Friday, December 16, 2005

Just Wake Up

In his post on Buddhism and Realism, Nishijima Roshi wrote, "When we want to understand Buddhism...."

These words raised in my mind the old question of the role in the Buddhist process of wanting, desiring, volition, intention.

The samadhi of accepting and using the self includes, as I see it, the intention to accept the whole of the self and the intention to use the whole of the self. The samadhi that is king of samadhis is dependent upon the intention just to sit.

When one understands this, it is so obvious that to assert it seems redundant. The reason it is such a big deal for me to try to clarify this point is that, before Alexander teachers clarified this point for me, I was labouring for many years under a total misconception about it.

Autonomic balance is autonomic, i.e, not intentional. In emphasizing the importance of physiological balance, there is a danger, as I see it, in overlooking something very vital. That something is mental intention.

The act of sitting in the full lotus posture is something physical. But once one has got one's legs's crossed, one's torso seated on the zafu, et cetera, the practice of just sitting is the most mental thing there is. In his comment on the Dogen Sangha blog, Pierre Turlur described it beautifully.

Master Dogen's instruction in Fukan-zazengi is:
"When something arises in the mind, just wake up."

Pierre commented:
Wake up and it will vanish. What will vanish then? Thoughts? No, they come back, it is the natural stuff of the mind. Delusion? No, it is very sticky too. What might vanish is the illusion that we have to do something, become somebody, get out of here. And when this vanishes, we invite surrender.

Who are you?

I don't know.

2 Comments:

Blogger reallynotimportant said...

...see it, in overlooking something very vital. That something is mental intention.

[You may want to sit down for this]

I am quite familiar with the Alexander technique and have studied it (for my own reasearch).

I am very familiar with chinese Qi Gong / Chi Kung (Energy Work) and have studied it by both practicing and studying the 'medicine' theory behind it.

I met the Alexander Technique after meeting QiGong.

The Alexander technique is I believe a rediscovery in the west of basic Qi Gong. He did very well to describe it in western terms because it does not fit into a reductionist based medicine that we have in the west.

If you compare at a technical level the Alexander Technique with QiGong I think you will see that they are describing the same thing.

Unfortunately, the QiGong is always described in terms of Chinese medicine which has a completely different foundation to western medicine. This makes it harder to grasp.

Now, QiGong has only become known about in the west in the last 50 or so years. In China it is estimated to have been around for between 2 and 3000 years in one form or another. It was classed until recent centuries as a 'secret' art and was practiced in monastaries but not widely elsewhere. This has started to change.

With that as context:

It is quite clear to me from my modest readings of Dogen that he was familiar - as one who practices - with QiGong. Some of his descriptions of meditation and awareness only are understandable in the context of QiGong.

Now, Zazen is often used as a significant component of QiGong - but done in the fullest way - with Mindful Intent if you like.

So, there is no need for the Alexander technique to be infiltrated into Buddhism, because it is actually already there. The fact that it has not widely been taught is almost irrelevant.

[That is the end of the good news]

The Alexander Technique is basic QiGong (maybe the first couple of years of practice). There is a whole lot more that follows that involves a rebuilding of the body-mind and the personality. The Alexander Technique falls nicely into the 'safe' zone.

I have posted a summary of how I do meditation on Brad's Meditation post. There is a good chance you will recognise what I do.

Whether people choose to do QiGong work is entirely up to them. It is generally considered to be a one-way trip. Once you have reintegrated mind and body there is no way to go back - physiology has changed.

The fact that it does not feature in most teaching of Zazen is probably a good thing for most peope. QiGong needs to occur SLOWLY over years and decades and it CANNOT be rushed or forced. Rushing it or forcing it can cause serious harm (and is well documented). It needs to be taught skillfully and intuitively. That's just the way it is.

In summary: If you find Alexander useful to you then that is good. It is not 'new', just a good basic western description of something that is ancient.

I believe (and have been taught) that Zazen is at the heart of QiGong. The following of Buddhism (4 noble truths & eight-fold path) is often a natural side effect of practicing QiGong.

If you want to do your reasearch, find a book that shows some of the chinese as well as english. If you have any familiarity with chinese it will help. I am not going to reccommend any books or tell you how to find a teacher - if you were to do QiGong you might not like the results.

[Now for the very bad news]
I think a lot of people could find the Alexander Technique useful in their practice as a safe understandable alternative to QiGong. Your sales technique however sucks.

P.S. You can quote me, praise me, insult me, ignore me. Whatever you want it is fine. I care not.

Friday, December 16, 2005  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Reallynotimportant,
I followed the link you suggested and found the following paragraph by Brad:

"But when I started studying with Nishijima Sensei, I found that he did not like any of these methods at all. Not even breath counting. It wasn't like he warned us all against them as if they were gonnna ruin the practice. I think what he said was something like, "Those methods are a little bit artificial." The only "artificial" thing he recomended was taking three deep breaths at the beginning of practice — and even this, he said, was a bit fakey, though somewhat useful. I have never seen him recommend anything other than this, and fixing your posture, for dealing with thoughts that come up in Zazen."

Listen: I know nothing about QiGong. Alexander work is a constant process of finding out that I don't truly know anything about what Alexander discovered either.

Who am I in Buddhism? The natural successor to Nishijima Roshi as leader of Dogen Sangha? Or a champion of self-delusion who has used the Dogen Sangha blog to make a complete fool of himself? I do not know. I honestly do not know.

But one thing is do know is that "fixing the posture" is not a healthy way of dealing with thoughts that come up in Zazen.

Friday, December 16, 2005  

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