I thought a bit during yesterday’s walk about the suggestion that “real” thinking begins only with the assumption of a motionless meditative posture, but could not muster much sympathy for the view. It sounds more like a self-serving rationalization for the sedentary life, than an argument for the metaphysical probity of zazen.
True, I am sitting as I write this. I’m also sipping coffee, and gently gliding, and feeling the breeze, and hearing the birdsong, and checking the eastern sky for the day’s first sighting of Sol. Have I not begun to think?
I suppose maybe I haven’t, if your definition of real thinking requires me to suspend all external engagement except for a focus on my stationary breathing. But I still prefer doing it my way, which feels much more like a continuing conversation with the world than like a silent meditation. And, the thing about breathing as a humility-inducing demonstration of my dependence upon the world and its oxygen? That’s even more evident to me when coupled with rhythmic motion and an elevated heart rate.
But of course, those who’d rather sit perfectly still and deflect all passing perception are welcome to their way. Live and let live.
So I should withdraw the gratuitous “self-serving” accusation, that was uncharitable and unpluralistic of me. If ever I find myself unable to pound the ground and flit about from thought to thought on my accustomed perambulatory peregrinations, I’m sure I’ll learn to love sitting. Or at least appreciate it more.
There was a silly piece on NPR yesterday about a guy who decided he needed to break out of his sedentary lifestyle by going a month without sitting. What we all need is a sane and sensible balance. Sit when you sit, stand and move when you stand and move. Isn’t that really the meditative essence of zen?
Coffee’s about gone, I’ve got to get moving. Two thoughts are pulling me from my glider this morning: first, Ann Druyan‘s comment about the yearning of many to “feel something spiritual” but also honest, something they “don’t have to lie to themselves in order to believe.” She spoke, for instance, of how it felt to revisit the places where she and Carl Sagan worked on the first Cosmos, for the second.
Because when you don’t believe in an afterlife — and we don’t — you realize that the person that you adored with all your heart is not there anymore. But when you come back to the place you were together, to do the work you did together, keep the faith and let the light shine, it’s a tremendous feeling.
Second, Steven Pinker’s thoughts on good writing as
a combination of vision and conversation. When you write you should pretend that you, the writer, see something in the world that’s interesting, that you are directing the attention of your reader to that thing in the world, and that you are doing so by means of conversation.
Sounds simple and honest and natural. Like cosmic spirituality. Like breathing.
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