ZaZen, exercise one.
This is gonna hurt….
Some have asked, “how to start in ZaZen”.
Others, “is it not just sitting & thinking”.
Answer is that no, zazen is not thinking. In point of fact, it is explicitly not-thinking. That is the obtaining of an aware state of mental activity that is flooded with not-think.
ZaZen must be experienced to be understood.
Trying to understand, to grok, bicycle riding from any place other than the experience of the learning of it, fails. So it is with zen. You do it to grok it. Or you don’t and won’t.
In doing so, one crosses a barrier, back across which it is nearly impossible to go.
There are bizillions of details within the zazen experience that may be spoken of, but none that need be.
ZaZen is just sitting. A hard surface is best for the experience zen sitter, but not necessary. One can do it even standing, or laying down. Once the nature of zen is grasped, experimentation is natural.
Seeing Inward, exercise zero.
Close one eye, and look down your nose with the other.
Note how far your vision extends down your nose.
Now close that eye, and repeat with the other, again noticing where your vision starts to fail.
Now, do this with both eyes simultaneously.
Yes, it hurts. That is part of the experience.
Yes, your eyes will deliberately cross their points of vision.
Note how far down your nose you see.
Note the ‘floating nose’ effect.
Note the pain.
There are names for all these steps & experiences that have been applied by zazen sitters & instructors over time. They are meaningful to the experience, but totally unnecessary. That’s zen, it just works that way.
Now we will begin.
Stand up, shake your arms. Loosen all your joints & get your body in as relaxed a standing position as you may.
Then sit, try to make it comfortable, relaxed but with some level of tension. So in an Army language, you are going to sit “at attention”.
Then repeat the eye exercise above. Carefully, and paying maximum attention to the steps and the feelings that your body provides.
Now, once you have the ‘crossed eyes’ effect and feeling, slowly, carefully, fully engaged mentally on each action you take, WITHOUT altering your vision, slowly close your eyelids, WHILE MAINTAINING the eye positions with the lids closed.
This is called ‘buddha eyes’.
This is how one holds one’s mind throughout the entirety of the zazen sitting session.
Yes, it is, and can be, excruciatingly painful.
You will get ‘used’ to it. You will acclimatize.
You will grow in ability, and then you will discover you miss the “buddha’s tickle (the pain)”.
When you are skilled at the zen arts, you will be able to be anywhere, doing anything, standing in a subway train, arm up on a support, and you will ‘flip your vision (inward)’, and leave this world.
The goal, there are very few in zazen, is to maintain buddha eyes throughout the session such that when it is completed and you return to this plane of existence, that your eyes will still be focused down your nose as you raise your eyelids. When you can do this after a solid ten minute session, you will know you are very advanced on your way to ruling your world.
So, you sit, and experience it. The pain, the body creaking, complaining, the mind wondering, wandering, and also complaining. Then one day a marvelous thing happens, and your mind disappears during the session. It simply stops chattering to you about how much it is feeling the pain. The pain is still there, but there is no complaint from any part of you about it. In fact, the ‘you’ that is observing has faded away. The pain simply “is”. This is your first ‘crossing over’ experience. It is your first “successful” zazen session.
It can take years for that experience to occur. Thus most humans don’t do this shit.
Once experienced, your mind will never fully go back to ‘normal’. You will always crave that exposure to ‘the void’.
It is very powerful when you do, learn, and experience effective sitting. Obviously it is not, mostly, about your ass.
It may assist to be with other humans captured by sitting. Perhaps. As in all things in this reality, both good and bad are simultaneously held. If you sit with others, emotional reinforcement can be obtained, but, also, without exception, personality will intrude, people will talk about it, and some form of erosion of the purity will occur. Think of it this way, if you go to a formal class in zazen, you WILL, without exception, encounter the competitive personality among classmates which does tend to draw the experience up into the complexity of interpersonal (competition, braggadocio) interactions.
By the way, in the zazen experience, there is only Lesson Zero. Everything else, as with the pain of life, the pain of having a body, of having emotions, is just grist to your zen mill. There are millions of words that may be strung together about the experience, and you will be tempted, but….
Go sit. It will hurt.