Why We Sit

More than sutra (Buddhist scripture) study, more than koan (Zen riddle) practice, more even than considered and compassionate application of the Four Great Vows and the Eightfold Noble Path, it is the discipline of zazen (shikantaza, that is, nothing but precisely sitting) meditation that defines much of the Zen Buddhist world at large and the Zen Earth School in particular. But why?  Why sit unmoving for extended periods in postures that can, even for seasoned practitioners, at times be uncomfortable at best or downright painful at worst?  What is the point of sitting quietly and doing nothing while staring at a wall?


Your practice should make you better.  Better spiritually, better mentally and emotionally and, yes, the occasional aching knee and/or back not withstanding, better physically.  Certainly this doesn’t occur noticeably and without fail every time you sit on the cushion.  But there should be unmistakeable and progressive benefit apparent when the cumulative effort of a month’s or a year’s or a decade’s practice is considered.  If you’re not healing, you may be doing something wrong.  If you’re not healing, you may have been taught incorrectly.  If you’re not healing, you may be practicing with a less than efficacious discipline.  And when all is said and done, if you are not healing, you are wasting your time.

If your zazen is not healing (and if healing is truly what you seek), then it is critical that you determine what is lacking in your practice. And there is absolutely no doubt that if healing is the intention, the absence thereof is a guarantee that something is missing. When prosecuted energetically, consistently, correctly, and without artificially imposed constraints of time or character, the practice never fails.  Ever.

Sit with sincerity.  Sit with regularity,  Sit as though your Life depends on it.  It may be the most important thing you do in This Present Moment.

Published in: on May 30, 2013 at 1:00 am  Comments Off on Why We Sit  
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