Sitting Down Doing Nothing

"To attain knowledge, add things every day.
To attain wisdom, remove things every day."
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 48

Sometimes when we practice meditation, there is a lot of doing going on and not enough being. One can get all tied up in the technique of the practice or the goal of it and lose the point. Technique is important. Slouching, wobbling, and shallow breathing are not conducive to meditation. Sitting still with an erect posture and breathing slowly and deeply into the abdomen are more conducive to clarity of mind, but good technique is not the goal. In fact, if you are sitting with a goal in mind, you are not being present.

Itís a paradox. We practice. We use technique, but the technique and goal are nothing. The point is to clear out the thinking and be conscious. When we are thinking, we track our thoughts like a predator after prey. Our mind is on the thoughts, following them wherever they go. Caught up in the chase, we lose our mindfulness. We chase memories into the past that no longer exists and dreams into the illusion of the future. We think about our circumstances and about who we are, and what we understand about those things is also illusion. We donít see the whole picture. We see our world from our limited perspective, and we choose which facts to attend to.

Our sense of self is composed only of those ideas that we allow ourselves to accept. It is formed of our conclusions about experiences weíve had. Those experiences are not happening now. They are no more reality than the circle created by a torch swung in the dark. We see the circle, though the light exists at only one point. We see our lives as having an existence from the moment of our birth until our death at some yet undetermined time, but we exist only now. We are a point of livingness ever unfolding in the present. We meditate to clear our minds so that we can be in that present.

Words cannot express the inexpressible.
"Nothing" cannot be shown.
The void persists, though I fill it with illusion.
Those sparrows outside,
Are they the same ones that dined here yesterday?
Is this body the same one I lived in yesterday?
This candle flame--is it the same one I lit an hour ago?
Or is it the one that was on the match?
Where will we be tomorrow?
Where will today be in the morning?
When I close my eyes,
I can see the image left by the bright light.
At the same time, I see an image of who I think I am.
Maybe if I sit down and do nothing
All will become clear.

Tom Barrett, 1999


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