Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why not Sit Alone?

She wrote, "I sat for an hour yesterday in a chair. I don't understand why a person should sit in a group when they can sit at home, longer? Then there is no driving. Drive to the center, take shoes off, go in, sit, put shoes back on, leave. To me going to the center is just for people who lack the discipline to meditate at home."

Yesterday I wrote about Marina's exhibit at MOMA. The figures, in meditative postures (maybe trances would be a better word), were nude. No, naked. No, nude. Oh, I don't know. Models are nude, strippers are naked.

As I sat today, I was doan. It is the person who faces everyone who is facing the walls and rings the bells for the sitting and the service (I'm really a beginner at this role). I though about the question above as I sat and looked at the "sitters."

Earlier I was talking about the issue with a priest and the director of the zen center. I said that I thought sitting was much more intimate than talking. Sometimes it seems we talk in order to hide what we are feeling. Like clothes. When we sit, we are naked. Intimacy in zen is enlightenment. And I suspect part of enlightenment is seeing one's connection with all. Therefore... therefore... therefore...

It appeared to me that some, though literally sitting with others, might be just sitting by and for themselves. But part of sitting is that we are sitting for others as well as for ourselves. The pain in my leg is the pain of suffering throughout Earth. The joy of a deep breath that makes a pleasant journey in and out of me is the joy of someone seeing a newborn emerge from their mother's womb. Sitting is not a solitary activity, no matter where it is done.

In one day, according to a fellow sangha member's blog, 40000 thoughts pass through our head. We are naked when we are sitting because those thoughts are now revealed to us. Nothing is between who we are and who we pretend to be.

We feel the presence of others in the room. Sometimes we hear them wiggle a little, or cough, or hear their stomach's growling.

But still, why would we want to be in a room naked with others? Or are we really with others (who are actually other parts of ourselves), linked together by a web? I read a description once of a number of monks going into a three month practice period (wrote about this recently as well) and they were told to think of themselves as oarsmen on a ship. If they didn't all keep rowing, the ship wouldn't make it to their destination.

Is sitting a social activity? It certainly isn't a cocktail party, where we have the tendency to wear a lot of clothes, hoping to hide our secrets.

Some of us feel like we need our daily sit. It is our chance to share very private moments with our selves, and with each other.

I don't think I really answered the question. But maybe that's ok. This article, Why We Chant, seems to say well some of the joy in sitting together.


Kate Freeman said...

The bus is crowded
A passenger in each seat
We sit in silence
We all share this still moment
Travelers sharing the road

Anonymous said...

"But still, why would we want to be in a room naked with others?" I would want the temperature to be at least 75 degrees. H.

Sheila said...

i'm still trying to figure out if my comments get on or not. I love all this about secrets and nakedness and togetherness.

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