Friday, March 20, 2009

Just Sitting

It would be very Zen to carefully replace each tube of paint and return each scrap of paper to where it belongs, lovingly and carefully as I worked.  But as you can see from this studio shot, that isn't my method.  I cook like this too.  Before you know it things are everywhere in a creative flurry.  And then when they reach some tipping point of chaos and disorder and  I can't bear it any longer or think straight, I pause to tidy.  Then I feel like a spritely little breeze has blown new energy into the place and  the process starts all over again.  As you can see Bunny, the cat, is exercising her supervisory prowess and disapproves immensely.

You might think I was going to write about the process of art but really I'm just out of art photos so this studio shot is standing in for a painting.  On the art front I am posting some paintings to the Boundless Gallery site this weekend so they should be available for viewing by Monday or so.  It was very gratifying yesterday when a buyer received the 3 paintings she had purchased and expressed her sheer delight to me.  That is the fun of selling directly, getting the feed back that reminds you of your initial intention.

I have been thinking about meditation today.  The Zen meditation that I am familiar with and have practiced for the last 4 years consists of sitting facing the wall with eyes slightly downcast, but open.  You are not thinking and not trying not to think.  You are just sitting.  Your aim is to be open and present.  You hear sounds, you observe your thoughts.  This is sometimes referred to as Shikantaza.  

Lately, after taking a set of qi gong classes I have been trying the method of meditation suggested in that class.  It is one that applies a concentrative focus on the hara or lower dan tien on the out breath.  It is used to build concentration, focus and ultimately chi.  I have actually found it really helpful to work with building focus and concentration, something that didn't really happen for me in the Soto Zen form.  But I have also noticed how the mind gets in there when there is a task to do, as in focusing on something specific (like the hara and chi building).  The mind wants to make this it's little project and once you do this you are on a slippery slope of watching and measuring and wanting things to go a certain way.  And then suddenly it's all gone awry.

This morning after we'd finished sitting my partner read me a little excerpt that expressed this perfectly, from a book he's been reading called "Meditation week by week" by David Fontana.  The quote was, "Whenever you intend that meditation should do something or reveal something, the conscious mind assumes it can do the work for you.  Meditation works best, if as soon as you sit on your cushion, all thoughts of goals and attainments are relinquished.  You sit in meditation simply because that is what you are doing."  He reminds us that we need self discipline to help us remain focused.  He talks about the pitfall of  "feeling elated" about anything that happens and I can always remember when I first started meditating and at some point in the meditation I'd feel "ah, it's finally getting going here, or this is going well", and poof it would be gone.  There is definitely a "no peeking" rule in meditation.  Once your mind gets in and starts stirring, everything falls out the hole in the bottom of the pot.

So in sitting meditation it is just the same as our practice out in the world.  It doesn't serve us to get attached to results, to have expectations, to think there is something to gain from our meditation.  We are just sitting there like little Buddhas.  As my friend the monk would say, "Buddha bows to buddha".

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