What did I practice?

Brother Pussycat, modified 11 Years ago at 12/29/11 11:59 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 12/29/11 11:58 AM

What did I practice?

Posts: 77 Join Date: 12/21/11 Recent Posts
Apologies for the obtuse subject, but I really am confused here. Also I'm very much a noob to meditation.

For about three months I practiced at a local Zen dojo. Then real life intervened and I had to abandon the practice. I enjoyed it and would like to resume it; thing is, I read MCTB in the meantime and am now unsure what it was exactly that I was doing and if it was useful or not.

Basically, I sat with my back straight on a zafu lotus- or seiza-style, with my knees on the floor (the instructors insisted upon this detail), faced a wall with my eyes half open, put my hands together so that the thumbs were touching, and focused on the breath. I focused the feeling of the stream of air flowing through my nose, in and out. Whenever I was distracted, I gently shoved the distraction aside, and returned to focusing on the breath. We were told not to count the breaths (unlike most Zen schools, I guess), and I did not note the breaths as 'in' or 'out', just returned to the feeling of air in my nose. The instructors encouraged us to relax and maintain what I later learned was the Buddha smile.

Like I said, I enjoyed the practice. It was very pleasant at best and 'solid' and refreshing at its worst moments, and I would like to return to it. But now upon reading MCTB I have little idea if it was:

- an insight practice
- a concentration practice (I am reminded of how Daniel wrote about people who mistake concentration practice for insight practice - prior to reading MCTB I thought they were the same thing)
- both
- neither
- some sort of Zen-specific practice not really in-line with the terminology of MCTB
- useful
- useless

I tend to think it was primarily an insight practice, since I would regularly get to access concentration, but never try to hit a jhana (I didn't know such a thing existed back then) and would just focus on the ever-shortening breath until the inevitable mega-breath shook me out of the concentration. I could hear and feel thoughts and sensations doing their thing in the background, arising and vanishing.

If anyone here has any experience with this kind of practice, please tell me what it is meant to develop, and if it's 'legit' or not. Like I said, I found it rewarding while there and then, but didn't notice any lasting insights thanks to it after around fifty hours of practice (no idea how much that really is).

It doesn't help that the founder of the dojo is controversial in some circles, due to apparently not having been officially 'licensed' by his teacher, and that the quality of his students is considered low by some people. (They all seemed fine to me, warm, helpful and occasionally very funny).
m m a, modified 11 Years ago at 12/29/11 1:10 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 12/29/11 1:08 PM

RE: What did I practice? (Answer)

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
Firstly, I'd point out it seems you were following 1000 year old zazen practice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zazen. Teacher 'qualifications' are mostly irrelevant, so I would throw away any worries about that.

Knees on the floor is a quintessential piece of advice; you are much more stable esp. on your lower back.

MCTB style analysis says annapanasati breath watching is more of a concentration technique, but in the particular way it is applied it can be flavored with insight as well, or just be hardcore concentration practice.

Any time spent following an established meditation discipline is time well spent.
Zen is a lot more 'mystical' and 'mushroom factor' than MCTB practical dharma, but you should have the freedom and knowledge to explore and test on your own.

zen will deemphasize the difference between concentration and insight as compared to MCTB, but surely they are both treatments of the same basic buddhist principles.

50 hrs is nothing, try 5000 and then maybe look back and evaluate.

Personally, I practiced lots of zazen, recently more mahasi noting. They have about the same amount of buddha ;)
josh r s, modified 11 Years ago at 12/29/11 2:01 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 12/29/11 1:58 PM

RE: What did I practice? (Answer)

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
this does sound like some straightforward anapanasati meditation
anapanasati sutta

i would just suggest an addition to the instructions of your teacher the additional step of relaxing bodily and mental tension with each in and out breath, both to be consistent with the anapanasati sutta and based on my own (limited) experience and the reports of others whose experiences aren't so limited. Here is another interpretation of that same type of anapanasati/zazen that I have found personally helpful.

dhamma talk transcript

practicing anapanasati in this way is both concentration and insight and definitely useful.
Brother Pussycat, modified 11 Years ago at 12/30/11 10:38 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 12/30/11 10:38 AM

RE: What did I practice?

Posts: 77 Join Date: 12/21/11 Recent Posts
Thank you both. Off to practice then emoticon

One more thing - can this meditation be done as a standing practice? I'll practice it on a cushion if I have to, but due to my job I do more than enough daily sitting already and find it annoying.
josh r s, modified 11 Years ago at 12/30/11 11:27 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 12/30/11 11:27 AM

RE: What did I practice?

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
definitely, the buddha says to make practice equal in all positions, aka - do it all the time

still though, sitting is the best position for balancing restlessness and dullness, you might find that as you improve your abilities with this that sitting wont be annoying even if you do it alot

good luck