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TOPIC: Finding the hara

Finding the hara 26 May 2015 08:23 #98950

In practicing with shikantaza, one of the things that comes up is breathing into your hara. I remember being puzzled about this early in my meditation practice, when I was in my DIY-Zen phase. There never seemed to be a lot written about what this point in the body is, and how to breath "into" it. In some Reggie Ray stuff I am listening to, he at least explains why that is: Zen/C'han is essentially a Buddhist container for Taoism, and in Taoism the hara (or dantien) was already well-known. So it didn't need explaining.

Great, but doesn't help.

So I am looking for practical tips on how to feel or locate this space. I am not very good at visualization, and that might be my stumbling block but, then again, for a somatic practice I ought to be able to feel my way around.
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Finding the hara 26 May 2015 09:23 #98952

masamicovey.com/Zenshin%20Defined/hara-body-center

www.interluderetreat.com/meditate/hara.htm

Maybe one of those will help. I have a feeling that there's a cultural problem for us, having to do with wanting a muscular armor over our bellies and the sense of control over our emotions that gives. I'll bet deep, racking sobs come directly from the the hara.
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Finding the hara 26 May 2015 12:05 #98953

Energetically, when you are relaxed and breathing from your belly... it's that feeling/place in the middle of the swelling (a little below the belly button a little in front of the spine). It doesn't need to be found as a "thing" but rather a point/center around which everything occurs. When you are excited the sense of breathing tends to go to the chest, but when you are relaxed it's low in the belly.

When things are nice and calm, it feels like the breath is massaging the intestines, aiding digestion, the body hangs off the spine and the mass of the body weights us solidly on the cushion, and the attitude of awareness is like it is "digesting" experience as it happens... Finding the hara in the body is like finding "bodily presence" at the center of mass of the body. The eyes then feel like they are high up on the body (from the point of view from the hara), rather than the hara feeling low in the body (from the point of view of the eyes).

Hope that helps rather than confuses (???)
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Finding the hara 26 May 2015 18:17 #98961

Don't know if this is any help, but my tai chi teacher tells us to find the dan t'ian six finger widths below the belly button, and just a little inside the body.
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Finding the hara 26 May 2015 20:39 #98962

Did you listen to the second of the three recordings? Is that where the question is arising from?
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Finding the hara 26 May 2015 22:50 #98963

Bill F wrote:
Did you listen to the second of the three recordings? Is that where the question is arising from?

Yes, and yes. And I have also listened to RR's "Your Breathing Body", but this one has always been really elusive. I was just hoping someone might have some anecdotal "this is how it feels for me" kind of advice, notwithstanding shargrol's comments which sound to me diametrically opposite to RR (sorry, shargrol).
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Finding the hara 27 May 2015 06:43 #98966

(no worries :) )
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Finding the hara 27 May 2015 08:14 #98968

"... I have also listened to RR's "Your Breathing Body", but this one has always been really elusive. I was just hoping someone might have some anecdotal "this is how it feels for me" kind of advice..."

My specific suggestion is that the way it feels may be more emotional than a simple physical sensation: it may feel like losing your grip, like being vulnerable, or like a power not your own rising through you like the water in a fire hose. Or a simple being moved by the breath like a curtain in a breeze.
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Finding the hara 27 May 2015 09:09 #98972

When I began Zen practice and was told to "put my mind in my belly," I had difficulty understanding what this meant and would focus on the area below my navel with little confidence that I was doing it right or that it would do anything. Over many trials, however, I noticed that a stabilizing power and energy steadily developed there, so that I could find what I felt to be my hara simply by putting my attention in my belly.
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Finding the hara 27 May 2015 16:18 #98975

Tom: I understand where you are coming from. I'm not much for visualziation either. Add to that as soon as I direct attention to a certain area of the body and let go of my preconceptions I find only space with out boundaries. When I place my attention to the area Reggie is referencing (I think) a feeling of spaciousness and groundedness arises simultaneously. I have no idea if I am in the right area but believe that is the experience being pointed towards. Can you find that experience anywhere in the body?
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Finding the hara 29 May 2015 15:04 #98983

Apologies for the late reply. I have no problem finding stuff like spaciousness, groundedness, and other interesting experiences in the body. I just cannot seem to generate anything interesting in *that* part of the body. On balance, I find the level of concentration and subsequent equanimity induced by this "mindfulness of posture" to be very high and, to be clear, I am not bent out of shape worrying about the hara. But it is so prevalent in the instructions (RR and classical) that it was a bit annoying that I can't seem to "find" it.
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Finding the hara 29 May 2015 16:21 #98986

Maybe the process of trying to find the hara is meant to be a koan.

:P
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Finding the hara 29 May 2015 17:49 #98987

"Maybe the process of trying to find the hara is meant to be a koan."

Like "think not-thinking"...

In other words, thinking, verbalization, answers to questions... are way at the periphery. The root is pre-verbal, pre-conceptual-- the un-manipulated rising and falling of breath, sensation, and a different order of non-discursive 'knowing,' in the gut.
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Finding the hara 30 May 2015 07:42 #98992

I stumbled on this tweet and I think it gets to the point:

"To employ the idea of God or a higher power may trigger massive neuroplasticity. This is the essence of all authentic spirituality."

Employing the idea of "hara" can change your orientation to sense of self, sense of body, sense of mind. It isn't necessary one fixed thing that is there and you find it. You use the idea of hara to cultivate something. What that something is depends on your intentions. It's different for different mediations, different arts. If you get that something, then you have found the hara.
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Finding the hara 30 May 2015 09:22 #98995

A practical thought-- doing the exercise (of 'feeling' for the hara) might work best standing...

It is a sense of being 'rooted' in the lower belly, feeling the center of gravity there, the breath arising of itself from there-- a bit as if you were one of those inflatable, weighted punching-bag clowns that right themselves.

I think when we sit, there's a bunch of subtle postural stuff going on, and our innards being compacted in a counterproductive way.
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Finding the hara 30 May 2015 12:00 #98997

Hi Tom -- A few thoughts here:

*There's a good possibility that the area Reggie is talking about in the lower belly may not be the exact same thing/area that other traditions focus on. I can't come up with specifics off of the top of my head, but it seems to me that lots of traditions have practices that focus in that general area and I have noticed differences. I do know that Reggie's lower belly practices do pre-date his recent excursion into what he is calling Shikantaza, and are rooted in Mahamudra. He's kind of taken that piece and, it seems, used it as an anchor point for "just sitting" practice.

*Having done some retreats with dharma ocean, my experience has been that this space (as Reggie teaches it) opens up and becomes more clear with time. Certain techniques to access it work with certain people. The thing that really opened it up for me was to take the initial instructions (something like finding the spot 5 finger widths below the navel and back against the front of the spine) and breathing up and diagonally back into that area (e.g. starting with awareness at a point lower than 5 finger-widths below the navel, and "pulling" awareness diagonally up and back from there). I hope this makes sense -- the person who taught me this ended up drawing me a diagram.

*In reading this thread it seems like you have been listening to the "Session 2 -- exploring the lower belly" audio from Reggie's shikantaza teachings. I've got an older mp3, sixteen minutes of a Reggie guided meditation in the lower belly that I can email you if you'd like -- just msg me your email address. This audio was very helpful to me when I first came across it.
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Finding the hara 31 May 2015 10:01 #99012

Thank you, Jim. I will try your technique. As for audio, BillF has set me up with a bunch of audio, including the one you mentioned.
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Finding the hara 01 Jun 2015 04:36 #99020

I'd suggest this since its a little different than some of the other ideas here. Its not what you were asking. I studied in an AYP system which involved continuous eye contact between teacher and student for 30 minute sessions where 'shaktipat' would take place. I had tons of interesting experiences but the initial instruction was to continuously place the mind below the navel, in the middle of the torso. After a while I felt this '3rd chakra' expand beyond the body, than contract again, and slowly relax and open over a period of weeks. It was much easier to cultivate samatha when this opening took place.

Just another perspective on what the hara is when approached from a certain angle, that of energetic yoga. Might be fun to look at it like that as well.
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Finding the hara 09 Jun 2015 14:24 #99113

Saw this today, and it reminded me of your inquiry, Tom--

bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/...-muscle-of-the-soul/

"Koch believes that by cultivating a healthy psoas, we can rekindle our body’s vital energies by learning to reconnect with the life force of the universe. Within the Taoist tradition the psoas is spoken of as the seat or muscle of the soul, and surrounds the lower “Dan Tien” [the Chinese word for Hara] a major energy center of body. A flexible and strong psoas grounds us and allows subtle energies to flow through the bones, muscles and joints."
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