Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Habit of Just Sitting

We are our habits. If I eat ice cream every night, I tend to keep doing it. If I exercise, I will tend to keep doing that. And the same is true for how we think about things. The thoughts that we have can be powerful, and can remain hidden if we do not actively work to expose them.

The habit of just sitting has been the most powerful habit I have. I have been doing some version of it for almost 14 years.

Why is just sitting so powerful? When we are sitting with nothing but our own thoughts, we can't help but notice them. We see the things that we think about over and over again. These thoughts can be positive, but often they are negative. There might be a sense of fear that pervades them. We might worry about our jobs, or think about how we screwed something up, our about how we are afraid our boss doesn't like us. We might feel like we are not good enough.

These are not pleasant experiences. In the course of our every day lives, we tend to run away from them. Like touching a hot stove, we recoil. We do something else. As the yoga teacher Max Strom says, "anywhere but here."

My experience has been that with just sitting, we realize a couple of things. First, we begin to see that being with an unpleasant experience is not nearly as bad as we think it will be. And this is related to the second point. When we do not push something away, it tends to fade on its own. This is true for good thoughts and feelings and bad thoughts and feelings. We see that our experience is in constant motion. And we see that what is behind that experience, our awareness of what is happening, is the one constant unchanging thing in our lives.

This can happen gradually, or suddenly. And it can happen with or without just sitting. But it seems like just sitting improves the odds substantially.

I'd invite you to consider the habit of just sitting.


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