Just Sitting

“Do everything with a mind that lets go. Do not expect any praise or reward. If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.”

      – Acharn Chah

One of the first meditation teachers I ever went to was a Japanese man who taught Zen meditation from his home in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. I remember he told us something that took me years to comprehend fully, mainly because it was so simple.

‘Meditation is not watching the breath, or concentrating on anything,’ he said. ‘Nor is meditation being peaceful, or happy, or relaxed. Meditation is just being able to sit up straight for a long time …’

He stopped there.

For a few minutes I waited for him to continue but he didn’t. He just closed his eyes and began to meditate. I looked around at the other students and they had closed their eyes as well. I was new at this meditation caper, so I had no idea what to do – so I closed my eyes and began sitting up straight too, and I found it extremely difficult – to the extent that, after five minutes of struggling with my squirming, fidgeting body, I had to leave the room.

I went back twice more then gave up because at that early age, I was not yet mature enough to appreciate the beauty of what this man was teaching. Thirty years later, I now understand. After all the monasteries I’ve been to, and all the methods I’ve practised, and all the books and teachers I’ve learnt from, I’ve realised that it is indeed as simple as the Zen teacher said.

Meditation is the ability to sit still, and be happy to sit still for as long as we need to. That’s all. That’s the skill. And that’s what we work towards.

If we can be still, nature will do the rest. Our mind/ body, released from the treadmill of constant activity, will turn its energy to readjusting itself and healing – rebalancing itself.

Trouble is, what seems so easy is very hard for us to do. Our busy lives and conditioning have created habits that keep us fidgeting. Result being, as soon as we sit, we find our attention sticking its fingers into everything like a neurotic and hyperactive child – worrying, daydreaming, being bored and so on. Because that’s its habit. That’s how our life has taught it to be.

So this is why we have the meditation methods. Over thousands if years, we have developed various methods of meditation methods to pacify our attention so the mind can experience the stillness it craves for.

So here’s my point.

Sometimes we forget how simple it is. We get too involved in the business of meditating – trying to get good at it and make things happen. Trying to push ourselves into the benefits we want from it.

And we forget the simplicity.

We forget that the purpose of meditation is not to become a good meditator. Nor is it the attainment of perfect concentration on the breath. Nor is it about finding god, or being enlightened, or finding calm or any of the aspirations we have for meditation. The purpose of the meditation methods is simply to help you sit still. And be happy being still – in both mind and body. That’s when all the good stuff happens, and it all happens naturally – as a matter of course. You don’t have to make it happen, nor do you have to work at it in any way.

Everything we want from meditation arises from simply being still, however we get there.

For this reason, I think it is helpful every so often to just sit. Maybe once a week, let go of the meditation methods you’ve learnt. You can always go back to them. Don’t try to meditate. Don’t pay attention to the breath. Let go of your expectations of happiness, healing and calm or whatever you want to happen.

Just sit. And in this sitting, see what happens – that’s enough.

And most importantly, accept what happens and know that it is temporary, just as everything in the entire universe is only temporary. Sit with love and compassion for this person you have become. And if sitting makes you anxious, then understand that anxiousness is here. Fall into it because that is what is happening right now … until change happens, and the anxiousness changes into something else, as it will.

Sitting like this helps to remind us that the methods are not everything. It also creates the chance that stillness will occur spontaneously without the methods, and that’s when we we realize what any animal, bird or creature on earth already knows – that being still is easy.

Just stop.  Go back to the beginning.

You never know – it may be that in letting go of meditation, stillness will appear on its own, like a beautiful bird landing on your shoulder.


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