Letters

Help me learn how to sit

Asked by: Anonymous, Ontario, Canada

Answered by: Kristin Prevallet

Anonymous, Ontario, Canada

I am bad at sitting—the whole activity of it, not just posture stuff. Please, a poem to help me learn how to sit. Lying down and running around are no problem. Thank you.

Anonymous


K:

Dear friend, 

I would say that if you are able to lie down and run around, then sitting is really not your problem. I’m sure you can plop easily down on a chair! Now, if by sitting you mean meditation, well then, that’s another matter entirely – and perhaps your main problem is the word “sitting,” for “sitting” implies “sitting still” (contrary to plopping) and I don’t know anyone who can do that because “still” does not exist as a mental event – thoughts are always moving, changing, cascading down slippery slopes, plotting, planning, ruminating. I can’t think of a single moment of my life where my mind hasn’t been flopping around and if I were to try and “sit” in the middle of all the rumble, I too would have a problem with sitting! 

All I can offer you by way of advice is what I once learned from a wise Buddhist teacher: forget silence, it’s a ruse! Instead, observe the noise! The trick isn’t to achieve some impossible silence, it is to become a better observer of your own mind, thinking, so that eventually, you get better at saying “Stop!” or “Not now!” to thoughts which aren’t helping you out. The idea is that every once in a while, you get to experience how the simple mental event of observing yourself thinking helps you to “not” get hooked by  impossible ruminations and clinching anxieties. Such as “I am bad at sitting.” 

Set a timer – 3 minutes – sit. Observe yourself thinking. That’s it. 

To celebrate thinking in all its complexity, here’s a poem by a dear friend and poet named April Freely. I love this poem because it captures the cascade of thinking. Perhaps you can imagine that in the gaps, that’s where you are sitting:

in the hospital atrium after the wreck

-April Freely

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