Mark Foote

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About Mark Foote

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  1. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    I think it can be hard to take a forum site like this seriously. I do, because it's been a big help to me, and there are people here who have contributed a lot to my understanding. Maybe some of us haven't had that experience. I just figure those who use a word like "wankers" are from somewhere in the commonwealth, and can't be held responsible for their provenciality (just kidding!). As has been said, life is much too important to take seriously...
  2. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    Just got up from 35 minutes, which was all the pretzel my afternoon belly wanted to do. I think the main thing about sitting the lotus is, when did you start. The guy who told me to take my time with the lotus was sitting the pose very early 'cause his father was a zen teacher in Japan--Kobun and his brothers were wrestling in the lotus when he was 7. I know he demonstrated getting into the pose without using his hands at least once. Ok, I'm never gonna be that flexible, I'm pretty sure, but I've learned a lot. Not a lot different from practicing the standing martial arts with the knees bent, I'm guessing. I heard somewhere that the only martial arts that are useful in the cage are the contact martial arts, principally boxing, judo, and jiu-jitsu (I guess Brazilian jiu-jitsu has more contact than the kind I studied for six months back in 1967). There's a video out there of some poor Aikido black belt instructor who took on a boxer. They stopped the fight after several punches in the face and head, delivered by the boxer. I am still inspired by Cheng Man-ching, and Bruce Lee made us all think anything's possible, but if it doesn't deliver some kind of happiness I'm afraid I can't get myself to do it. So far the lotus does that, but my practice is better on an empty stomach (first thing in the morning or before I retire in the evening). I like seeing people's pictures, here's yours truly:
  3. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    I've been rewriting and amplifying on my response to your question, ion, working on a post for my own blog--here's what I've got, so far (& maybe this is it!): "Is the suffocation response something you experience while sitting?" It’s something I experience every sitting, along with the anxiety connected with the precariousness of posture. The precariousness for me is mostly about support for the lumbar curve, from the middle lumber vertebrae to the sacrum. That's why my description of anatomy starts with the ligaments from the pelvis to the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae, and focuses on the mechanisms by which the fascia behind the lower back is displaced in support of the lumbar spine. My sitting is largely a matter of realizing a spontaneous breath in the midst of activity that initiates or sustains support in the lower back. I don't know about anybody else, but for me that requires a recognition that I am staying out of suffocation, while relinquishing control of the precariousness of posture. I know that the alignment of the spine affects my ability to feel. The spaces between the vertebrae allow the nerves that exit the spine to relay feeling from the various parts of the body to the brain, in a dynamic that changes as the alignment of the spine changes. The more I discover relaxation in the face of the suffocation response and calm in the face of the precariousness of posture, the more the things that come forward for me in sitting reflect a timely ability to feel. Lately I tend to emphasize the relaxation of activity when I experience discomfort, and the calming of the senses that coordinate the placement of awareness when I experience unhappiness. That I can experience ease and not experience happiness, I think is an oddity of human nature. On the other side of the suffocation response, comes ease and the experience of the senses that go together to make up the feeling of place in awareness. On the other side of the anxiety associated with precariousness comes a detachment from the placement of awareness, and happiness associated with a balanced ability to feel. Cheng Man-Ching described three “stages of development” in the art of Tai Chi: 1) Relaxation from the shoulders to the wrists, from the hip joint to the heels, and from the sacrum to the headtop; 2) Sinking the ch’i to the tan t’ien, the ch’i reaches the arms and legs, and the ch’i moves through the sacrum to the top of the head; 3) listening to or feeling (ligamentous) strength, comprehension of (ligamentous strength), and perfect clarity (“spiritual power, or power without physical force”). (Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan, by Professor Cheng Man Ch’ing, translated by Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Martin Inn, pg 75-81, ©1985 by Juliana T. Cheng; except Part 3, “perfect clarity” from "Master Cheng's Thirteen Chapters on T'ai-Chi Ch'uan", Cheng Man-Ching trans. Douglas Wile, pg. 53) Again, relaxation through the suffocation response yields ease and the experience of the senses that go together to make up the feeling of place in awareness. That is to say, complete relaxation (1, above) brings out the feeling of place in awareness, and allows the necessity of breath to shift the placement of awareness to generate activity that displaces fascia behind the sacrum and the spine (2, above). Distinguishing ligamentous strength (as in 3, above) depends on the experience of reciprocal activity and stretch in the muscles and ligaments in response to the placement of awareness in the movement of breath. To me, comprehension of such strength is the sign of the concentration, as voluntary activity in the movement of breath is surrendered. I would say that “perfect clarity” refers to the surrender of action in the movement of breath, the cessation of the utilization of intent to act but not necessarily the cessation of action. Cheng Man-ching describes it this way: “The ch’i can mobilize the body, but you need not will the ch’i in order to move it. The spirit can carry the ch’i with it.” (Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan, by Professor Cheng Man Ch’ing, translated by Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Martin Inn, pg 80, ©1985 by Juliana T. Cheng)
  4. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    Along those lines (from AN III 303, Pali Text Society edition pg 218): ... Then another monk addressed the Blessed One, "I, too, develop mindfulness of death." ... "I think, 'O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One's instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal.' This is how I develop mindfulness of death." When this was said, the Blessed One addressed the monks. "Whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, 'O, that I might live for a day & night... for a day... for the interval that it takes to eat a meal... for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up four morsels of food, that I might attend to the Blessed One's instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal' — they are said to dwell heedlessly. They develop mindfulness of death slowly for the sake of ending the effluents. "But whoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, 'O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up one morsel of food... for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One's instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal' — they are said to dwell heedfully. They develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents. "Therefore you should train yourselves: 'We will dwell heedfully. We will develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents.' That is how you should train yourselves." Interesting that he offers both one swallow and one breath in or out--similar to his saying he returned to "that first characteristic of concentration in which I ever abide" (presumably "making self-surrender the object of thought") after he lectured, two different modalities in the use of the body and lungs.
  5. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    I write on Dao Bums for myself--to offer something that is, at least to some degree, new to myself. The voice that I find in dialogue with other "bums" here on the site is generally more conversational than the voice that I find writing by myself, and that's helpful too. Gautama the Buddha described the intent concentration on in-breathing and out-breathing as something peaceful in itself, and a pleasant way of living too. He made this recommendation to the monks as an alternative to the meditation on the unlovely, which he had been teaching, and which resulted in the suicide of scores of monks. The moral of the story for me is, it doesn't have to be about enlightenment. It doesn't have to be about attainment, and methods to achieve something. I'm not disagreeing with Starjumper. Here's are the overview descriptions of the last three stages in the chapter "Stages of Development" from Cheng Man-Ching's "Thirteen Chapters" (the Wile translation, pg 56-58): 1) Listening to energy 2) Interpreting energy 3) Perfect clarity Similar in some respects to something Gautama mentioned in one of his lectures, about the stages of the outside, the inside, and the beautiful--not sure I quite have that right, memory fails and I'm not going to find the quote right now. However, the first stage in Cheng Man-Ching's description was relaxation, shoulders to hands, hips to feet, and sacrum to the crown of the head; the second was moving chi along the same lines. None of it could be forced, especially not chi from the sacrum to the crown of the head. That's about Tai Chi, but as far as I'm concerned it's about sitting the lotus too, or any form that depends on relaxation and sink. Not so much the attainment, all about relaxation and sink as the breath moves in, as the breath moves out.
  6. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    Every sitting, along with the anxiety connected with the precariousness of posture. Or let me say, what I experience is the necessity to relax and calm down in conjunction with inhalation and exhalation, in order to allow zazen to sit zazen (to use Shunryu Suzuki's turn of phrase). You might like this, details of how I learned about the suffocation response and the death of a Zen teacher I admired. The precariousness for me is mostly about support for the lumbar curve, there from the 3rd lumber vertebrae to the sacrum. That's why my description of anatomy starts with the ilio-lumbar ligaments, and focuses on the mechanisms by which the fascia behind the lower back is displaced in support of the lumbar spine. The things that come forward for me when I sit now, I have arrived at through finding the spontaneous breath in the midst of activity, in particular in the midst of the activity that supports the lower back in the movement of breath. I don't know about anybody else, but for me that requires a recognition that I am staying out of suffocation, and allowing support to be realized of its own accord
  7. Haiku Chain

    At rest in the storm the storm of my own making bottoms up, ducklings
  8. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    I second that, and I have some specifics. Let me be the first to say that grasping after specifics is not going to get it, and yet without the specifics my practice didn't seem to get off the ground. First, it's all gravity, so sung (relax) and ch'en (sink). Helpful to me lately to find gravity wherever my mind lands, and also good training in letting the mind move. Not to say mind at center isn't a great thing! Cheng Man-ching quotes the classics of Tai Chi: Relax the inner abdomen, then the whole body is light and agile. (Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan, by Professor Cheng Man Ch’ing, translated by Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Martin Inn, pg 25, ©1985 by Juliana T. Cheng) Funny stuff, there's nothing really there to relax in the inner abdomen, and yet in my experience sometimes this is exactly the place to relax. Particulars. The movement of breath in or out shifts the accent in support for the lower spine between the ilio-lumbar ligaments that run vertically from the pelvis to the 4th lumbar vertebrae (in inhalation), and the ilio lumbar ligaments that run horizontally from the pelvis to the 5th lumbar vertebrae (in exhalation). The weight resting on the sit-bones shifts the accent in support for the sacrum between the sacro-spinous ligaments and the sacro-tuberous ligaments: The stretch of the ligaments generates activity in the muscles of the pelvis that alternates to relieve stretch on the ligaments, and that activity can carry into the quads and hamstrings right to the soles of the feet. The quads can stretch fascia between the quads and the ilio-tibial bands on the outside of the legs above the knees, adding stretch to the ilio-tibial bands and generating activity in the sartorius muscles: Stretch in the ilio-tibial bands encourages reciprocation in the sartorious muscles, triggering reciprocation in the tensor muscles (from the ilio-tibial bands to the front of the pelvis) and in the gluts (from the bands to the sacrum and to the lumbodorsal fascia behind the sacrum and the lower spine). The action in the tensors and gluts carries up into the muscles of the abdomen, especially where their fascial connections to the rectus muscles are of equal lengths (2" below the belly-button), and into the lower back, especially opposite the place where the abdominal fascial connections (to the rectus) are of equal length. There are two mechanisms that stretch the fascia behind the sacrum and the lower back to the rear, to support the lower spine. The first is that the extensor muscles behind the sacrum are enclosed by bone on three sides, so that when the muscles contract and bulk up, that bulk presses rearward on the facia and effects a stretch behind the sacrum. The second is that the pressure generated in the abdominal cavity presses rearward on the fascial sheet behind the lower back and effects a stretch behind the lower spine. My ability to relax and calm down in the lotus depends in part on my ability to realize the way that gravity can support my back in the movement of breath, and in part on my ability to just let the movement of breath be. That's how I sit the lotus. I had to relearn my posture, and that relearning is ongoing. How I came up with the science, is another story, but I think I've been pretty lucky. Of particular importance to me is the way that activity in the legs returns as stretch behind the sacrum and activity in the lower abdomen, activity that is connected with a pressure that shifts the fascia behind the lower spine slightly to the rear. Or to put it another way, "a deep release I experience in the legs, kua, that emanates up into the abdomen and prompts a deepening of sung and full body release."
  9. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    I agree, Orion, and I've had the same experience--any posture is the place to start. That said, there's also this: In the recently published "Embracing Mind", Kobun Otogawa is quoted as saying he never had pain in the lotus (or just a trace, in his knees). In fact, he said he sat the lotus to stay out of pain. I once heard Kobun say, "Take your time with the lotus". I think what he meant by that was, take whatever time you need, but learn to sit the lotus without pain. (that's from here) For me, there's a lot involved in sitting the lotus. It's unquestionably a stretch, and relaxing into reciprocal activity generated in the the stretch, but it's also a particular opening to the senses. At least, that's my experience, and I'm good for 35 minutes either side now in the lotus without pain, and can sit 40 at home. That only took 50 years, from when I couldn't sit with my legs crossed in any position, but I'm hopeful that what I have written about my experience might shorten that time for others. And you're right again, sitting the lotus wasn't the biggest deal so far, but it's helpful in everyday life.
  10. What is so "special" about full lotus?

    Very amazing, to read this thread again after nine years. Along the lines you describe, ion, may I offer something from my latest post: Recently I read a forum post by a piano teacher (and life coach), who said that it's hard to leave old habits behind because of muscle memory. I agree with him that there is muscle memory involved, but at least as far as old habits in sitting, there's also the panic of the suffocation response. Sooner or later, I begin to feel like the posture is affecting my ability to breathe, and there's a certain anxiety associated with that. Knowing about the suffocation response helps me to realize how much I need to emphasize relaxation, if I want to overcome old habits. Seated meditation has been described as "straightening the chest and sitting precariously". Precariousness in posture also gives rise to anxiety, yet if calm prevails, precariousness can bring forward the senses behind the feeling of place in awareness. If you're interested, you can find the rest here. As to what really goes on behind the tailbone and sacrum and along the spine, I hope I have some science here.
  11. Haiku Chain

    realizing self there is only this--relax, stay calm, let things go
  12. Haiku Chain

    The Secret is open mind present without abode sense actualized
  13. Looks like the earliest representation of the Buddha by footprints was about 2nd century B.C.E.: I agree with Apech that at least the sermon and discipline volumes of the Tripitaka originated earlier. I know of at least one Zen teacher who was considered an expert in the forms of the Zendo, including the forms around the various offerings, but my understanding is that he always encouraged people who wanted to learn the forms not to hold too tightly to tradition (the teacher would be Kobun Chino Otogawa).
  14. Haiku Chain

    And all and all and then some--I pick myself up, I lay down again
  15. Haiku Chain

    Bit by bit, stones turn Good things come to those who wait Out of the ether