I was at first a bit dismayed to read that Susan Moon ever felt abashed sitting zazen in a chair (“On the Cushion,” Winter 2008). But then I remembered Zen in the early days at Tassajara and in San Francisco, when some circles and practitioners, in my experience, adopted a macho approach to sitting posture. I also remembered a conversation in the eighties with a Japanese Jungian analyst named Hayao Kawai, who had an interest in Zen practice; he said that by loading Zen on top of our already strict Judeo-Christian culture, American practitioners burden themselves with too much severity.
Surely, whether one sits erect in a chair or in full lotus on the cushion, the “work” of Zen is with the mind and body as they are encountered. It sounds to me as though Susan Moon has found that element in her own practice. I loved her article as much as I loved her book The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi so many years ago.
Joan Alpert Wentz
Thank you, Susan Moon, for telling it like is in making the move from sitting zazen in the lotus position to sitting zazen in a chair. The pride and self-esteem may be bruised, but the body thanks us for responding appropriately to our changing needs.
At the upper end of middle age, this article spoke to me because I spent a month in a group retreat a year or so ago and struggled every day with this very thing. I wanted so badly to master sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the floor for long periods of time and became better at this as the month went on. But many times a day I would retreat to the chairs at the back of the meditaton hall. Nobody told me one way was right or one was wrong, but in my mind, the floor was first best, and the chair was second best. My hips and knees bothered me every day, but I treated it as if I was getting into condition.
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