Just Sitting

A new post from Deacon David.

I announced at the end of mass last Sunday that I would be on “special assignment” from now until Christmas. I had asked Fr. Len to send me out with a simple blessing to learn and reflect.

I’ve been deeply curious about meditation. Rev. Kathleen and my spiritual director, Rabbi Ori said that meditation practice was transformative. The practicing Buddhists among my colleagues are really good people. Various Christian writers I appreciate have been deeply influenced by Zen Buddhism: Fr. Richard Rohr, Fr. Thomas Keating, Thomas Moore, and Thomas Merton. What had attracted them? And more to the point, is a meditation practice something I want to pursue?

I attended a 7-day silent Zen Meditation retreat last May. That experience finally nudged me off dead center and into a daily mediation practice—Burna and I now sit in silence for 30 minutes every morning. My project is simply to be a part of the Sunday morning meditation group at the Denver’s Integral Zen Center for the next seven weeks. I want to see what happens to me and what I can bring back to Holy Family.

So here is the first of perhaps several stories about just sitting—what I’ve learned so far about what Christians might call centering prayer or contemplative meditation.

I slowly increased the length of time that I just sit over a couple of weeks, from ten minutes daily to 30 minutes. You will not be surprised when I report that my mind chatters away for most of those 30 minutes. I’ve learned something about this familiar “monkey mind” that has shifted the scale for me from what could be “unbearable torture” to “not-so-terrible-and-sometimes-amusingly-laughable restoration.”

The point of sitting in silence is not to clear one’s mind by keeping thoughts at bay. The point of sitting in silence is to relax one’s mind by welcoming everything that arises and then gently letting it go. Sitting meditation—practicing sitting in silence—turns out to be an exercise in basking in silence. This silence is something like a quiet retreat space in our minds that is filled with permission, blessing, and welcome. There is no censure in silence. There is only grace-filled receiving.

The practice is to sit in this silence, trusting that this “place” is where grace acts. The practice is to welcome every thought, distraction, intrusion, image, sound, smell—et cetera—and then simply to let it go. Nothing more; nothing less. The practice is to allow oneself to be held, to float in this silence, like floating on your back on the surface of a calm lake.

Over the next few weeks, I share adventures and discoveries, ranging from the sublime to the almost ridiculous, that have accompanying the just sitting.

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