Notes from the zafu
Posted by majutsu on July 8, 2010
I recently acquired a zafu while buying one for my wife. I haven’t sat in about fifteen years. When I did sit, without the purifying that suffering over time provides, I’m afraid I was better at observing the trappings of Buddhism: sitting, dietary rules, and a book collection, as opposed to being anywhere close to an understanding of the profound change required in terms of the way one interacts with the world in order to have accepted the teaching of the Buddhist path. Of course, over time, one loses many things: people, money, objects, and opportunities, and this enables you to accept reality in its ups and downs versus building an elaborate fantasy world in the head to rage against the world-as-it-is on a stage built to your design. This unadorned awareness is the beginning of sitting and practice.
While I no longer think of myself as a Buddhist, and find Shaivism and Christianity interesting as well, meditation draws to mind, for many people, Buddhist teachings. Buddhism encourages de-attachment from the ego-centered world. Certainly, the source of much suffering in this world is people wanting many things when they really need nothing. Not only are “small-scale” sufferings like depression and anxiety caused by this wanting, but many large-scale sufferings like war, poverty and environmental damage to an extent incompatible with sustaining human life. But chasing down whiffs of ego and snuffing them out can be tiring and unproductive as I know from experience.
I prefer to focus on “the now” because it’s one of the few English word/concepts that is by itself formless and inconceivable. Grasping now is like trying to stop a river. There is no hunger right now, no poverty, no family, no possessions. If, for example, you were sad about not having friends, you could realize that if you had them or not, you could hardly make use of them right there at that moment on that zafu. If your partner is dying this week, s/he is not dying right then at the second on that zafu, and you don’t even have a partner at that instant on that zafu. You can’t lose your job at that second on that zafu. At that second, there is no oil spill, no political corruption, no environmental damage. All these concepts are contingent upon the passage of time. This practice negates the illusions of ego while performing a positive activity, being intensely aware of this very moment. In this precise moment, rather easily, a very peaceful, beautiful nothing is experienced – what I suppose many would call experiencing God. It is very easy to expand this awareness into compassion for every human being you meet. It is very easy to expand this awareness into an experience of the Earth as a cohesive whole that we should respect, love and enjoy.
I hope my thoughts and tips on sitting may be helpful to others. I know Eckhart Tolle and the Shiva sutras have been helpful to me. I hope I have communicated my internalization of some teachings well. Please share any thoughts or tips on sitting.