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Thread: Sitting with

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
    Redding California USA

    Sitting with

    I'm confused about something. I keep seeing people referring to "sitting with" something, a problem or idea or whatever. How exactly does one do that? I generally try to think about nothing while I'm on the zafu. If a thought comes up, I just let it go and try to "think nonthinking". When you "sit with" something, do you bring your attention back to what you are "sitting with" or is it more of a background thing? Any input would be helpful.


  2. #2
    Good question!!! I've thought about this too. It seems to be in conflict with our way of practicing Shikantaza.

    I can speak of this from my dabbling in Theravada style practice.

    In Vipassana/Insight meditation, one would actually sit and allow thoughts to come and go. Not pursuing or holding to them but observing them. Coupled with the calm abiding of Samatha meditation, you will notice insights popping up that give a new perspective on what you are dealing with. It's not so much thinking about something but just receiving a spontaneous insight about whatever it is that happens to pop up, often it will deal with whatever issue/theme you have been facing in your life . . . sometimes it'll be something completely subconscious.

    In terms of tying this into our Zazen . . . I'd say Zazen does incorporate both calm abiding and insight meditation, but without having a goal or focus of it to the technique. The insights still pop up, but we don't focus on them or give them much emphasis.

    Maybe this helps, maybe I'm way off on a limb. I'm sure you guys will tell me so if that if the case.



  3. #3

    Here is what I consider "sitting with" something:

    If you have a big question or a dilemma you are facing, you just "drop it" during Zazen ... drop it ... then see what it looks like on the "other side" after Zazen.

    Or, if you want to hold it in mind during Zazen for a few minutes, you just let it rest there like a cloud that drifts into mind, and "nonthink" it. That basically means to just "let it be" with nonjudgement and equinimity. It would mean holding the thought at the balanced centerpoint that I describe here. ... lv_23.html

    See how that goes.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4
    Hi Jundo,

    I think what you have to say on this is really good. Probably a lot more helpful . . . I think it may describe the same process but much more skillfully.

    okay, cushion time for me now. I'm going to try for morning Zazen, instead of waiting for the evening to do it all.

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Redding California USA
    Hi Gregor and Jundo,
    Thank you. What you describe is pretty much what I thought. I've never sat with a group before or had a chance to "talk" to anyone about these things. I've read way too many books on Buddhism so it is great to get some feedback from "real" people that are actually involved in the world. I know - sit more, read less.


  6. #6
    I know - sit more, read less.
    I know, but I liking reading Dharma books!! I'm working on a good one right now. Thanks Jundo, I'm finding the concepts easier to understand because of your translation.

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Redding California USA
    Hi Gregor,

    Maybe I'll read just a little bit more.''


  8. #8

    sitting with

    Hello RCulver and others here on this thread!

    I like this question a lot.

    What indeed do we mean when we say 'sit with.'

    It's not like we can 'sit without.'

    When I go to sit, it's all there: like working a huge kitchen stove: 12 burners, 3 ovens, a broiler. All these thoughts in variety of sizes--like orders from diners in a restaurant. There are times when I'm sweating it, trying to keep up with the orders. It's not just my life, my mind cooking when I sit, the whole world/the universe is in that kitchen.
    There are other times when whatever it is that's on my mind at the moment, just goes about cooking itself. It's a little like Micky Mouse in 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' only not diabolical and scary like that (the brooms marching back and forth with the buckets of water)--I'm not doing the 'work' of thinking these various thoughts, the work is doing itself--the thoughts are thinking themselves and coming and going in the background, now front and center in consciousness, now in the background, and then not the thoughts, but the 'between the thoughts' comes into the foreground.
    Like my mind's contents were written on a page, and the focus moves from the typed lines, to what's between the lines, I've gone (even if ever so briefly) from only seeing the words, to being able to keenly see the blankness of the page those words find themselves on.

    Sitting goes through stages and stages and stages and there is no end to it, this sitting. Like learning to write: at first you use a big fat thick pencil, easier to grasp and it's an awkward activity--this learning to write--but keep at it and voila

    same thing goes for sitting, I think

    I remember one period of time when sitting all I could think about was shoes--which pair I would get. I'd review the clothes in my closet to figure out if I should get the brown or the black ones, the flat or the low heels. I must have spent an entire month to six weeks just doing shoe meditation. I just continued to sit (I mean what else was I going to do?). At the time I was too ashamed of 'superficiality' or lack of control of my thoughts to ask anyone about this persistence of thoughts of shoes, so I just thought shoe thoughts. It seemed like I would never sit without thoughts of shoes.
    It seems a lot of things.


  9. #9
    Hey there, great question.

    In Zen as far as I know there isn't a lot of "sitting with" things. I associate this with what's referred to as Insight Meditation or Vipassana. I've read in books that people can take a personal problem, like a divorce say, and while meditating examine it with loving attention, absent of interpretations of good or bad, or any feeling of resistance. Just taking something and letting it roll around without idea of outcome or interpretation or desire. Some say this is a healing experience, and expedes what some call the grief process. I don't know I've never tried it.

    Chris H

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