Monday, May 11, 2009


"Vacancy!" number 44 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

Today's miniature is a little vacant? A sleep talking Roshi? My own confusion.

I continue to study my posture when sitting. Watching how my thought stream is influenced by the position of hips, vertebrae, shoulders, and skull. I hold these structures in a column, lightly and mindfully, focusing my attention by scanning from hips to skull a time or two. Then I relax into the space that arises. Spine held with attention, the thought stream slows. Which aspect proceeds which? Can posture be worked with because the thought stream is quiet or does the thought stream become quiet when the posture is in alignment? Does this matter? Maybe.

How do you work with your posture?

Provided we keep a constant eye on our own faults,
We cannot go astray from the right path.
           Hui Neng

1971 TV program that films a conversation with Alan Watts. In 1971 he shows himself to be a concerned environmentalist. What would he be saying on this topic if he was around today. I don't know much about Alan's personal history. My view is from just what I've heard and read. His books and his audio. I sense that many conservative Zen practitioners in the West don't hold Alan to highly.

In this 30 minute program, Alan Watts talks about the interconnectedness of life and wonders how we've gone so far astray by polluting our environment. Worth 30 minutes.


  1. Hi Will,

    I got the Alan Watts video you have posted above from the library a few years ago. I liked it and I like Alan Watts’ writings. His book The Way of Zen is actually quite impressive. Apparently, D. T. Suzuki ( and others) have criticized him for interpreting the concepts in Zen Buddhism a little too loosely. And Ken Wilber (who has his own critics) claims that Watts commits the pre/trans fallacy. (The fallacy is to confuse pre-rational and trans-rational states or stages of consciousness, simply because they are both non-rational.) But hey, nobody’s perfect.

    I enjoy reading your blog very much.

  2. Tallis, thank you for your comments. I find Alan Watts to be a down to earth, American kind of guy. A plain talker who doesn't much care what others think of him. He has always come off as confident but never infallible and often very funny.

    Today I heard someone talking about the three pillars of Zen. No, not the book. They were saying the three pillars are:
    1. Trust (faith)
    2. Questioning (doubt)
    3. Determination (perseverance)
    I always wondered why Alan Watts always said he was not a Buddhist. He sure sounded like a Zen Buddhist.

    Thanks for posting.

  3. I come to zazen from many years of practicing yoga. Initially, in yoga, the focus is on body alignment. Comes the day when the asana (posture) is fully realized, fully in balance, perfect unto itself, and "you" are no longer necessary to force and coax the muscles and bones to achieve your desire. The asana, at this point, holds itself together and you are merely a witness to supreme balance. To maintain this posture, it is imperative that you remove yourself, your ego, from any attempts to control the body. Indeed, you no longer desire to control the posture. It was here that I first discovered no mind. Now that I practice sitting in the zen tradition, I find this previous experience with asana useful. I sit, I scan for alignment, I find the place in which seated alignment becomes effortless, is in balance, and then I seek to dwell in the place in which sitting is, balance is, alignment is. At this point, conscious control is detrimental to the sitting. This is the point of equanimity that I first experienced in yoga, that I have continued to experience in zazen, and that I believe allows me to move through my daily life more in touch with the balance, the equanimity, the understanding that keeps me practicing.

  4. Anonymous,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to post you comments. You eloquent description of the experience of balance touches my own.

    I am a knotted up, rigid keyboard jockey who struggles with his stiffness and weak posture. I once dabbled in yoga and pruned that activity when my life got complicated. Still complicated.

    "...and then I seek to dwell in the place in which sitting is, balance is, alignment is. At this point, conscious control is detrimental to the sitting."

    Yes indeed. Even the idea of balance drops away from view. All that remains is the wind inviting the porch chime to sing. Breath streaming through nostrils.

    Thank you,