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Why sit? Explain it to me again, please?

silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded.USA, Left coast. Veteran

Someone asked on another forum why sit through lots of pain - to meditate? I ask why 'sit' through pain when you can just turn mindfulness practice into meditation? I know it's from way back when, but does anybody in this modern day and age feel it's necessary to go through the intense, severe pain that's been known to happen (especially within certain groups) - I suspect that - and it's probably been discussed as a side note before - one would be told 'because that's the way it's always been done. ' It pains me to know that people deliberately set themselves up to suffer for some esoteric reason that is beyond my comprehension - iow has no really good reason for it. Thanks in advance.

StingRay

Comments

  • "Reality tells us what we need to do, otherwise we sit cross-legged."
    From:

    silvermisecmisc1
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think some people develop the ability to transcend suffering. As a manner of separating from body and self. Also, to some degree, your body adjusts and it doesn't hurt. But generally, I agree. What is the point if you are putting yourself in such pain, and quite possibly causing repetitive injury and damage to your body in the mean time?

    I always investigate sensations like that, sometimes I just sit through and they go away, they are just further distractions of my mind trying to find something to pay attention to. But other times I have to adjust my position.

    I'm sure some depends on tradition as well. Tibetan (I'm sure others as well, just my experience here) teachers that I know tend to emphasize 7 point meditation posture, and there are reasons they do so. But some are far more strict. One teacher at a retreat pretty much said "you must find a way to do it this way" while my teacher is more "This is only ideal if it works. It is more important that you meditate and less important how you sit."

    silverStingRay
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @silver -- Nobody likes pain.

    Everybody suffers pain.

    At some juncture, cross-legged or otherwise, there needs to be something more than a superficial understanding (I really hate this!) of pain. There is no talking your way out of it. Sweet-talking and analysis will not cut it.

    Physical pain.

    Mental pain.

    I always thought that one pretty good definition of "suffering" was "resistance to pain." At some point, I think, the only way out is in. But there's no need to seek pain out ... it'll come and find you without any help. :)

    If you want sugar-coating, join the Make A Wish Foundation.

    StingRay
  • MetaphasicMetaphasic NC, USA Explorer

    What exactly is the question? I do not quite understand. Is it about why some people meditate in such uncomfortable positions? If so, then I too wonder that. The whole point of meditation is to remove yourself from all distractions so you can think clearly. It would seem to me that said pain would be a real bother. As for needing to know pain to completely understand it, this is true. However, if you are old enough to know what meditation even is, you've already experienced and know pain. Personally, I wouldn't put much more thought into it than that. Just meditate in whatever way enables you do so in a non-distracted, clear way, and leave it at that.

    sovaDavid
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @Metaphasic -- With respect, if "removing" ourselves from one aspect of life or another were the point -- or even an aspect -- of meditation, I have a hunch things will not turn out well.

    StingRay
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited December 2015

    I appreciate and understand all of your responses - it does help. I just can't help being curious about how those who choose to go about meditation while enduring the pain of not just long sits, but unless you're some sort of athlete, you're going to feel the pain mostly in the joints, etc. I also ask this question because I wonder if anyone thinks about it the same way I do, in that I almost always seem to have questions about how things are done, especially when the whole logic of doing x a certain way escapes me. Eta: Iow, I wonder if some of those who used to do it and are now dead and gone, look down on us who are not going that route, and think to themselves, "Boy, what was I thinking?!"

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    If it feels good, do it.
    When in doubt - don't.

    I apply that to practically every situation I find myself in, requiring a choice.

    Works for me.

    silverStingRaydooksta123
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I can sit for quite a long time. But I also do yoga and and my joints thank me for it. Also, I have stopped relying on non-stop sitting in chairs and couches, which just weaken so many muscles. I sit 90% of the time on my meditation cushion or a yoga/exercise ball. If I spent too long on the couch, my back hurts soon after. Our bodies are meant to support themselves.

    The eye opener for me was I had taken a long break (months) from meditation ono my cushion. I just did it on a chair or the couch. Then I took out my cushion and I sat for an hour (sangha meeting, some meditation some discussion) and the next day, my back muscles were SORE. Told me right then and there I had weakened my body by sinking into cozy office chairs and furniture too long.

    Bunkslobster
  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing Veteran

    @silver said:
    I appreciate and understand all of your responses - it does help. I just can't help being curious about how those who choose to go about meditation while enduring the pain of not just long sits, but unless you're some sort of athlete, you're going to feel the pain mostly in the joints, etc. I also ask this question because I wonder if anyone thinks about it the same way I do, in that I almost always seem to have questions about how things are done, especially when the whole logic of doing x a certain way escapes me. Eta: Iow, I wonder if some of those who used to do it and are now dead and gone, look down on us who are not going that route, and think to themselves, "Boy, what was I thinking?!"

    You make me think of the Agganna Sutra which is the Sutra/Sutta where the Buddha talks about how the earth formed, how the world systems formed, and how different classes of beings emerged.

    Essentially, through all the different types of systems and locations, the beings that are the most well-off are those who are inclined to meditate, and it is they who reclaim their natural luminosity most quickly and expeditiously.

    If you'd like some solid reasoning: we have been doing what we have been doing for millennia, and the only way to break the cycle is to eradicate the root. What you say is true: it can be done gradually. Developing the altruistic attitude that places others before oneself is tantamount in destroying the root of cyclic existence: self-cherishing.

    So when one asks, is it really necessary to sit through pain? Well, it's necessary to do something that hasn't been done in the aeons leading up to our current situation! Only study and reflection can provide that, and meditation is the part where ones understanding can unfold. Pain is temporary, enlightenment is forever.

    silver
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Barah said:
    "Reality tells us what we need to do, otherwise we sit cross-legged."
    From:

    I used to sit with this guy when I was exploring Zen. I think he lives in LA now?

  • Not all Buddhists subscribe to the attitude that there's something magical about the lotus position and we should ignore or otherwise deal with the pain most of us in the chair sitting world experience. I for one and a few brave others have been trying to get people to sit in a chair or stool instead.

    The reason zazen and other meditation teachers insist on lotus is because that's how they sit over in the East, on the floor, and if you're used to it, that's a darned good way to sit. Also all those statues of Buddha can't be wrong, can they? Of course, if you've been sitting that way all your life, its comfortable. Your legs aren't screaming in pins and needles and blocked blood flow after 10 minutes.

    I put in many hours on a cushion and never even attempted full lotus, but still my knees are crapped out now that I'm no longer a young man. Maybe it didn't cause the damage, but it certainly didn't help. If you are into meditation, don't think pain is something to be ignored. It's your body telling you that you're doing something wrong. Nobody ever got a magical benefit from gritting your teeth and enduring torture.

    silverVastmindlobsterpegembara
  • Many of the males I know who sit on cushions don't try to weave themselves into the lotus posture-- I for one cannot. I think women have an easier time with the lotus posture or guys who do a lot of yoga. But the body -- or at least mine -- can adapt to the Burmese posture (what I use) and/or half-lotus posture maybe more easily. It did involve some pain the first year or so, but the body does accommodate, if you work with it. And working with the mental sturm und drang of the pain can be instructive, especially when the pain peaks and passes on and you're still there. All that said, if a chair works for you better, by all means use a chair.

    Cinorjerlobsterperson
  • You should try to find a comfortable position. Laying on the back is even ok but some people fall asleep. Find a comfortable position for you.

    Cinorjer
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited December 2015

    After an hour of sitting on the floor, on a cushion, my body hurts..different parts on different days...but walking meditation never hurts. It's uncomfortable, yes, but as in....first fighting the urge to walk fast, then fighting the urge to run away, then slowly slowing down....but not physical hurt. I'm in the camp,that it shouldn't hurt physically. Nothing more to gain that way...the goalless goal is/should be the mental/mind part, no?

    Cinorjerlobster
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @genkaku said, "... and if you want to hear me whine about knock knees, c'mon over and I will whine your ear off." I just may take you up on that, because I'm tired of my own perfectly perfect equanimity...y'know that gets pretty boring. Ha! :lol:

    CinorjerVastmind
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    I was taught that pain is not necessarily a bad thing.
    We are conditioned to avoid pain which is fair enough but it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's your bodies warning signal that there might be something potentially wrong and needs attention.
    It's not pain itself that's the problem, most/all people see pain as the problem so develop a deep aversion to pain.
    Avoid pain, chase pleasure becomes our mode.

    In Adhitana? (Spelling) sittings. You sit for an hour without moving. It's called a sitting of determination.
    You learn to observe how your body/mind reacts to discomfort.
    You are not going to die from sitting, it's just we are so conditioned to see pain as a bad thing.
    Eventually after doing this, pain becomes pain. Pain isn't "omg get me out of here!"
    It doesn't bother you anymore.

    It's the same thing as hypnotherapy for birthing mothers, they are now teaching the mothers that pain in birthing is "intense sensations" not "fuck my life it hurts so much"

    We give meaning to pain which is why some people can handle huge amounts while others cry at a mosquito bite. Some have huge aversions to pain. Some are ok with mild amounts. It's all to do with how we relate to it.

    That's why some are taught to sit through pain, you are not going to die. Observe how your mind and body reacts to pain.
    You then become the observer and the pain doesn't hurt anymore. It's just a sensation. A transient flowing almost beautiful sensation.
    Then the mind jumps in"my poor legs!, I need to move!"
    You don't need to move, we've just been taught to.

    Dhammikalobstersilver
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I totally agree with what meditation teaches in the way of dealing with pain by simply starting out by paying attention to it (hopefully) without reacting and over-reacting to it. I've had all kinds of pain just like the rest of the world, and as a for-instance, I had back pain so bad just recently that I thought my world was gonna end...worst pain ever. When I tore my rt. knee meniscus in 2 places, it sent me through the roof. Everything else is easy street.

    I read a book by a Master (forget his name) - Chan or associated with Chan monastery - anyway, he talked about how they did this extreme meditation and I tended to get sort of that motherly feeling of what is wrong with you people?! Are ya crazy?! Stop hurting yourselves! It makes me laugh, but I can't help but react when I read how they are ok with such extremes. Just sayin'.

    CinorjerVastmind
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    They are probably laughing at how we react to pain.

  • I felt @Dhammika quote from Bhante Gunaratana was very much my approach. <3

    The physical/mental/emtional aversion to dukkha is natural and to a degree can be overcome. I am not able/advanced enough to deal with too much or constant pain as some of our sitters do. Bravo you guys.

    As well as aversion to pain we are attracted to ease. Don't meditate on cushion or walking in circles, try 'putting your feet up with a big tub of chocolate ice cream meditation' - yes I really have come across advocates of this approach. Usually too useless/advanced/impractical for my tendencies. :3

    Middle Way to Bodhi Goldilocks 'Just right' torma/porridge meditation ...

    Meditation Recipe:
    Take one Duckha
    Merinade in discipline
    Cook until tender on the bone
    Serve with Love and Buddhas

    Delicious! o:)

    VastmindsilverCinorjer
  • The important thing is to have a comfortable posture which is not necessarily the lotus position. Sitting on the floor is an ancient Indian tradition and is the most natural pose then. It is still the most comfortable if you have nothing to sit on. Nowadays people seldom spend their days on the floor though and the lotus becomes "unnatural".

    There is no problem sitting on a chair. After all it is the mind that needs to be trained and developed rather than the body which is just the vehicle for practice. No point in going to great pains just because of tradition.

    CinorjerEarthninjalobster
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    Yeah from what I know(which isn't much) the lotus is good for sitting for extended periods of time. Which is why people consider it favourable.
    If you don't sit for more than an hour at a time. It doesn't matter.

    I think the point is if you are always adjusting posture you can not reach depth of intense concentration easily.
    Hence the lotus.

    The other consideration is having an erect spine, this is to do with energy points flowing freely. Kundalini/chakras etc.

    I know Ajaan Chah had a go at a western monk because he was leaning against a pillar while meditating.
    He did it by referring to the meditator must become a pillar unto himself, self supporting through life. Not relying on anything to be happy.
    The westerner never leant on anything again.
    It seems the Asian monks wouldn't even consider leaning against something while meditating? Let alone a chair.
    Maybe it's a cultural thing.
    They do squat really well, us westerners can barley break parallel with our knees.

    Maybe we are so use to never squatting or sitting on the ground it seems odd to is and causes discomfort. So we make excuses why we shouldn't do it.
    Whereas the Asians grow up sitting and squatting so for them it would seem odd.

    Personally I don't see the point In sitting in meditation anymore. For me meditation just happens during drives, or walks or bath. No one trying to do it. It just kicks in. It's not mindfulness or breath meditation.
    More like awareness of existence. Immense space. Dunno.

    Anyway love you all. :). Have a great day!

    silver
  • Groundless and Open
    If we want to know what enlightenment is like, what awakening is like, we can practice the mind of non-clinging, non-fixation, nonattachment to anything at all. It's the mind of open groundlessness.
    —Joseph Goldstein, "One Dharma"

    lobstersilver
  • ^^^
    Exactly @Jeffrey - good quote and description of 'just sitting'.

    Sit, stand, use chair, walk but practice to transcend 'am I just a lemon' sitting questions.

    We are lemons incidentally ... [first realization also known as NT1]

    silver
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited December 2015

    Why sit ? When you can kneel

    Or perhaps use one of these

    WalkerEarthninjasilverrohit
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @pegembara said:
    The important thing is to have a comfortable posture which is not necessarily the lotus position. Sitting on the floor is an ancient Indian tradition and is the most natural pose then. It is still the most comfortable if you have nothing to sit on. Nowadays people seldom spend their days on the floor though and the lotus becomes "unnatural".

    There is no problem sitting on a chair. After all it is the mind that needs to be trained and developed rather than the body which is just the vehicle for practice. No point in going to great pains just because of tradition.

    This is the type of answers I was seeking - not just trying to figure out how to meditate in the 'proper' position, but the HISTORY of it all - to have our memories refreshed that just because they used to do it a certain way doesn't mean we all, here and now, have to do it exactly that way. I wanted to see if I could find some solid reasons to do it the old-fashioned way. We're getting quite the in-depth study here.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @Earthninja said, "Maybe it's a cultural thing.
    They do squat really well, us westerners can barley break parallel with our knees."

    I wouldn't mind the squatting - it's the getting up afterwards! :anguished:

    Earthninja
  • One thing to note when experimenting with sitting on a cushion is that AFTER you sit on the cushion and it has compressed, your buttocks should be 3 to 4 to 5 inches off the ground. I find buckwheat-filled cushions to be most comfortable as they seem to adjust to the body better for me. Kapok-filled ones are stiffer and more solid and less fluid, but less adjustable to the body's sitting form. Sitting at the forward end of the cushion helps to get that solid-feeling three point connection of rear and knees on the floor (although some people's knees just won't go down to the floor). I found my body adjusting over time into a solid sitting position in this way, though there was a lot of sitting and working with pain for the longer one-hour sits at retreats initially.

    Cinorjer
  • Tee Hee.

    Why sit? Explain it to me again, please?

    In the Bible trade marked by Father Christmas it says:
    Be Still and know that I am COD
    Psalm 46:11

    As Buddhists this might sound fishy but in essence is the basis of all knowing.
    It is why the truth seekers go into jungles, marshes, mountains or deserts - The famous 'Dessert Fathers' who go through chocolate privation ...
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Fathers

    We too, perhaps of a less devout and determined mind go through a little less each day.

    Meditation is not something you enter or leave. It is something you sit through. Still.

    silver
  • The Ven Hsuan Hua once told us that if we maintained the full lotus we would not be harassed by demons as they would mistake us for a pagoda.

    lobsterCinorjer
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @grackle said:
    The Ven Hsuan Hua once told us that if we maintained the full lotus we would not be harassed by demons as they would mistake us for a pagoda.

    Does that seem reasonable to you?

    Earthninjasilver
  • Well there is much in Asian buddhism that would seem unreasonable. Even when stated by teachers of stature.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    This goes over the 7 point posture and the reasoning for it (I'm not saying, by any means, that is is required or for everyone).
    http://www.kurukulla.org/resources/Med101/Med101-7_Point_Posture.pdf

    Honestly, I find that as I have been able to work into both half and full lotus, the pains I previously had went away. My feet do not fall asleep, my ankle bones don't get sore (at sangha meetings that would still happen after a time even with a cushion because the floors are stone. For me, working towards it was worth the effort. Though it happened naturally because of yoga and was not something I was working towards for meditation. I just personally find it makes a difference.

    But I enjoy meditating in all sorts of positions and environments and don't limit it just to sitting time.

    silverlobsterrohit
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I'd say that what you said rezzes with me a lot: @Tony_A_Simien said, "I personally never saw the benefit for me to sit with eyes closed isolated from all the nonsense that caused the mind to react and suffer. It made more sense to only train within that nonsense, there by learning to bring acceptance to the heart by actually doing it from the start." B)

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    I had a great 1:30 meditation session today!
    I felt the breeze on my skin, as it's cooling down the summer sun.
    Listening to the wind whistle in the trees. Watching my two dogs bouncing through the underbrush as they explore their world.
    Smelling the sweet summer blossoms in the air.
    My favourite style of meditating, no resisting, no trying, no wanting, to watching, no forcing.
    Just enjoying existing.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2015

    @grackle said:
    The Ven Hsuan Hua once told us that if we maintained the full lotus we would not be harassed by demons as they would mistake us for a pagoda.

    Being mistaken for a pagoda would be really cool.

    Stupid Demon: Hello pagoda can I haunt you?
    Lobster: Dude, I am full of evil to feed you guys - take all you can eat in the lower floors ...
    Stupid Demon: You don't fool me with your half hearted lotusing.
    Lobster: Apologies for all the upper stories [sic] being empty
    Stupid Demon: Ah Lobster, CU in hell. I'm off before I get caught in the sealing [sic].
    Lobster: Later Dude.

    silver
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    As I understand it, the Buddha investigated self-mortification and asceticism for several years before rejecting it as a path to enlightenment. I really see no point in torturing oneself if sitting causes pain.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @nakazcid said:
    As I understand it, the Buddha investigated self-mortification and asceticism for several years before rejecting it as a path to enlightenment. I really see no point in torturing oneself if sitting causes pain.

    Yeah, I know that. But it wasn't so much the sittin' - it was the starvin' that he finally figured out was the problem. I am sure he said to himself, "What was I thinking?!" :grin:

  • Seiza bench.
    That'll be all.

    silver
  • rohitrohit Maharrashtra Veteran
    edited December 2015

    Because it keeps your spinal cord straight and it is good for free flow of energy and you don't get a sleep in that posture. This is what guide told us.

    ShoshinEarthninja
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