The Practice of Sitting

I am now in my second term at Naropa University. The quirky Buddhist inspired school in the even quicker Boulder, Co.  The most amazing part of going to a contemplative school comes during the middle of every term when we gather together for practice day.

On practice day all classes are canceled for the day. The students and faculty are invited to together to ” practice.”

If you are like my mother you are probably asking ” What is practice? What do we do all day?”

My answer to her was” we sit.” For the first hour and half of practice day we have a community sit.

My answer not being good enough for her she continued on with her questions:

Q: Do you meditate?

A: Yes

Q: How do you meditate? What do you do?

A: We just sit.

Q: What if you get bored?

A: We  keep sitting.

Q: What if you have thoughts?

A: We just sit.

What I was trying to instill was that practice is the method of sitting with what arises. Sitting through the thoughts, feeling, boredom, fantasies, etc.  This is why people who practice are called warriors. We sit firm and tall through what ever experience comes to us.

Practice one:

The main practice at Naropa is called Samatha ( pali… meaning: calm abiding)

This was the first activity at practice day:

Simple Steps:

  • Get into comfortable seated position*
  • Notice sensations in the body, the mind
  • Bring your attention to the breath
  • Focus lightly on breath. Attention in this practice is on the out-breath only and its dissolution.**
  • When you have a thought acknowledge  it by saying” thinking”.
  • Return to  the breath
* Sit with firm back, shoulders relaxed, hands lightly on knees or cupped, chin slightly bent, eyes open but unfocused gaze about six inches in front of you.
** Light focus means not over concentrating on the breath to the exclusion of other sensations. It means using the out-breath as an anchor to the present moment. To remember what you are doing, who you are and as the breath dissolves we expand in our awareness. As we breath in we let go of the focus, we relax into what arises.
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One thought on “The Practice of Sitting

  1. Sherry says:

    Sitting is a lot like stopping. If we would just take time to stop (and listen) we would find ourselves more relaxed and more open to the present. We don’t like to stop. Stoplights, lines, traffic jams, anywhere we have to stop causes us anxiety. Why not enjoy the stopping like you enjoyed the sitting? I love your post. Stop by my blog and browse if you have time. Namaste, Sherry

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