On Sun, Nov 28, 2010 at 10:11 AM, Rose P <things_r...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> The 'why' seems to me to be a very important question, esp for beginners
> like me who are looking for some sort of inspiration (totally not the right
> word, but don't have a better one) from those who have been practicing a
> while (along the lines of.........life before zen was sometimes like this,
> life after zen is mainly like this). Curiously the subject of 'why' seems to
> be rarely touched on, with real life examples.
Anything I might say about why would just be making up a story after the
fact which failed to communicate the reality. And, there's no reason to
expect I particularly understand why I do something. Someone wrote Three
Pillars of Zen at a time when my father purchased it. I happened to grow up
in a home with a large metal Thai teaching buddha over the fire place.
Essentially every thing that has happened in the universe till now comes
into play when my brain is balancing between two proposed courses of
However, I can certainly tell the story of how I started sitting.
About 6 years ago, my son was about to start walking and my daughter was
about to enter kindergarten. At my family's traditional August beach trip,
I read a Karen Armstrong book about Buddha, and became convinced that my
attempt to be the primary parent and have paid employment was no longer
right occupation, and so I volunteered to be laid off in our next round of
layoffs. I had sometime around then read the Three Pillars of Zen and Zen
and the Art of Archery, so I decided if I was quitting jobs based on
Buddha's path, I should try the seated meditation as well. I read an intro
on how to meditate by Thich Nhat Hanh and found a zafu at our neighborhood
Buddhist knick-nack shop. I found a local sangha I could sit with, Silver
Spring Zendo, and started sitting. My goal then was to be able to sit for
25 minutes, which was the time of sitting at the Silver Spring Zendo. I
signed up for an intro to meditation evening at the zendo about 2 months in
the future and started sitting. By the time of the intro came around, I
was able to sit for 25 minutes.
Over the next several years, I sat more and more, and started attending
day-long or 2-3 day retreats. A big change happened about 1 or 2 years in,
when the group sitting I was attending changed from sitting from 6 am to
7:30 to sitting in the evening, 7 pm - 8 pm or something. It is a very
interesting difference between sitting first thing in the morning, when your
mind is a bit calmer naturally and sitting at the end of the day when your
thoughts are often full of the days activities.
About 2 years ago, I had to resume full time paid work and we had to move to
California, so I've been more on my own since then. I make it to a group
sit maybe 2 times a year, and don't really have a personal connection
anywhere here; however, I have just signed up for a week long sesshin this
February with a group that seems nice, that I've been sitting with most
As far as what changes the sitting makes to me, it is difficult to say. The
first thing I noticed is that, although I would have told anyone that I am a
very slow to anger person, in fact the hot flash of anger pulses through my
arms/blood several times a day. I feel that I see my life reflected in the
sitting. When I am tense and overwhelmed, my sitting is tense. When I am
calmer, my sitting is calmer. I can see the same ego-centric thoughts,
obviously silly when exposed to the light of attention, repeating over and
over again. At some point, my self-critical habit wears out and seeing the
thought brings a tiny smile at my human reality, rather than the petty
indulgence the thought wants nor the self-attack that is my habitual
I like to say, that one learns not to get so upset, even at getting upset.
My wife says I'm much more stubborn and willing to push back since I've been
sitting. Whether that change is useful or not is I think something we
I find I'm a kinder parent on days when I've sat for 30 minutes in the
morning, but of course I'm a kinder parent when I bike 20 miles or take a
nice long bath as well. I am less likely to drive by an open parking spot
because of being caught up in thoughts of what I should have typed in that
email. I notice a bit of space between something happening and my response.
I am starting to trust that I don't have to rush in and do something - when
the time is right to do something, I will be ready and will do it. Or
someone will - it doesn't matter that I rescue people myself or they figure
it out on their own.
I do see very repeatedly how my "trying to do stuff" is what crinkles up my
self so I miss the basic ease that life has. Sitting with some goal causes
the nervous system to stress out. That is just adding oil to the fire.
Sitting isn't about peace or oneness with all; it's about seeing our own
actual reality as it is. Sometimes peaceful, often not. Either way is
fine. Knowing is enough - we change all the time, will we or not; there is
no point in trying to change; of course we change.
Retreats are something else - the mind really feels less cluttered, the
perceptions seem cleaner. I wouldn't say I feel all happy clappy, but
sadness is ok when it is just sadness; happiness isn't so unbalanced when
it's just happiness. The eating is always greatly noticed and wonderful. I
actually think that living as a stay at home parent, you appreciate
retreats/sesshins a lot more than the average US adult. Someone cooks for
you and you don't have to pick up after anyone but yourself and no one asks
why do they have to get dressed/take a bath/eat.
Now that I write and re-read that, I think once people have sat for a while,
asking why sit is sort of like asking why do we eat :)
Thank you for the opportunity to explicitly write about myself.