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150. The body in zazen

When we say ‘body’, there is often an unconscious dualism. The standard dualism is body/mind, but this is supported by ingrained habits within our language.

So, we often talk about ‘head and body’ ; the idea that our body is our torso and limbs. If someone touches our face, we think of it differently to someone touching our back. We think of our ‘head’ resting on our ‘body’, and so on.

This does several things, none of them good. By identifying part of the body as ‘the body’, we create a distance and we objectify. We reinforce a sense that ‘I’ am an indeterminate confection of head, brain and mind, and that the ‘I’ is separate from ‘the body’.

To counter this, and with partcular reference to the body in zazen, it is very helpful to give particular attention to the aliveness of our head and neck: our tongue, the roof of our mouth, the pulsing of our eyes and forehead, the musculature of our jaw and neck, and so on. Attention to this flows into attention to the whole body.

The Whole Body of vast expression. Within which is ‘the mind’.

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120. Full Dynamic Functioning

In traditional Buddhist terminology, there are three aspects to meditation. The first is stilling the mind. The second is samadhi (balance/ concentration), and the third is vipassana (insight); they are often thought of as sequential.

In our practice, they’re not sequential; they arise together.

You can’t still the mind with the mind. You can only still the mind by locating it within the body. This body, the body of awareness. And this body has no boundaries. It is one piece. It is like space.

Yet even so, we need to have actual experience that when we sit, body, mind and all beings are this one piece samadhi. It’s not enough just to believe it. When we sit together, we actually experience this, and this felt experience can gradually seep out to all existence, like a hand moving through water, infinitely.

And this One Piece is Zenki, full dynamic functioning. It isn’t static in any way. It is vibrantly alive, and all its facets are free to express and experience themselves, through this sitting. And this is insight.

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76. With Our Listening

A pernicious and invisible delusion for practitioners is that there is an inside and an outside to experience: We should cleanse inner experience by eradicating thoughts and noise, and our experience of the world will be transformed.

But of course, there isn’t an inner and an outer, there’s just this experience, within which there is inner and outer, self and world, mind and body, and all the other familiar created dualities.

Our task isn’t to change this experience, but to listen to it. Really listen. Listen with our ears. Listen with our eyes. Listen with our skin. Listen with our breath. Listen with our listening.

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59. Pushing the Earth

When we do zazen, we may imagine that we are sitting quietly. But our weight is dropping down into the earth.

We are pushing the earth with all our strength. And the earth is pushing back. We can feel this push up our spine, up through the top of our head. There is the appearance of stillness because there is balance; if there were not, we would fall down, into the earth, or fall up, into the sky.

Ourselves, the earth and all things are just facets of full dynamic functioning.

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52. The Ground of Being

The body is the ground of being.

Our task as practitioners isn’t to change or empty the contents of our consciousness, but to fall backwards into the actual feeling, momentary state, which is prior to words, and prior to both thoughts and the type of thinking we call emotion.

The fog of the self collapses back into the ground, actualising space.

The ground upholds all things. Space contains all things. Thus are all things liberated from our love and hate, and so cease to be provisional and limited.

Thus each thing is everything, and has absolute value.

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48. You and Buddha

We practice from the perspective of Buddha, not from the perspective of the Self. But that doesn’t mean you are Buddha. Buddha is the state when the You has fallen from a central position.

The congealing of experience into a You is the primary grasping. All other grasping follows from it. It is the lodestone of suffering.

An asthmatic thinks he can’t breathe in, when really he can’t breathe out. His lungs are too full to allow any air in. Buddha is like breathing out. Mara is like breathing in.

We affirm the Self. We cast off the Self. This is our life, and this is why practice isn’t an ego project; isn’t a vassal territory of psychological imperialism, where the thought may arise that one more in-breath might do it

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35. Unburdening the Heart

Often our posture is quite poor. We slump, and it is as if our head weighs heavily on our body. Which is to say, our mind weighs heavily on our heart.

When we sit, we allow the spine to uncompress; the head is light and the torso can relax and fully breathe, giving the heart its full space.

The heart is not the seat of the emotions. Emotion is frozen feeling. It is part of the mind, not the heart. The mind is that mass of thought and emotion by which the ego perpetually talks itself back into half existence.

The heart is momentary felt experience. It is always there.

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2. The Practice of Falling Backwards

The Buddhist state is the feeling state: alive, momentary, soft, dynamic; prior to the interpretation which creates emotions and thoughts; prior to the stories constructed on top of these emotions and thoughts; prior to the creation of the self as the chief character of the stories.

This interpretative tendency is the origin of our delusion. And so, our practice is falling backwards into this simple feeling state, over and over. We do not need to wish our delusions into nothingness.

The ladder that takes us out of our feeling state can also lead us back in.

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1. The Feeling-State is the Path

Master Dogen said:

The path of all Buddhas and ancestors arises before the first forms emerge.

So, the Buddhist state arises prior to the creation of the world. It is an active, dynamic state which is there before we create a world of light and dark, good and bad, me and you. It is a state prior to language and prior to concepts.

Much of our life is us putting layers onto our natural, momentary feeling state; layers of thought, layers of emotions. And these layers attempt to answer the question we always put to this feeling state: what is this and why now?

Because when we meditate, we try and put this tendency to one side. Meditation is an affirmation of the feeling state, and this simple feeling-state is the path.