Reflection: Just Sitting

There’s form of Zen, where teachers stress shikantaza, or just sitting. If we just sit fully, then we just are, nothing special. Zen teachers like Kosho Uchiyama teach this sort of zen that embraces the everyday life, in his exploration of Dogen’s writing on the cook of a temple, Uchiyama writes:

The most important point to bear in mind here regarding the buddhadharma is the expression mantoku enman, or perfect harmony. To have goodness emanating naturally from your character is living more truly by Buddhism than having had some so-called kenshō or satori experience. There should be no doubt that living out your life, acting and being in perfect harmony, is indeed living out the life of the Self. A satori which is unrelated to your personal character is nothing more than a kind of drunkenness. It is no more than the elation you might get from taking drugs. Needless to say, this has nothing to do either with religion or with the buddhadharma.

We are not practicing for some goal, even for a goal of enlightened. We do zazen to do zazen, and in just sitting, we are just being.

Needless to say, I have not been able to just sit, I am distracted by a myriad of thoughts and feelings. But I try to keep coming back to the practice of sitting meditation over and over. Uchiyama says of zazen:

Your practice of zazen must not be something separate from your own experience of your day-to-day life, nor from the overall direction of your life. Rather, in constantly working to refine and clarify your everyday life, or the life of your total Self, your practice accords with the dharma.

I hope I can live this way of being, and live in a way that spiritual life is not a theory but a lived out experience in each moment.

Meditation Poem Series: #10

Charlotte Joko Beck in her book Everyday Zen wrote:

Sitting is something we do for a lifetime. There is no end to the opening up that is possible for a human being. Eventually we see that we are the limitless, boundless ground of the universe. Our job for the rest of our life is to open up into that immensity and to express it. Having more and more contact with this reality always brings compassion for others and changes our daily life. We live differently, work differently, relate to people differently. Zen is a lifelong study. It isn’t just sitting on a cushion for thirty or forty minutes a day. Our whole life becomes practice, twenty-four hours a day.

I appreciate Beck and her teachings of dharma in the context of American soil, and speaking into lives of people like me who try to practice as we live our ordinary lives.

My daughter woke up around 6am and we were in movement till she fell asleep for a nap. We went to a Christmas parade, and then a lunch. If my whole life is a practice, it includes seeing giant Santa balloons and finally being able to sit for 15 minutes while my daughter napped. I breathed and realized how sleepy and tired I was. Beck was practically a single mom and dedicated her life to the practice, but that’s her and this is me.

So here’s me sitting and writing another day. I keep coming back to my cushion.

Meditation Poem #10: Ordinary Life
I sit like the awakened one
midst Santa floating by