In a thread recently there was debate about the merits or otherwise of public sitting. Clearly, this is not something to be done out of ego but does serve to make zazen more visible to the world. After all, seeing a mendicant was one of the 'four sights' reputed to turn Shakyamuni onto the path of dharma.
Anyway, in September I took advantage of a warm late summer/early autumn to take my lunchtime sit outside on a couple of occasions. I live in a relatively small apartment block (40 or so flats) in a rural village in southern England but was still somewhat self-conscious about doing this. My aim was not actually to be doing public zazen but merely to make the most of the sun before the weather got cold.
This morning I had a delivery of some jeans I had ordered for one of my daughters and the courier, who I know reasonably well, mentioned that he had seen me sitting and asked a few questions about meditation, whether I was Buddhist, if it improved my well-being and ability to deal with life and such like. Whether he will go and meditate I have no idea, nor I am attached to the idea of converting people to sitting. However, one thing I did learn was that seeing someone sitting gives people an opportunity to ask questions if they are already interested in the idea, or even just curious.
When I am well enough (and the weather turns nice again!) I hope to do something similar in a park in Canterbury, maybe with a dharma friend for company. A large open space like that is both lovely to sit in and also not in anyone's face. If someone is intrigued it may trigger them to find out more or even come and ask. Anyone interested in Christianity just has to turn up at their local church and I think it is good to give would-be meditators a similar opportunity. Aside from anything else, hopefully it normalises practice as something normal people do and not just sandal-wearing hippy types. Even if it achieves nothing, the park is a lovely space, and often has an ice cream van nearby [morehappy]
In the States, we are starting to see the emergence of meditation "flash mobs" in the larger cities. A Buddhist or Buddhist group will make an announcement on their Facebook page roughly an hour or so before the event, naming a place and time. The announcement then gets "shared" on other pages and word spreads. Then, people show up with their cushions, sit in a highly visible public place for thirty minutes, disperse and leave in utter silence. There is usually a social cause involved, so I guess this is an example of engaged Buddhism in a way. I would love to organize something like this, and I may do so in the near future.
There was a meditation group involved with Occupy Wall Street. I believe it was led by Russel Simmons.
I love the idea of this.
Originally Posted by William Anderson
Andy - I admire you. I think I would be too self conscious to try alone but maybe with a small group of friends.
I think that is a beautiful thing. And like you mention, if not done out of ego, but to enjoy the beautiful outdoors as it is. We can do zazen everywhere, outside, walking, on the train, etcs.
I don't compel folks to sit so, I don't particularly encourage so ... neither do I discourage sitting outside. Just sit to sit. If sitting as Sam describes, how lovely! And if someone happens to pass by and see, be curious ... just Karma. Beautiful to hear that someone was inspired!
Originally Posted by sittingzen
A lovely, harmless, beautiful sitting that inspired someone.
You know, when I think of public sitting, I recall this video posted today. Suppose there were people in the town who would never buy a ticket to the orchestra, yet would be inspired to do so by this. Or a young person who had never heard live classical music, but who might develop a love of the classics from this brief experience? Suppose there were other people whose hearts were gladdened for a time, and needed to encounter a little peace and grace in their busy day.
Public sitting, if someone wishes to sit so, is much the same in my book ...
I assume that most of the musicians were also playing selflessly, simply for the joy of the music.
Public sitting is much quieter than an orchestra, less obtrusive. If someone is not interested, they simply walk on past. Seeing someone sitting in a park on the grass or a bench is by far one of the LEAST strange sights that they will likely encounter in the big city on a given day!
I sometimes sit in my office in my cube. It is hard for people to know whether I'm working on my computer or meditating. The only things different are that my back is relatively straight and I am looking just below the monitor/screen and not directly at the monitor. I usually set an outlook reminder for 30 mins and when it pops up I can see it (though am not directly looking at the screen) and that ends my sitting.
This is not completely like a public sitting but there is a good amount of being self-conscious about doing it. I somehow find my practice to go much deeper this way though.
Glad to know I'm not the only one, also!
Originally Posted by shikantazen
My mate is a Shinrin yoku-type "Tree-hugger", so we sometimes sit together in parks or at the beach. When I visit my sister, due to some interesting dynamics it's better if I go sit down at the local park. The most interest I've ever sparked was a huge happy dog that came right up to me; nose to nose, sniffed me a few times....then gave me a big wet appreciative lick across the face before happily trotting off to rejoin his human.
I also sat during the Republican National Convention, and some other vigils and such. Having marched and carried signs for most of my life, it's simply no longer my style.