Standing up was tricky, but I steadied myself. It felt like someone else’s prosthetic leg had been left propped up under my hip, but otherwise I was good. Along with the others in the group I did a small bow from the hip. A gentle turn to the left. It’s going to be OK. I felt it rather than thought it. But on taking my first step forwards a giant narrators voice seemed to boom down from above: Ian immediately discovered that it was NOT going to be OK.
Instead of transferring my weight smoothly and mindfully to my left leg, there was a sudden complete and utter lack of left leg to be found anywhere. And believe me, I was looking like crazy. The result was less like walking zen meditation and more like falling off a cliff.
I managed to avoid grabbing frantically like a drowning man at the person in front of me. Unfortunately the only other trajectory available saw me career straight into the small alter at the front of the room.
There was a candle. There was incense. The Buddha sat serenely and watched me coming at him. To give him credit he never even flinched.
One of the problems I have always experienced when sitting zazen (meditation) is that after about 30 minutes my left leg ‘falls asleep’. It has always been this way and no amount of stretching or flexibility exercises seem to be able to stop it.
I usually sit in half lotus position with my left foot sitting across my right thigh. I like sitting in this position. It makes me feel grounded. And my stupid stubborn misguided ego tells me that sitting any other way is somehow less cool, less zen.
Usually having a sleepy leg is no problem. When sitting 60 minutes at home in the mornings I just stretch it out straight for a couple of minutes in the middle of the sit.
A problem does arise when sitting with my local zen group. They traditionally sit for 25 minute periods of zazen broken by a short period of walking meditation (called kinhin) before returning to the cushion for the next sitting period. You are sitting, there is a gong, and you are up walking. No time for wake ups.
The opening paragraph is a case in point.
Next month I will be sitting a sesshin (like this), a week long meditation intensive. There will be lots of opportunities to fall into things so I have finally decided that I might just need to try a different strategy and buy a meditation seat.
“While you are continuing this practice, week after week, year after year, your experience will become deeper and deeper, and your experience will cover everything you do in your everyday life. The most important thing is to forget all gaining ideas, all dualistic ideas. In other words, just practice zazen in a certain posture. Do not think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without expecting anything. Then eventually you will resume your own true nature. That is to say, your own true nature resumes itself.” Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
I purchased my seat from blackdragonseats.com.au. These seats are handmade in Australia. They are lightweight and seem well constructed with a thick, comfortable seat pad, and by using a system of magnets on the detachable legs, they can be adjusted to give 3 sitting heights.
You simply sit in a kneeling position and then pull the seat under your butt. It provides support and keeps your body weight off your legs.
Pride has a thick skin, and denial is a river in Egypt….so I think I will stubbornly continue to sit on my zaffu (cushion) most mornings at home and use the Dragon Seat for more ‘formal’ sitting environments and during the upcoming sesshin.
I will let you know if it effectively stops me playing chicken with the Buddha.