The other day I had the pleasure of having dinner and playing with a fellow bamboo flute player, I had not been practicing the flute much lately and I was reminded about long tones.
Long tones are not exactly about a long breath and not exactly not about a long breath.
Excuse the double negative, maybe my editor will fix that as soon as I get one. Anyway this is certainly on of those things that I just can’t quite communicate over the internet I would have a hard time explaining even if we were face to face and I could show you directly.
Anyway the way he explained it was that the breath should come from the “Hara” which is a spot about four inches below the naval. Now I only passed basic biology with Ds in high school, but I know that the lungs don’t go down that far. Regardless of my scientific mind’s resistance, I found that going through the exercise of thinking about the breath coming from the “Hara” did indeed have an immediate impact on my long tones. No bad for a free lesson….
Now what does all that have to do with sitting full lotus?
Well… I have been sitting full lotus for a few years now, have had several teachers admire my posture and say that I’m doing it “Right” but my right foot constantly falls asleep about 25-27 minutes into Zazen. I got to thinking… Yeah thinking not non-thinking, about the effect of the breath on the flow of oxygen to by leg and adjusted my sitting ever so subtly in order to allow for an ever so slight freeing up of the “Hara.”
I did some long breathing then allowed the breath to regulate itself and noted that the monkey mind was pretty inactive, I have no idea if this trend will continue or not. I also “felt” ( a not that our feelings are always reliable) that I was leaning slightly backwards, but it may be that I was just habitually leaning forward instead, and the change just felt different. The end result was…. No more sleeping foot!!!
Anyway I know the internets and Zenistas often have flaps about “Proper posture” and weather or not it is important and it seems wherever there are views folks like to take those views into the extremes like you must sit with your chin tucked a certain way or it is not Zazen, to the other extreme of posture totally doesn’t matter.
Posture does matter. But at this time as far as I can tell the best way to figure out what right posture is by taking it up and studying it from various angles and experimentation.
I don’t think it is a cookie cutter process.