Sunday, January 3, 2010

what is this we do?

When we do any one thing, be aware of that one thing, placing your full attention within it. When we do any one thing, we ask why we do it, evaluating in full consciousness our actions and our words.

So then I have to wonder, what is this that we do in meditation?

Can 'sitting,' in a seated meditation, be just that simple? One just sits, breathing and following the breath, totally silent? And that's it? Did the Buddha really reach enlightenment doing something so utterly simple? So simple and yet, why is something so simple also, at times, so hard?

Sometimes I sit and beautiful things unfold in a singular consciousness, a timeless space awash in ephemeral mystery that rises and falls with each breath. Most times I sit and grapple with circular thoughts of past and future -- What did I do the day before last and how would I do it differently, and what do I have to do this afternoon? What did they mean when they said that to me? Or were they intending something else? And then remembering, returning back to my breath, wondering again how this simple practice of 'sitting' could be so difficult?

The mind is a three ring circus event - three shows all at once, with trapeze artists flying high above, and clowns below throwing candy to the crowd.

So there is more to 'sitting' than just simply sitting - this much is obvious. If it were to be called a 'skill,' then it is something that must be practiced and honed over time. This practice continually evolves and changes, as subtle as that would be, for I still just sit! And for this reason I keep returning to the cushion, breathing softly, tethering the attention to the in and out of my breath, the rise and fall of my abdomen....


  1. Ah! The circus of the mind, aka the Greatest Show on Earth! Forget about the present, dwell not in reality, but rather entertain yourself with dancing dogs and acrobats. Shoot yourself from a cannon, stick your head in the lions mouth. We watch the clowns reveal who we really are, but we laugh at them because we think it is they who are the fools!

  2. It seems like we are doing nothing until we don't do it for a few days - then we see it was anything but insubstantial!

  3. Simple and hard, doing and not doing, just sitting unfolds in a tremendous activity. Calling it a "skill" we learn to put all that circus staff to rest, reminding clowns and trapeze artists to go back to their places, not feeding them until they go their way.
    Then, seen the empty circus, brushed away simple and hard, doing and not doing, stillness and activity, we just return and clowns, dogs, acrobats, all is seen as insubstantial, a mirage, a dance... and we laugh, sit or walk or...

  4. This is a fascinating post. If the mind is indeed a three ring circus we must consider the possibilities that a) this is the innate nature of "mind" or b) this state is brought about by some combination of external and/or internal forces. Note that a and b are not mutually exclusive here. I am no expert on mind, but I propose the following thought exercise. If we assume a to be the case than all hope of escape from said circus is an act of futility. If we assume b to be the case than we accept that the mind can be all things. It is not just the three ring circus but also the placcid lake. At once and at the same time. But perhaps we are only aware of the circus at any singular point in time.