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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Good, Bad and...What Else Is There?

Welcome back, after a bit of an absence! Our travels for Mother's Day were wonderful; it's good to get away from it all once in a while, to change scenery and perspective. And I was very glad to be back in the Zendo last week. Personally, I had a "good sit"-- you know, one of those days where it's easy to enter the flow of things as the Mental Chatter is low and expectations are nil. Two periods of zazen flew by and I left the zendo feeling refreshed and light. I had missed my practice!

One week later, though, and it's more thorns than roses on the zafu. So, what's the difference? Why should I lose that energy that I had last week? Sits like these are disappointing, and I find that when I leave the cushion, I feel such regret for wasting an opportunity to have an hour of my life well-centered and at ease.

In Soto Zen, there are a couple of "tricks" one can use to quiet the mind in order to create a "good sit". One is counting the breath-- counting exhalations to 10, and thus focusing the mind. Another strategy I used this morning was simply asking, "what else is there?"

A nightmare of a thought popped in. "What else is there?" I asked myself as I found myself following a very negative thought-stream. And just with the asking, the negative stream abated, and on I went. Soon an agitated thought popped in. "What else is there?" And I recognized a pattern to my thoughts that seemed to suggest an agitation in my psyche. So rather than belittle myself for having "bad thoughts", I gave myself a dose of compassion, promising to address the underlying issue once I got off the zafu. Soon I felt that sense of flow again, a "good sit". But still, "what else is there?"

We don't meditate to have a "good sit", and zazen isn't about strategies-- though these can help to gain concentration. It's about just sitting, without aim or goal. It is a study of the self, and a forgetting of the self to find the reality of all things. Just sitting-- opening to the experience of enlightenment itself, beyond "good or bad". Just.

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