Why I Sit

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I figured I would start off by setting myself assignments every day. I can sit down, light incense, and use that as a way to time myself to either a half hour or a full hour of writing. This is the first of those assignments:

Why do I sit? *sigh* Well, why do I do anything these days? I am becoming more and more convinced that this life is all I have and that when it’s over, it will just be over. I have harbored the idea that I can somehow live on if I live a good life, that my mind may live on in the minds of others, just as the mind of Chogyam Trungpa lives on in the world, especially in the Shambhala mandala. But I won’t really know anything about that because I will be dead. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe the self that “knows” stuff, that remembers stuff, maybe “I” am not important. I don’t really know. I think that I have to give up knowing. I think that I have to give up success. I think that if I am going to actually see things the way they are, if I am to take what is important for what is important, then I have to give up any preconceptions I have at this point. I have to give up all the expectations I have. I have to give up my plans, my desires, my fears, my hopes. I suspect that the best way to do that is to sit. This time, when I sit, is the time when I stop, when I am learning how to stop, how to remember to stop. 

I think there is a lot of wisdom in the body, and that I have become separated from that body. I think that we live in an interconnected relationship with all beings, and that the body knows this somehow. When I sit, I am best able to come down into the body. When I sit, I train the brain to stop running round in its plans, fears, and hopes and come back to the present and into relationship with the body. And that body is in relationship already with all beings; at least, I think so. I have contemplated interdependence and found it to be intuitively likely.

Every action we take affects all beings in some way, indirectly or directly. We go about our lives eating and buying stuff, walking around, driving our cars. We are constantly making decisions about what to do, where to go, and what to say to one another. Our moods spill out into the world around us as facial expressions, body language and speech. Whenever we interact with another person, even if it’s just to buy a cup of coffee, how we interact has an effect on that person. And that effect pushes them in a certain direction, forcefully or gently.

If I smile at you, and you believe in your heart that I have good will towards you, it makes it easier for you to smile at someone else, right? And you do want to smile at another person, right? I think it’s possible that we all want to smile. But we’re afraid. But if you smile at me, I feel less afraid, and I can open, and then I can smile at someone else, and they can smile at someone else… until the cycle is broken and someone closes up into fear again. This cycle happens all the time, whether we see it or not. Look for it sometime; smile at someone and observe their reaction. Notice how you feel when you have smiled at someone or when they have smiled at you. The problem, I think, is that the cycle breaks down at some point. Somebody doesn’t notice the smile, or something else happens, and the good mood is broken and then we go right back into that state of fear and separation. Separation from others, separation between our brain and body. These two seem to be intertwined. It’s as if my attitude toward myself reflects my attitude towards other beings or vice versa. And that attitude is often one of fear – as well as hope. So, sitting becomes a way to settle into the body and become familiar with it – remember, I am my body. Sitting is a way to become familiar with the integrated state of mind and body.

I have a kind of confusion about what I mean here when I talk about the separation of mind and body. What is mind?  And what is separation? I think I can start by saying that separation is a matter of whether I am aware of how things really are. I don’t actually become separated in some way; this is impossible. What happens, I think, is that I create a perspective that says, “this part of me is this, and that part of me is that.” When I sit, I dissolve that; I try to remember, in a non-conceptual way, that all these distinctions I make about myself: brain, body, mind, heart, etcetera – are all just labels for a process that I also label as “me”. 

But the body is important to this process, possibly because it’s the “part” of ourselves that we ignore. I don’t really understand this for sure, but I feel as if I need to be grounded in the body in order to raise my gaze into the space around me. I could say, that if there is some kind of dichotomy or dyad going on within me, that it would be heaven and earth, or body and mind. The body is tactile, as well as conceptual – it goes places, and it sits on the ground, and it speaks. The mind is open: with the gaze up and awareness of my surroundings expanded, it feels as if there is a kind of emptiness/luminosity to my being. Thoughts happen within this space, but thoughts do not define the space. But in order to have that space, or in order to see it, I have to sit. Sitting settles the body, including the brain, so that space can be perceived.

Anyway, to answer the question of why I sit… I guess I sit because I know that this existence can be beautiful, and that it can also be painful. I sit because I can see my confusion and I want to give up trying to stop being confused. I sit because I want to remember to smile at you when I see you – I want to remember to see you. I want to remember to see me. I want to remember to see. I want to remember.

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