Sitting in the Middle of Squirm


Sitting in zazen is an action whose purpose is Being comfortable in the middle of actionlessness.   Zazen trains the mind to sit with discomfort and hold the pause button on it long enough to notice it and dissolve it.

It is not easy to sit with uncomfortable feelings. They make us squirm. They make us want to do something–to struggle against them– to speak or to act in a way that may provide a momentary release of them, but rarely a permanent solution to them. Reacting to uncomfortable feelings without identifying what they are  may make a situation worse.

For example, someone driving dangerously, weaving in and out of traffic, cuts you off while you are traveling at 70 miles an hour.  A physical “fight or flight” response probably occurs in your body before your mind even fully registers what has happened.  When it does, you may feel anger, dismay or even rage.  At this point, you could react by driving equally dangerously to get that person back; you could curse up a storm to either no audience or the wrong audience; you could weave in and out of your lane as you crane your neck in their direction to lock their gaze long enough to flip them the bird; or, you could notice that you are angry, have compassion for yourself for being angry, wish the other driver freedom from whatever madness has descended upon him, and let it go.  When you do this, you release yourself and others all around you from the consequences of suffering from  rage.  Moreover, you make the world a better place by changing the energetic value of rage into compassion.  Your compassion towards yourself radiates out to another. Other people on the road are saved from your madness, and then their madness in reaction to yours, and so on…

The practice of zazen is not just for mystics and monks. All of us experience discomfort and restlessness in our day-to-day lives. Sitting with squirmy feelings can be uncomfortable. Silence can be rather unnerving. In a moment of intentional quietude, all manner of mental disturbances may parade across the mind.  Zazen trains us to notice them as they arise, smile at them in compassion, consciously let them go, and redirect attention back to Just Being in the breath Now.

If more people practiced zazen, perhaps there would be fewer @#$% on the road!

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5 Comments

Filed under Compassion, Consciousness, Meditation, Zazen, Zen Buddhism

5 responses to “Sitting in the Middle of Squirm

  1. I love the practical application of zazen to everyday life. Too many people tend to think zazen only applies to formal meditation session, when in reality life is a meditation session, so zazen is applicable in everyday life.

    Beautiful, Thank you!

  2. Have found meditation in general, and certainly zazen and kinhin, to have improved life immensely. Kind Regards, – dn

  3. ZenSoapbox

    I have been learning (oh so painfully slowly) that zazen is actually MORE about the other 23 and a half hours a day than it is about the 30 minutes of sitting each morning. That’s just to get you grounded and off to a good start, if all goes well. I love the description of using metta practice in the car. That hits very close to home! I have been using that also–and I am amazed at the results. More than 10 years of road rage is just melting away. Thank you for another wonderful post!

  4. Victoria Pitts-Taylor

    Love. It. So. Practical.

  5. Thanks for all your kind and thought-provoking comments, everyone!! I appreciate your contributions to the conversation 🙂

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