the long and the short of inhalation and exhalation (from Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen blog)

Alright, I like to talk to myself, it’s true. Here I am, doing so again in the disguise of a comment on comments on comments.

My experience has been this: at some point in my practice, the long and the short of inhalation and exhalation enters in. It’s taken me a lot of years and a lot of luck to discover that the “cross-legged” posture is more about the cranial-sacral rhythm than the pulmonary rhythm, but having found that out I still discover that there is a moment where the apprehension of the character of the specific movement of breath enters in. To my mind, this is in fact the most difficult aspect of the Gautamid s practice to discover in my own experience (even though in the “intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths” he goes on to describe mindfulness of impermanence, detachment, cessation, and relinquishment).

I can’t speak to the context of Dogen s remarks, or those of his teacher, but I can say that as in hypnosis, only the positive and substantive suggestion makes it for me on some level. The Gautamid was remarkable for saying positive, substantive things about the relationships that matter, and many Zen teachers who no doubt were (are) saints in their own right have been content to be the left hand to his right, and speak mostly in “no” and “not”. I myself have found the vocabulary I needed to learn to sit the lotus in the literature of cranial-sacral therapy, in the facts of anatomy, and in the teachings in the sutta volumes of the Pali Canon.

In that vocabulary, the place of occurrence of consciousness is dictated largely by the needs of the pulmonary and cranial-sacral respirations. Gudo Nishijima speaks of SNS and PNS, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system; turns out one of these concerns the heart and lungs and chest area, and the other concerns the sacrum and cranium (and the guts). I wish Gudo were able to explain his theory more completely, but I can understand that he cannot (at least I haven’t seen the explanation, if he has it). At any rate, the key for me is that the place of occurrence of consciousness can precipitate action in the body, the sense of place in the contact of the six senses has impact on the fascial stretch throughout the body as consciousness takes place, and the impact of the sense of place on the stretch can open feeling to the surface of the skin throughout the body.

The other difficulty in the Gautamid’s teaching is his use of the word impact, as in the sermon on the six-fold sense field in majjhima nikaya. Kobun Chino said that the literal meaning of the components of the word shikantaza is something like “pure hit sit”, and I believe this “hit” is the impact in the fascial stretch of the occurrence of consciousness(and activity is initiated by that stretch, without the exercise of volition), and this accords well with the Gautamid’s teaching.

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