For the beginning of a new year (and new decade at that) I think it could benefit all of us to get back to basics. A daily practice of sitting meditation has been shown to offer numerable benefits – most recently, a study shows that meditators age slower than the general public, most likely because of higher levels of telomerase, an enzyme that has to do with longevity.
And yet, though we know sitting is “good” for us, we find resistance to actually doing it! But the other day I read the following from Cheri Huber to my Mindfulness Yoga class:
Sitting in meditation opens our hearts. What wants to sit? Who we really are. What wants to be still? Stillness. The quiet, the peace, the well-being wants to be with itself, wants to experience itself. So when we sit, even if it’s a fidgeting, wiggling, hate-every-moment-of-it sit, what is sitting is that deepest part of us.
Continuing to sit reinforces that part of us who wants to sit. It also reveals the nature of the ego onslaught. Seeing that, our hearts open a little bit, and as our hearts open, there is more kindness. There is more ability to be present, to be open to and aware of something other than the conditioned structure that is maintaining itself against the inherent goodness of life.
It can certainly seem as if the person who wants to sit disappears as soon as we hit the cushion. We are bombarded with everything in the world, all our conditioned patterns, all our resistance, all our suffering. But that is all right, because there is room on that cushion for all that to be there, along with who we really are.
I love this passage because it reminds me of what Dogen Zengi says: that our sitting is already the expression of our inherent buddha-nature. We do not sit to become buddha, but express our awakening nature by and through sitting – even if a storm of emotion and thought is also happening!
So, if you have been thinking of starting a sitting practice; or if you have one that feels ‘stalled’; or if you sit regularly, let January be the month you really commit to ‘just sit.’ Don’t even think of it as something special: “I’m meditating now.” You don’t have to sit on the floor. Sit on a chair if your uncomfortable sitting on the floor. Don’t make a big deal of it. Just sit.
Take the next 30 days as a “Sitting Challenge.” You can commit to whatever you wish, but stick to it. Your commitment might be to sit one hour a day, either in one 60-minute block or two 30-minute sits or even three 20-minute sits. You can commit to sitting for ten minutes or even five minutes. At the very least, you can commit, as Jack Kornfield suggests, to ‘get your ass on the cushion.’ You will most likely find that getting your ass on the cushion is the hardest part, but once you do get onto the cushion (or chair) you’ll find you can indeed sit still for at least five minutes!
Please share your experiences, insights and questions.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meaness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!