Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just sitting - how tough can it be?

When I started sitting initially, this was my thought - what can be the big deal about sitting? How tough can it be to sit silent for 25 or 30 minutes? Boy oh boy - was I in for a surprise! It was impossible!!! To sit quietly for 30 minutes and to be just with myself - no TV, no Internet, no magazine, felt like sheer torture. And for what? In search of some answers that might have no significance at all in the end? There are several places in the pali cannon as well as Zen writings where hindrances to sitting are described. I wanted to put down here my practical experience and different kinds of my personal hindrances in the stages they came in, along with antidotes I use..:-) May be you can share some of your personal hindrances and antidotes..:-)

1. The very first one that I faced was the urge to just get up and do something that had a tangible outcome and would lead to instant gratification like finishing up the email from work or cooking dinner or running an errand. At times, it used to feel like sitting is just not going to result in anything tangible, so why am I wasting time? I figured 30 minutes is too much, lets start with 15 minutes.

2. Number 1 started disappearing once mind started to settle down. It started becoming interesting to watch the mind and there came number 2 - completely getting lost in thoughts. Somedays it felt like meditation got over in the blink of the eye because I was day dreaming the whole time (I have to admit it is sheer fun to do that though..:-)). I don't think I can ever get over this one completely..some days I am more aware of awareness, some days less. My antidote to this is that I have limited time in a day after work and family and I better try to use it wisely.

3. Laziness - some days I am just lazy to sit because sitting is hard work. I have to be with my self, watch my mind and cannot immerse myself in distractions of movie or an article. It is lot more easier to be distracted, than to focus and watch my mind. Some days I just honor my state of mind and skip sitting..other days I sit for shorter durations. On the other hand, the reverse also happens at times - there is a surge of energy some days and I sit for longer durations.

4. Inconsistency - I realized when I try to practice just by myself, I can be quite inconsistent with both sitting and reading, and even start forgetting basics like mindfulness and awareness. For me, it is inspiring to meet with like minded people who are exploring the way and encourages me in my own practice. Without support of sangha, it was easier to put practice on the back burner and drift away in the humdrum of daily life. I am very thankful for the Zendo and Sangha I am associated with. Going there periodically energizes me. Having direction from a very kind teacher is another blessing I am thankful for. Fortunately, there is also live 24/7 library for dhamma readings in form of Internet which is extremely helpful.


  1. Thanks for this post. It is amazing what we come up with not to sit sometimes. I woke up late this morning and reasoned to myself that it was more important to get a post up on my blog than to sit.

    "I'll sit later, I thought."

    Well, after reading your post I am going to Thanks!

  2. Great post!

    I do not think I could list all the things I used to do before the morning sitting. It is easiest to list the three things, which is to get out of bed, feed the cat, start the timer.

    If I fail to feed the cat ZaZen becomes MeowZen, otherwise it would be straight to the cushion.

    Happy Sitting!

  3. But then, sometimes, even after I feed the cat, I get MeowZen anyway....

  4. Taru, Jordan, thank you! I will just get out of bed without trying and light that incense. Maezumi can yell at me to clean my room later!

  5. LOL..thanks all for your comments..what an inspiration we can be for each other!

    Molly - I have come up with such silly reasons for not to sit, it is funny. There are times when my mind is running away from sitting and it secretly wishing for an interruption..and the the two sides of my mind are fighting each other - onw who wants to mandate sitting and other who is running from

    Jordan - I had a hearty laugh at the is funny..

    Catherine - I have used that reason too!! LOL..that I need to clean my room before sitting..

    Isn't it so nice that we are so human about this..I am thankful for you bring out life in me...:)

  6. Taru,

    great post, thank you. I think it's very important to sit even if I don't want to. Our mind can be very tricky and Mara can really fool us in these things so when it's time to sit, it's time to sit, that's all. I believe according to my teachers that Buddhism is action; without practice, zazen and all that stuff, there are no practice at all, there are no Buddhism at all. When it's time to sit, it's time to sit. I like to use a term "zen finger"; when my mind is making fun of me, I'll show zen finger to my mind and smile.

    Thank you once again, inspiring post!


  7. I continue to struggle with inconsistency. I know this is due to poor planing -- things get away from me I plan to sit but often end up waiting to late in the day or not getting out of bed in time. Once I'm actually on the cushion things are fine. . . just not the best at getting myself there as often as I'd like.

  8. And you are not alone..happens to all of us..:) I guess we just need to remind ourselves constantly why sitting is important and hopefully that will give us little more encouragement to sit.