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Question about teachers/lamas and my feet

karastikarasti BreathingMinnesota Moderator
I am going to a retreat this weekend with Lama Tony Duff, if you happen to know who he is. I have read that you are not supposed to point your feet towards monks and teachers as a sign of respect.

In December, I injured my knee and had surgery. As a result, I cannot sit with my knee bent for more than 15 or so minutes at a time. Normally at a retreat we sit on cushions on the floor. Do I need to worry about explaining my need to put my bad leg straight on the floor for most of the time? That is the only way I can sit. Even if I sit in a chair, my knee gets very stiff and sore and I have to get up and walk around otherwise the pain gets really bad. If I can sit on the floor and stretch the leg out, it's fine. But like I said, I don't want to be aiming my foot at Lama Tony if I'm not supposed to! Am I worrying too much about it? Should I talk to him about it before hand so he knows what my issue is? There won't be space to sit sideways and I cannot kneel at all so I can't use a bench either.

Comments

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    You can mention your issue before the session begins. And Western teachers generally aren't into all the formalities, anyway. But certainly, anyone with any kind of disability is still welcome to partake of the Dharma.
    person
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I think he is from the West but spends most of his time in the East. I think our group leader said he spends a lot of time in Nepal and Tibet. I suppose I can ask the leader who put the retreat together too what he thinks. I know I'd be welcome I just don't want to offend anyone.
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    edited April 2013
    Never mind what he thinks about it(because we can't know that), if you're going to be worried about it and distracted as a result, you'd better mention it just for your own sake. :)
    MaryAnnekarastiJohn_Spencer
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    In Thailand it would be a big no no to point your feet at a Buddha statue, or for that matter, any person. But I think you should just explain your situation.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    Yeah you guys are right. It'll make me feel a lot more at ease if I just say something right up front, plus I'll want to be somewhere where I'm not immediately behind someone and then having to try to avoid kicking them in the butt ;) lol
    MaryAnne
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    Thanks for posting this though, I have never heard this and feel like you may have saved me from some future unintentional insults! Lol.
    karasti
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I went to the opening talk tonight, and Lama Tony confirmed that he isn't into the dogma stuff so could care less where my feet were. He did say he'd prefer if people can to do the meditation portions seated on the floor, which I can do. I just can't sit 9 hours on the floor or I might not get up. He's fabulous, btw. I really like him a lot.
    MaryAnnezombiegirl
  • I think the sitting on the floor will always be the one thing that will keep me from group meditation- forever. I can't sit on the floor -- not for 20 minutes, not even for 2 minutes.
    I would have to meditate in a straight-backed chair (like at home, when I did meditate) in which my feet can be comfortably flat on the ground. I can only imagine how conspicuous I'd feel being chest, shoulders and head above everyone else in the room, even if I'm in a 'wallflower' location.

    Just curious, has anyone ever been to a sangha or group meditation and saw people sitting in chairs, or even wheelchairs? Perhaps it's more common than I think? Perhaps not..... be honest.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    I have seen both Mary Anne..people in chairs/stools/benches often..and twice people in wheelchairs.
    I used to be able to sit on the floor for hours.
    Since being at the receiving end of the surgeons knife I need a chair. No one minds at all.


    MaryAnne
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    karasti said:

    I went to the opening talk tonight, and Lama Tony confirmed that he isn't into the dogma stuff so could care less where my feet were. He did say he'd prefer if people can to do the meditation portions seated on the floor, which I can do. I just can't sit 9 hours on the floor or I might not get up. He's fabulous, btw. I really like him a lot.

    Its a Thai thing largely..the feet business. No one else minds. And even Thai monks realise that its a cultural matter that does not apply in the west.
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    You will find all manner of "sitting" at a retreat; not to worry.

    I was such a dolt the first time I attended a Thai temple - I read in the rules about the feet thing and thought to myself... but my feet face forward. How can I not have them facing The Buddha or the monks?! The temple lay followers, trying hard not to laugh, explained it was the bottom of the feet that was the concern. Talk about feeling like a newbee! :rolleyes:
    Invincible_summer
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited April 2013
    MaryAnne said:

    I think the sitting on the floor will always be the one thing that will keep me from group meditation- forever. I can't sit on the floor -- not for 20 minutes, not even for 2 minutes.
    I would have to meditate in a straight-backed chair (like at home, when I did meditate) in which my feet can be comfortably flat on the ground. I can only imagine how conspicuous I'd feel being chest, shoulders and head above everyone else in the room, even if I'm in a 'wallflower' location.

    Just curious, has anyone ever been to a sangha or group meditation and saw people sitting in chairs, or even wheelchairs? Perhaps it's more common than I think? Perhaps not..... be honest.


    @MaryAnne
    I've been involved in the set up of a few Zen meditation centers and those sangha's would have considered themselves in remiss if they did not provide for the wheelchair needs of guests. The same applies to Zen priories & monasteries. In fact I've lived in Zen monastaries where every one sat on a raised tan that had a removable section for the legs to be able to be placed on the floor so that everyone sat on the same level regardles of their posture choice.

    In the early days of rental properties when the reno money was tight, the congregations would not hesitate to carry a wheelchair and occupant to where ever they needed to be.

    The Zendos of aging western congregations are now becoming filled with chairs and in somecases a chaise lounge when needed. Corpse pose lying on the floor wouldn't catch a second glance when needed.

    If you find one that doesn't, just be thankful to see so easily what their teaching of empathy, tenderness, compassion, sympathy, love or benevolence really is....
    and keep moving on.
    MaryAnneInvincible_summerVastmind
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    We had people who used chairs. He prefers if people can sit, but only if they can. If they can't, they can't. One of them had a bad hip and could not be on the floor, and another has bad knees. I opted to sit on the floor today after confirming that he didn't mind how much I squirmed around changing positions to keep comfortable and stretched out. We did walking meditation as a group, which was interesting to do in a house with like 20 people, lol. I found it interesting that almost everyone said it's much harder to keep focus while walking than while sitting. I found the opposite to be true. But I tend to be a very kinetic person and I have an easier time finding calm when I am moving than when I am sitting still. I've really be practicing walking meditation for much of my life without ever naming it.
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    @karasti - With a name like "Lama Tony," I'd be surprised if he was into dogma! :p No offence intended towards him of course.

    @BonsaiDoug - I'm SO glad that I'm not the only one who got confused over that!! :lol: When I visited Thailand, I thought "Oh... even the Thais have their feet [their toes] pointing towards the Buddha statues... I guess this place isn't very strict" and just went with the flow. The first couple of temples I visited, I kept standing sort of diagonally as to avoid pointing my "feet" (my toes) to the statues! :lol:
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    lol he is from Australia, lives in Nepal and studied largely (from what I understand) under Chogyam Trungpa. He studied under others but that is the main one he mentions. I was a bit unsure, he has really long hair even and wears a sweater, lol, but he's really cool.
    Invincible_summer
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    MaryAnne said:

    I think the sitting on the floor will always be the one thing that will keep me from group meditation- forever. I can't sit on the floor -- not for 20 minutes, not even for 2 minutes.
    I would have to meditate in a straight-backed chair (like at home, when I did meditate) in which my feet can be comfortably flat on the ground. I can only imagine how conspicuous I'd feel being chest, shoulders and head above everyone else in the room, even if I'm in a 'wallflower' location.

    Just curious, has anyone ever been to a sangha or group meditation and saw people sitting in chairs, or even wheelchairs? Perhaps it's more common than I think? Perhaps not..... be honest.

    Usually the chairs are at the back of the room, and it's not a big deal. In sanghas that accomodate that sort of thing. One could always bring a folding chair, and set it up unobtrusively at the back of the room.

  • edited April 2013
    I always thought Tony Lama made cowboy boots...
    Wouldn't think he'd be offended by anyone's feet no matter what direction they're pointed.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I just worry about things too much, lol. It's a good thing he was so laid back about that stuff because I was a wriggling mess. I've been meditating on our couch since I injured my knee, and this weekend I sat on the floor. Turns out my knee being stiff was the least of my worries. My tailbone, back, and hips were (and still are) incredibly uncomfortable after spending months not sitting correctly. Back to the floor for my practice, even if it takes me longer to get up now.I also had to learn to meditate with eyes open during this short retreat and that took a lot of adjusting.
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