Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How to "Play Dead" to the Bears! Part One

In my previous post I spoke of the dangers of trying to run or fight from Pain, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. If you resist in any form you actually make your situation worse. The most common advice when you meet a Grizzly Bear is to 'play dead'. The Bear will still cause some damage, but once the bear is convinced you are dead, a Grizzlies tendency is to leave and come back when you are a bit more 'marinated'.

Pain is the same. When you learn how to not offer any form of resistance, first your Suffering decreases, then the Pain itself will shift. For some people, the Pain disappears eventually altogether. For others, it helps them simply manage more constructively a difficult situation.

So, your first 'Play Dead' exercise is one you are most likely aware of if you are a student of Zen Goshindo Karate or Zen in particular. It is Zazen. More importantly, Shikantaza Zazen. Shikantaza roughly means, 'Just this'. So Shikantaza Zazen is 'Just Sitting Zen'. A daily 10-30 minute practice of Zazen can change your entire perspective about physical pain, stress, anxiety, depression, worries, etc.

Shikantaza Zazen employs your 'Sky Mind' that I spoke of earlier. It is just watching what passes in front of you like the sky watches the clouds. Everything passes and is temporary. One thing I learned from practice is that all things are truly transient and temporary. The old saying, "And this too shall pass" is so true. You get a concrete grasp of this reality of constant change. Just wait...the snow melts and the grass will grow.

For Karate students, Sky Mind, has the same root word of Ku or Kara that is in Karate. It is the Emptiness that all things flow from and return. To practice Zazen is to practice your Karate. It will allow your "Bears" not to be fed. You will begin to feel more in control of your life and not be bothered by the 'passing clouds' of your life.

Scientific research has shown that meditation exercises the part of the brain that we make choices from and it makes us feel more in control...as well as calm. I can attest to this from personal experience.

A quick review of Zazen. Simply find a quiet space. Sit on the floor cross-legged using a cushion that raises your hips above your knees...or if you choose to use a chair. Same advice. Make sure your hips are above your knees. Then sit straight with chin tucked in a bit, tongue at roof of mouth and eyes half open. Put hands in lap with left hand resting on top of right hand and thumbs touching. (see my Profile pic for hand position). Then, watch your breathing come and go. When the mind wanders just return it to breath. Practice daily if you can for at least 10 minutes a day, working your way up to 30 or 40 minutes.

That's it. I encourage you to read my post about how Kata is useless. It will help with some perspectives and practice.

I will post some more "Play Dead" exercises later...but Zazen is the Grandaddy of them all.

Be Well,
Shinzen Sensei

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