Thanks for sharing this.  I was inspired by it!

Keep sitting for all our sakes…Bill!

From: [] On Behalf Of 
Chris Austin-Lane
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2010 7:15 AM
Subject: Re: [Zen] New Member


On Sun, Nov 28, 2010 at 10:11 AM, Rose P <> 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 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 actions.  

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 often.  

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 response.  

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 disagree 

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.  


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