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Guidance please

I have practiced zazen for close to 20 years.
I seem to have reached a barrier. I sit for 30 minutes each day. Lately 30 minutes passes very quickly. My mind is a torrent of words and images that never cease. I count my breaths, I simply observe breathe, I do neither. Whatever my approach, it seems that my mind is in a fog of commotion. Perhaps I need the personal guidance of a Roshi, but circumstances prevail and I am at the mercy of you guys. Any suggestions?

Comments

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

    Hi @Navigator and welcome to NB. So...during the 20 years previously, you ran into little or no problems like this before? If so, what do you contribute your success to?

  • there is an online zen sangha

    treeleaf

    and an ask a Roshi/teacher section at zenforuminternational

    If that does not suit

    I count my breaths, I simply observe breathe, I do neither.

    All at once? Which?
    I personally would go back to breath counting for a while ...

    Oh ... Hi and welcome :)

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    A fog of commotion can be a tricky obstacle, because it is turmoil without clear form, it is a problem with focus and clarity of mind. I've experienced something similar, and for me there were definite thoughts underlying the fog, unaddressed concerns. If you can get those to clarify themselves, then you can accept them and subsequently let them go again.

    And welcome :)

  • howhow Veteran
    edited April 2016

    @Navigator

    Just keep practicing at being right where you are, whether it is a fog of commotion or not, with no expectation of being somewhere else.

    Barriers are only our present unwillingness to accept where we currently are and
    when we are finally ready to accept exactly what that is, both the former barrier and what was barred will be no where to be found.

    A Soto Zen Roshi might ask ....
    If you are formally sitting for 30 minutes a day, is the other 23 & 1/2hours of the day before this barrier, meditationless?

    lobsterNavigator
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited April 2016

    OP, Zen meditation has its own methodology. I could give you a suggestion as to how to calm the mind for meditation, but it wouldn't follow Zen practice. If you're ok with that, here you go:

    Upon beginning your sit, take a very slow, deep breath. Watch the breath (in your mind's eye) coming in through your nostrils, passing through your mouth and down your windpipe, past the lungs, deep into your belly. At that point, push the breath a little deeper with your diaphragm. Hold for two seconds, and let the breath back up, slowly. Watch it rise along the path by which it entered. As it exits your mouth or nose, imagine it wafting off toward the clouds. Give it a little extra push with your diaphragm again. Then repeat. Do a few breaths like this. When you get good at this, you should be able to reduce your breaths to just 2-3 per minute.

    Then begin your meditation. What the breath technique achieves, it's been scientifically proven, is turning off your stress hormones, the ones driving the chattering mind, and switching on your parasympathetic nervous system, the calming neurotransmitters. There is a physiological response to this technique that has been measured in labs.

    Try this a few times during the week, and see if you notice a difference. This is a technique that Tibetan teachers use, that came into the tradition from Hinduism. Yogis use all manner of breathwork to induce a variety of altered states of consciousness. It's an ancient Eastern science.

    lobsterTara1978FosdickNavigator
  • @Navigator said:
    Any suggestions?

    Another twenty years!

    I iz so wikid, straight to the naughty, fatuous advice corner with me ... :p

    CinorjerNavigator
  • @Navigator said:
    I have practiced zazen for close to 20 years.
    I seem to have reached a barrier. I sit for 30 minutes each day. Lately 30 minutes passes very quickly. My mind is a torrent of words and images that never cease. I count my breaths, I simply observe breathe, I do neither. Whatever my approach, it seems that my mind is in a fog of commotion. Perhaps I need the personal guidance of a Roshi, but circumstances prevail and I am at the mercy of you guys. Any suggestions?

    Rejoice that after 20 years you're finally getting somewhere.

    Minds are never empty as we go through the day. Why should zazen be different? Observe the words and images as they bubble up from nowhere, and let them go back to that emptiness without comment or concern. Where did they come from? Where did they go? Did they really exist at all? I don't know. Do you?

    lobsterNavigator
  • @Navigator said:
    Whatever my approach, it seems that my mind is in a fog of commotion.

    Yes, and......?

    "Never give up."

    CinorjerlobsterNavigator
  • NavigatorNavigator TN USA New
    edited April 2016

    Thanks to all for the comments and advice. I have had periods like this before that passed, but this has been constant for about six months. I have no doubt that this is simply a stage that will pass. There is however a part of the mind that cannot accept the condition and struggles against it. I will certainly give the breath tecnique that Dakini recommended a try. I do practice being mindful and aware of my breath at all times, but the same commotion is also present through the day.

    I believe the best way is probably just to accept things as they are and continue on (as some of you have suggested). After all, sometimes there are clouds in the sky for months on end and it is easy to forget they are just a part of the sky.

    howCinorjerFosdicklobster
  • Ego resistance? I read somewhere that the ego causes all kinds of unwanted and annoying thoughts to manifest (as a resistance to practice) I'll try and find the reference. I recall the advice was too keep going, no surprise there.

    Cinorjer
  • This from Treeleaf forum : Zazen is not that different from many skills in that way, such as learning to play the piano, speak a new language. So, some frustration is to be expected, and is even part of the process as the little “self” resists being put “out of a job”… for the self resists dropping resistance, does not like to give up its likes and dislikes, selfishly fights losing its selfishness, does not know how to truly be still without need to keep moving. “Enlightenment” is neither sudden nor gradual, and thus is a lifetime practice. Things take time… do not happen overnight… and need to become a natural part of the body-mind.

    The “harmony and balance” of Zazen greatly derives from learning to accept the moment with all the body-and-mind, being “at one” with what is as we drop demands and resistance to changing circumstances, thus going with the flow and being just the very flowing itself, finding stillness even as and through the motion of life, dropping desires and demands for how the frustrated “me/myself/I”‘ self wants things to “should be” vs. “life just as we find life”. Yes, if you are having difficulty to sit still, and to drop demands and judgments of “how things should be”… it is because the self resists.

    However, although there is no where to go in this practice, “nothing to attain,” we do get better at it with constant practice!

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

    Once, at a moment of frustration, a teacher advised me: "If you can't count (the exhalations) to ten, count to nine. If you can't count to nine, count to eight. If you can't count to eight, count to seven (etc.).... And if you can't count to two, count to one: Anyone can count to one."

    CinorjerSwaroopNavigatorlobster
  • @Navigator as usual and usually best, you have pointed to your own solution:

    • this too will pass
    • resistance is futile
    • return to the breath

    Iz plan and sounds workable.

    I recently came to an impasse. What I laughingly refer to as 'my mind' did not want to meditate. It was reluctant, resisted. My solution has been much like your solution, with the exception that I have returned to 'open eye' meditation. Sometimes very subtle change is required. A gentle attention on the breath is such a subtle change that you are already using ...

    Keep us informed :)

    CinorjerSwaroop
  • Or as Dogen puts it

    'When one first seeks the dharma, one is far away
    from its environs.
    When one has already correctly transmitted
    the dharma to oneself, one is one’s original
    self at that moment.'

    Dogen Zenji’s teaching reminds us of our initial separation from what is ours. When we begin to seek the dharma, there is an “I” that looks for it over “there.” But the dharma is already alive in us, and requires only that we realize it, which is what he means in the second sentence: having “correctly transmitted the dharma to oneself,” one is one’s real self in that moment.

    I think all of us yearn to experience ourselves as whole and complete, to live our lives fully and freshly in each moment. But something blocks us, and Zen training is one way to see that, all along, we have what we need. This is called the realization of the original self.

    So you are fine as you are.....

    WalkerCinorjerNavigatorlobster
  • SwaroopSwaroop India Veteran

    @lobster what you laughingly refer to as your mind?
    Are you a P. G. Wodehouse fiend?

  • ^^^ Just a general purpose fiend. Only way I can get into the hell realms to rescue the ultra-mahayana who seemed determined to save all sentients ... ;)

    Swaroop
  • NavigatorNavigator TN USA New

    I have experimented the past few days with changing my routine. It has been nice and sunny here so I have been sitting outside in the sun. I have also used the breath technique that Dakini recommended just for a few minutes to start each sitting. The change in environment seems to help invigorate my effort, and the added emphasis on the breath is helping with focus. Thanks, I will keep checking back in to let you guys know how it is going.

    Cinorjerlobster
  • No matter how bad a state of mind you may get into, if you keep strong and hold out, eventually the floating clouds must vanish and the withering winds must cease...(Dōgen)

    silverCinorjerNavigatorlobster
  • BarahBarah Veteran

    There is no other way but to face your problems. If there are no obvious problems, then face yourself. If your leg hurts, you need to take care of it. Same goes for your head.
    Identify the problem, find the root cause, and remove it.

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