have to admit that there was a reason behind my desire to practice in one of them was that i really wanted to grow old gracefully
now when you're in your twenties and in good health
that seems very doable
so i spent
quite a bit of time thinking that that would happen
i wanted to be one of those smiling older people
at peace with the fact that the body doesn't work so well anymore
whatever else it is you know but i am
i found that wasn't so easy

so this is a real ah
grow aging is definitely not an idea it was an idea to me when i was in my twenties but it's not an idea anymore it's very physical and mental and psychological
as you can see i'm sitting here you know i can't stop shaking i have this tremor on and fortunately it's not terribly serious but it does get in the way of me doing anything like i can't look at notes and on
well you know it does what it does and i thought about taking a beta blocker for my talk but i was afraid i'd fall asleep or something so i didn't want to do that but this is an example of be with impermanence

so in sauce and practice
we practice stopping

we return to our breath over and over

thoughts come up in the mind
preoccupations with the physical body
and we have the opportunity to look at them
to understand
one of my favorite law passages in games
shove again so is in the ghetto call on where he says to study the way is to study herself
to study the self is to forget the self
to forget the south as to be awakened by the myriad things your body and mind as well as the body and minds of others drop away
no trace of realization remains and this no trace continues endlessly

so when we sit down
to practice meditation
we are studying the south
but study doesn't mean
just playing with words
it's a deep for engagement

to study the south as to forget the self
one way i look at verses
forgetting the self
means less attachment to the sell off
and how do we practice less attachment to the self
we bring our thoughts back to the breath

it doesn't matter how many times during his last and period
that we have to wake up
and bring ourselves back
because each moment is waking up
often when i teach sauce and somebody will say
i only made it to breath number for or wow i could do ten breaths easily without being distracted but that's not the point at all
it doesn't matter
how busy your mind is or how calm it is it's the act
the of letting go of the thoughts of the preoccupation or the emotion
the story the narratives we get involved in
it's bringing it back
to the present moment
the body is always in the present moment it's the mind wanders off and get caught up in future and past and what if them back then

this is why i came so much to appreciate
everything i learned my very first zazen instruction
the body is really in the present
and how important bowing became

take not harm often compare the mind to a wild horse
that he tells a story about how awesome
somebody was riding a horse and going
going somewhere and someone stopped him and said where are you going
and he replied i don't know asked the horse
that's to me what our karma is like it's a horse
so when we practice said we and when we take precepts for example not even taking precepts we're gonna we're gonna chat our vows at the end of this talk
we make a decision to live by foul and not by the wild horse the karma


i remember once i did a number of all long for positive retreats back in the eighties nineties and i did a few with joseph goldstein and one thing that he said to me while he said it in a dharma talk which i never forgot was that
every time you bring yourself back from your breath to your breath
you're off wherever it is every time you come back
it's like breaking on lake
in the karmic chain
the chain that ties us to have it
to that clinging to oneself and one's view

one thing that's or i've struggled with a bit
is paying attention mentally
my mind tends to go over all over the place

in thousand and i don't mean just working with the mind and breath i mean the physical aspects of it
i've been able to rest
my attention

i remember well in this day and age you know with everyone with all their devices and choices
i mean you have choices about everything right if you have a smartphone right on your phone while kind of music you want to listen to what kind of podcast you want to hear ah who you want to talk to there's so many options and it's extremely distracting
i often don't know where to put my attention and i'm really happy
that we don't have a lot of choices
practicing sellers in there is a particular posture
even though our individual bodies may be different and some have different challenges than others we sit in a very similar posture
and suzuki roshi used to say well within a structure very specific structure of sitting we have complete freedom
it's a relief to be free from having to make choices and to be driven by feelings all the time
i remember once i was talking with the to kind group the group trip so in their rock asu's and
we were talking about the precepts
we were talking about
the subject came up of generosity
at this person
told me or told the group
that she had absolutely no money and she really could not give anybody a dime basically but she said what i have to offer is the gift of my attention

and that is such a big gift
when i worked at san francisco public library
and i've talked about this a lot over the years
the library the main library six floors at civic center in san francisco
most of the people in there and they spend most of the day in there have nowhere else to be there are lot of people who are homeless
have mental health ah serious mental health issues substance abuse and tom
just poverty
and the people who come in to do research first of all most of them come on sundays what of them are students trying to do a last-minute paper but really
ah the vast majority of people that i worked with had the reforms test
we're not there in search of books or answers to reference questions most of them wanted
and this of course is a challenge
but this is where i felt some of my deepest practice happened was working at the library where people
that they wanted someone anyone with a calm mind
and willing to listen
and certainly my patience was tested quite a few times because there were people doing things in there that were clearly
against the walls to say the least
as i'm gonna stop and a minute but i started a meditation group there
i kind of imagined it
mostly for homeless people but in reality all sorts of people came lot a city workers from the neighborhood on people came with all sorts of mental health issues was not a quiet sandow
and i often started
just with
ten minutes of body practice
settling the body
we would go through we do what we call a body scan which we don't really do and zen practice very much
and we focus on each part of the body
feeling it the crown of the head the far had the temples the knows the lips the chin and throat each part so you can really feel it
and it calms the mind because we're focusing on something tangible
and the breath

i think i
i think i will stop here since it's ten minutes to eleven and see if there's any questions i hope
i hope there was some thread consistent through the stalk harm
i felt like i had a lot to say
so thank you for listening and i'm happy to take any responses are questions

heck are you caring for both uplifting and grounding us here today with your dog how we have a question already from peter over him peter please a new yourself and go ahead
karen hi peter thank you very much to talk i always inspired when i hear you speak on this morning i'm inspired to experiences sometimes my hair roots think again about the congressional ways with talk about our practice ran and
i'm in particular today and user manager if we talk about it often is the act of returning to presence or awareness tour wins everybody posture and song and done just the other day a couple days ago my wife resume resonated crawled under telephone
and was attributed to drink and tremper know where he said essentially something like where the really has no place to return to rest
no you got so the question i haven't had to do is that really only place to return to know what's the relationship between the story we have about what we're doing and what's actually going on and i'm not obsessive doable i don't know if you can spite of that regulators that's what's for me
well that's a great question i'm
when we met earn
the way i look at it is we say returned to the breath
and we treat it as though the breath is a solid thing
because that's where we live in the world of solid things
however when we look at the breath more and more deeply
it isn't solid
it isn't a thing
the present moment
isn't a thing
the process seen steady practice we we're letting go over and over
and the mind has such a tendency to claim the things it's always looking for something to hang on onto
and that isn't a bad thing at all it's just what the mind does but then we see our attachments come up
and we let go
so a and says for example
to study the way as to forget the cells and to forget the self
means that the body and mind drops away we're really not coming back to anything
and i want to separate those two syllables any
i don't know if that helps what to those thank you so we're coming back and letting go yes
thank you peter for your question that these anyone can i bring us your question
we have now as from jeff
jeff go ahead and a new yourself
thanks for a great talk karen
thank you one of the things i appreciate about listening to you is is that
when you speak it's so spacious there's so much room to inhabit the things that to share in so many paths into practice it's it's it's it's really begins it's always so nice to get to listen to you
when at one of the things has been up for me lately is is that in zamzam bert there's there's an awareness that i returned to an awareness that i carry him in in meditation
and when the process of of waking up were returning or let go up the dream or returning the breath and all the ways that we talk about that kind of transaction
there's an awareness that i'm returning to the that is exactly like what happens in my daily life when i get caught up in the dream of my activity in the day or the dream of the fear of what's going to happen around some activity in the day or whatever whatever it is it's going on when i returned from then i'm returning to an awareness where everything is palm
what what do you think about that and how how how do you hope an idea if if you do
can you clarify what you mean by anything is possible
it when when when i am when i am centered in around my horror when i am centered in my bro
when when i'm mired or when i'm alive in that awareness that is awesome for me
i'm not so aware of
i don't have good words you're a module where of of have consequences or outcomes
i'm not so much thinking about what might happen next i'm just kind of in this awareness of of of the central practice question who am i in what will i do next it's it's it's like well a mammogram on capturing it well what i'm hearing some new is that you feel more connected
two things
so that they're not obstacles you're not grasping at them or avoiding them are worrying about them but they're there and there's a way that you're relating to them which is different
i just want to go back to dogan again
to forget the self is to be awakened by the myriad things that's what i thought of when you said anything is possible when one let's go of ones preoccupations for example
the rest of the world
becomes a live in a way where i'm not
really in it i'm able to see someone for example
differently for example in the library
i was much more
generous with my attention because i wasn't using it all on myself now excuse me if i'm jumping to conclusions what do you think
grow you if you catch you captured you capture some of it nicely in this is like that when at one of the things that i used to really appreciate about sojourn roshi shoes he would he would often sit like six inches beyond my conscious mind and he would call this thing that i referred to as
in in anbar on your language which i agree with by the ways is sort of calling no self and it is it is an aspect of of connection it is an aspect of of of a self falling away of dropping away and this awareness kind of arising reich and hold the reality around me and come closer to seeing the reality of my life
which is sort of what happens in in in zazen for me so i i i like what you said very much
thank you jeff

and you get
any other questions please

karen i'll go ahead and ask a question if you don't mind
we're talk so nice he focused on the sitting
and just being in the zendo i felt us returning to the zendo when you open your talk
how and i know you did kind of address has been how do we
retain the rigor of self discipline especially around the boeing and the things in art so called meditation out what would you recommend i in the much more fluid own scene or what have you seen work a please tell
thank you
well i'm glad you asked that because that was the motivation for this talks on i'm not sure but i think probably some of the forms has fallen away a bit since we haven't been in the sendo together and people have different arrangements in their home on
i would
urged people not to be lax on to actually give themselves the as an instruction when you begin because we don't have each other to sit with and encourage each other's effort
so on
i am today you know actually don't make it early saturday mornings
the for the nine forty five sitting but i was really happy to day to come to serve us and just to bow and chant and there weren't that many people there i think i counted maybe fifteen but i would encourage people to come to service and on
and you can always bow at home and you bowing a such a deep practice i do know people who do that ah every day bow in over and over again so that's it that's another possibility
thank you so much you can seem a little self conscious but that i think we can take license and go ahead and get as formal as we want from a thank you for that comment a please everyone let's say
take advantage of a caring today bring your questions
i don't mind waiting i have spaces in my talk something

do i see ellen
please on meet yourself
hi karen in iowa i never say anything too much questions i just want to thank you i'm happy to see your face

i see vanya has her hand up
vanya would you like to ask a question

i'm fine
oh sir
god i'm wrong with a friend
we're a quorum
i'm from by by on bump from were run on a mother and her home and other has a to work on who came man who why where he ran a form from your remarkable to learn
mind our been preparing people correctly bad for pepperidge farm
norton crap it's to have in mind is empty or how that door for you after forty years
the mind you mean you're you're you're a route to know our with turned out to dry where what you what you wanted to get our are referred to what you shot by inserted them to you but you're more three born in wanted to deal with require
we went from an angular crap out that were going for you after forty year well
ah after four decades i have to say that on
things have changed first of all
i started off at age twenty one with a lot of pain in my head and my body was pretty good shape but over time on i've encountered more and more physical pain and sitting and this is something some people have this from the very beginning but actually i
come more focused on the yeah physical difficulties now than the mental also over time i think you know when i was young i took my thoughts much more seriously ah
so nice to always tell me stop worrying about your thoughts just sit and and of course i just missed him because i thought that while in now he's just not an intellectual or whatever he doesn't understand neurotic mind whatever so
overtime now i've begun to see that the repetition
his habitual and i just don't engage nearly as much for
feel the need to struggle with thoughts but thank you for that question i look forward to seeing you when you get back
but i'm thank you very much thank you blake and we have a question from a eschewed glory as the same question as blake's are going to move on to add herzog please add your head
i carry higher
so sweet to see you
i have a question for you
when i fought first are sitting on bowing was
kind of strange for me and
but like you over the years i've
i've come to enjoy it and i'm just my question for you is is
maybe you could talk about a little bit about your process of
learning how to bow and
what you
what has come to mean for you because i helped for me sometimes it feels like i'm
ah releasing letting go it's helping me let go
demeco my ego's you can such as curious about how it are affected you
well in the beginning when i started practice i was very anti of voluntary though i interpreted the forms in san to be associated with authority i didn't know what it really meant and i thought that bowing was kind of an embellishment ah
that it wasn't really a practice it was stowed anyway
i learned i asked a lot of questions on
first of all bowing is connecting
when we bought our cushion or bowing
were bowing to a connecting with the cushion were connecting with saw said we're connecting with the ancestors it's a living thing
and then when we turn and we face outward into the room were bowing to our fellow samba members because we're not alone in this practice for practicing this together so it's an acknowledgment and relationship to other to other people in the room
boeing is giving up with oneself

i love it more and more all the time in fact arm sometimes when i don't know what to say it seems that bowing says everything one thing that's kind of a relief ah in our practices we don't have to be social but we can connect
you don't have to go up to a song a member and start saying well how's your day and for what has been up to you just bow
thank you add thank you
oh yes thank you very much as we have by charlie in and randy waiting added sir
who is bringing the question is charlie
thank you so much care you covered so many things and i was gonna talk about or make a comment about something else but i'll just say they're sad job when we were in the zendo and when we left the xander way
we bowed to surgeon
yeah i'm as we bowed and came back up
we saw his eyes it was i'd eye contact
yeah at that moment there was true connection there was no my and there was nobody only connection
that's all i wanna say what's
thank you charlie
there that's so true there really is the connection
thank you charlie we have a question now from jin a please go ahead and a meet yourself to me
karen thank you so much on for attack that i feel was brilliant to get its honesty and simplicity and thank you for talking about your work at the library and san francisco and i want it
i wanted to thank you for your spaciousness in this taught that i really wanna thank you for your spaciousness in that work and and what you allowed and what you they held the space for happening with all of those people and doing zazen instruction there and thank you for stopping
ah each moment the space you can
thank you to know
thank you jenny arena have a question from a gary go edit area and new yourself
i can a gary
nice to see you
my question is related to emotion
when when you're doing zazen and a thought comes up and it's really connected to a very or it's followed by really strong emotional response
what do you do
well that's a really good question
i think it's the most important thing is just to let it be
he had a thought and feel a strong feeling connected with that thought
don't try to push it away
oh i think it's the same practice
of coming back and letting go but it's harder to let go
it started go strong feelings then just random thoughts
and sometimes just like the pain in the body you know often if you're wrong foot really her stern sauce and you sit there and just observe that well you have a strong emotion just let it be on
you know we walk a really fine line in our practice
not engaging in either grasping
or a virgin
we're walking that's a middle way and so
often we have an emotion come up and we keep feeding at are fighting with it or trying to fix it we can't really fix it
and it has a life you know emotions don't they're in permanent so
a just i would just let it be and try not to
fida too much or fight with it and just be kind to yourself
so so you think that are years somewhat saying i think if i can
repeat in some way
what you said is almost a separation between thought and the emotion and and so you you move from the thought to the emotion and then
open to the emotion is what i think you're saying and and not but not claim to it
so it is kind of a letting go of the emotion but not pushing it away at all
yes i mean they're hard to let go out and also usually with an emotion there's often some kind of narrative
surrounding that emotion but not always on if you have a story there's a story line around the emotion just first try and let go of the story line
you may have to do this over and over and over again
and i would suggest
i don't know if you do this but let go of any goals involving
being free event are getting rid of it or anything like that
getting or emotional people
thank you