Sitting

Meditation has been part of my "Things I Should be Doing" list for over 20 years now. I began meditating when I was 21, just before I got married. At that time, I was living in Iowa, working a blue collar job for the family business (her family), and I pretty much lived for my martial arts classes (I went to college as well, but I was not the serious student that I am today).

I was studying Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Kendo, and Iiado all at the same time. I can recall my schedule very clearly - Judo on Monday and Wednesday, TKD on Tuesday and Thursday, Kendo and Iiado on Saturday. Each of those classes began with meditation - a few minutes of sitting in seiza (on your insteps) with hands folded, breathing and clearing your mind for the instructions to come. For me, it was never long enough to get any clarity. I usually just took a mental inventory of my minor aches and pains until it was over.

When I began meditating outside of the dojo/dojang, it was because of a little book by Robert Aitken Roshi called "Taking the Path of Zen." I sat in the attic of our rented farmhouse in Iowa, and counted my breaths. My ex never understood the point. "You're just staring at the wall," she would say, but to her credit, she generally left me alone. After the first few tries (which were dismal failures) I suddenly "got it" - for a few seconds, my mind was still. I joined the zendo in Omaha immediately, and started attending regularly.

Since then, I have always meditated. Not every day, not consistently like I should, but I always come back to it... eventually.

When I told you of The Big Sit, I had planned to sit for 20 minutes per day. But meditation has a way of sharpening my view, and after a few days of 15 to 20 minutes sessions, I became aware of some really glaring issues in my current academic plan. This led to a minor existential crisis (some of which has been shared on this blog) and in my usual fashion, I stayed up way too late and pondered my future. I can't meditate when I'm sleepy (I just sleep sitting up) so I missed a few days because of it.

My existential crisis has been abated somewhat (note: I did not say it was cured, merely that it has been scaled back to managable levels) and I'm back on track now, but I am more flexible about when and where I meditate. You see, I was originally trained in Soto Zen style sitting - on cushions, in the lotus position if you can manage it, facing a blank wall, counting your breaths. It's still the best way for me, but sometimes life doesn't always offer time for that. I've had to be creative.

-I have found that I can meditate in the computer lab; people think I'm reading from the screen.
-I can meditate in my office; my undergrads never come in for help anyway.
-I can meditate while walking to campus; in Zen, walking meditation is called kinhin, and it's actually an integral part of the style of meditation that is practiced at the little zendo I used to attend in Colorado.
-My favorite is while I'm soaking in the bath; I like the metaphor of washing away my delusions as I wash away the day's dirt.

If you are participating in The Big Sit, feel free to share your experiences here. If you aren't meditating, consider giving it a try. You, too, can stare at walls!

3 comments:

Mayren said...

YAY! big sit!!!!!!

I need to update my progress on my blog in the next few days too.

His Sinfulness said...

I'm so glad you're doing this! I hope it's going well. :)

Mayren said...

this is going very well actually. i'm really seeing how not meditating regularly before kinda let a piece of me fade to the background and how now i feel like i'm more "with it"

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