At our weekly Be Here Now Sangha we’ve been reading a book by Ethan Nichtern entitled One City, A Declaration of Interdependence. Last week we read a section where he posed a question, in his hip satirical-esque fashion, many meditation students and practitioners ask: How does sitting on my ass help the world?
As I’ve found that answering mindfulness related questions is a great tool to help me hone in my teaching (and writing) muscles and find my own voice I tucked away the question in a small mental pocket to address later. How does sitting meditation change the world? Is that the “point”? Why do I sit?
Sitting meditation is one of the most important things I do with my time. It enables me to develop and strengthen my foundation of stillness, solidity, balance, attention, and concentration so that I am better equipped to move through the world with joy, ease, and resilience. Sitting meditation can help us cultivate spaciousness, learn how to slow down, and receive training in the wisdom of adaptation – it’s a practice of learning how to be in and of this world, one impermanent moment at a time.
The importance of the teaching on how when we take care of ourselves we’re also taking care of others should not be underestimated. I sit to care well for myself. And because of that I am able to be of service and care well for others. Sitting meditation is the fuel that allows me to continue beautifully into the future. The “point” is not to change anything but to come into relationship fully with ourselves in the present moment. To sit and to be for the sake of sitting and being.
I’m nearing the end of a book I’ve been reading called Eat, Sleep, Sit by Kaoru Nonomura, which details the unfolding journey of the author’s year spent at Japan’s most rigorous Zen temple Eiheiji. In it he describes sitting meditation this way:
At Eiheiji, sitting is neither a purpose nor a means to an end. One doesn’t sit to gain enlightenment; one just sits. But what does “just sitting” mean? The act of folding the legs and sitting transcends everyday acts of sitting, standing, and walking. When sitting, the sitter assumes a certain form. To assume this form is to become perfectly one with it, removing all fetters and ego – to be unselfconsciously present in the moment, like air. I doubt anyone whether anyone could put the answer into words. Only in sitting for oneself, and persisting in sitting to the very end, does the answer come welling up in one’s blood and bones. The only point of sitting is to accept unconditionally each moment as it occurs. This is the lesson of “just sitting” that I had absorbed after one year (at Eiheiji). I found great freedom in this way.
…this is the answer that I felt in my bones: accept unconditionally the fact of your life and treasure each moment of each day.