Friday, July 30, 2010

Sleepy Legs and Boring Zazen

While I was sitting this morning, my legs told me they fell asleep because zazen is boring and they figured if I wasn't going to need them for the next twenty minutes they were going to go back to sleep.

I didn't believe this, so I did some research.

Almost everywhere you read about sitting meditation, pain in the legs or legs falling asleep are mentioned. I wasn't really sure if it was something that would go away after time since some days I don't really feel any pain and some days my legs take longer to fall asleep.

At home, the "zabuton" I use is really a comforter that I've folded down and wrapped in a sheet. It's also on top of carpet. At the Zen Center, the real zabutons are a bit thinner and on hard wood so the pressure on my ankle's a bit more.

Because of these differences, sitting at home's a bit more comfortable. I don't sit as long at home either, but I've almost fallen down twice after sitting forty minutes at the Zen Center.

Research indicates squished nerves are the cause of my legs falling asleep. And while this site says pinched nerves in the knees are the most common cause in the legs, my knees feel pretty much alright, so I'm thinking it's more in my ankle.

The only thing I've tried is to put one of the little square support cushions under my lower ankle (I can't do the full lotus torture position yet) to help cushion it from the hard floor, but don't have enough attempts to form a conclusion.

As far as zazen being boring, yes, I can agree Buddhists may have discovered/invented the most boring activity in history. But is it really that boring or is the mind tricking us?

While, once again, these are my own speculations, I developed a few thoughts on this.

One of my favorite places to go, growing up in St. Louis, was the Science Center. It's not quite what it used to be, but there was (may still be) an exhibit that covered how our senses can be tricked through things like optical illusions and stuff.

One of the displays had a speaker that played two series of sounds: one kind of musical and interesting, the other a monotone beep every few seconds. After listening to the clips it asked you which you thought was longer. The trick question was that they were the same duration. The additional musical stimulus kept us occupied by cramming more information into each moment while the "boring" one kept us anticipating; making it seem longer.

I've often observed, the sitting periods that seem the longest are the ones where my mind is least focused and the shorter seeming ones, I'm able to stay in the moment.

Staying in the moment seems to remove the linear nature of time. It kind of frees me from thinking about how long it's been or how much longer I have to go. Usually my reaction to these thoughts are more along the lines of "I've set this time for sitting and that's it, once time's up I can get to other things."

Now I get one more aspect of what it means, or I guess implies, to stay in the moment. When we're in the moment, it becomes the most interesting moment, not to mention, the only moment. How can we compare whether or not that moment is boring if we have nothing to compare it to? In the moment = not so boring zazen.

Applying this to our daily lives can make the troubles of life more bearable. For example: Yesterday, while doing our hellish ab routine during warm ups for aikido, I noticed focusing on my breath made holding my position more bearable. Counting my breaths rather than seconds kept me from living in the pain. It sure got me to focus something awful, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment