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Lions Roar : January 2010
69 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 Posture by Sakyong MiPhaM RinPoche The buddhist approach is that the mind and body are connected. The energy flows better when the body is erect, and when it’s bent, the flow is changed and that directly affects your thought process. So there is a yoga of how to work with this. We’re not sit- ting up straight because we’re trying to be good schoolchildren; our posture actually affects the mind. People who need to use a chair for meditation should sit upright with their feet touching the ground. Those using a meditation cushion such as a zafu or gomden should find a comfortable position with legs crossed and hands resting palm- down on your thighs. The hips are neither rotated forward too much, which creates tension, nor tilted back so you start slouching. you should have a feeling of stability and strength. When we sit down the first thing we need to do is to really inhabit our body—really have a sense of our body. often we sort of prop ourselves up and pretend we’re practicing, but we can’t even feel our body; we can’t even feel where it is. instead, we need to be right here. So when you begin a meditation session, you can spend some initial time settling into your posture. you can feel that your spine is being pulled up from the top of your head so your posture is elongated, and then settle. The basic principle is to keep an upright, erect posture. you are in a solid situation: your shoulders are level, your hips are level, your spine is stacked up. you can visualize putting your bones in the right order and letting your flesh hang off that structure. We use this posture in order to remain relaxed and awake. The prac- tice we’re doing is very precise: you should be very much awake even though you are calm. if you find yourself getting dull or hazy or falling asleep, you should check your posture. JanuaRy 2000 Thought-Free Wakefulness by chokyi nyiMa RinPoche if you want to attain liberation and omniscient enlightenment, you need to be free of conceptual thinking. Meditation training, in the sense of sustaining the nature of mind, is a way of being free from clinging and the conceptual attitude of forming thoughts, and therefore free from the causes of samsara: karma and disturb- ing emotions. Please do not believe that liberation and samsara is somewhere over there: it is here, in oneself. Thought is samsara. being free of thought is liberation. When we are free of thinking, we are free of thought. The problem is that the causes for further samsara are being created continuously. We spin through the six realms and undergo a lot of suffering. compared with the other life forms in samsara, we human beings do not suffer that much. We don’t experience the unbear- able, overwhelming suffering that countless other beings do. but for some humans, their mental or physical pain may be unbear- able. if we continue to allow our ordinary thinking to run wild, we cannot predict what is lined up for us in the future, where we will end up, in what shape or form. The bottom line is this: we need to know how to dissolve thoughts. Without knowing this, we cannot eliminate karma and disturbing emotions. and therefore, the karmic phenomena do not vanish; deluded experience does not end. We understand also that one thought cannot undo another thought. The only thing that can do this is thought-free wakefulness. This is not some state that is far away from us: thought-free wakefulness actually exists together with every thought, inseparable from it—but the thinking obscures or hides this innate actuality. Thought-free wakefulness is immediately present the very moment the think- ing dissolves, the very moment it vanishes, fades away, falls apart. isn’t this true? noveMbeR 2002 Just awareness by LeWiS RichMond The practice of “just-awareness” is the essence of Zen meditation. The Japanese word for this, shikantaza, is usually translated as “just sitting,” but dogen, the founder of the Soto school of Zen, specifically taught that zazen is “beyond sitting or lying down.” Shikantaza is more than the mere physical posture of sitting, al- though it certainly includes that. Fundamentally it is the practice of just being here—except that we are not rocks or stones, but aware beings; so i think the term “just-awareness” more fully captures the essence of the term. but awareness of what? That is the first question. Most people new to zazen think that it’s a skill that can be learned, like tai chi. We come to zazen instruction and are told to sit a certain way, hold the hands just so, keep the eyes open, and pay attention to the breath. it seems rather easy; we look forward to becoming more accomplished in it. but dogen admonishes us, “Zazen is not learning to do concentration.” he seems to be im- plying that our ambitions to improve are not quite on the mark. We can be forgiven for thinking that if we do the same thing over and over, we will improve. but is “just being here” a skill to be learned? do we ever get better at that? i don’t think so. From the first moment of life to the last, we’re always just here. our pure awareness doesn’t develop, doesn’t change, doesn’t grow up, doesn’t grow old. i was recently talking to a hundred-and-five- year-old woman, and she said, “Well, i don’t feel a hundred and five. it’s just me.” She felt the same as when she was a young girl. So, from that point of view, none of us exactly grows old. Some- thing grows old—the body perhaps, or our memories—but does our “being here” grow old? no. how could it? May 2005