Saturday night, I had a wonderful breakthrough. After work, I drove up to one of my favorite Starbucks with my journal, got a cup of coffee, and just sat and wrote for two hours. And what it clarified for me is that I am called to sit. It’s ironic because at work I am obligated to stand. This is what the secular world demands. But in the Contemplative Practice of Tai Chi Chuan Kung Fu, while it is important to stand and move and do the forms among many other things, it is also important to sit.
And there are many ways to sit. Look, I recognize I am called to a contemplative life. We sit like yogis in lotus or in my case half lotus and engage in various yogic or taoist meditation exercises. We sit like the Buddha. We sit like catholic contemplatives, centered on Christ.
But there is another way to sit, which I’ve discovered throughout my life that has its own sublime quality, its own connection to the numenous and the divine. A way to sit that is replete with the graces of God and the Holy Spirit.
I was given my first grace filled sitting experiences when I was nine years old and got my first dog. It was my job to walk him, a boxer mix. He would come get me early in the morning and I’d reluctantly get out of bed. He loved those walks. We’d go down the block, then up the other side. Most times, I’d say he was walking me! But then we’d get back to the house, climb the stairs, and sit together at the top of the steps. The early morning air, the soft breezes, the peaceful quiet of an early Saturday, and the sun rising as our house faced east. And I learned to sit in silence and just watch. Sit and enjoy. Sit in awesome wonder! And my dog would sit too, strong, peaceful, loving unconditionally. He was like a physical guardian angel at my side. To have the time to just sit, think, but not worry, but just to give yourself time to think and reflect and be.
The second place that geographically was amazing for me was the steps in front of Low Library at Columbia in New York. The steps are large and faces out on the quadrangle. The Library is huge like a mountain. And all through school and for years after, I would return to those steps, find a good spot, and just watch the world as it arranged itself. And that time spent on those steps, with a coffee and a pack of smokes, were precious and sublime and filled with holiness. Oh, there were other people sitting there, maybe not getting the vibe, but it was like waves of holiness on the steps on 14th street and on the steps at Columbia.
The third place, geographically is in front of this Starbucks here in Florham Park New Jersey. It’s hard to understand. Are there actual places in the world that have a spiritual specialness about them? Sure there are. I should visit a few of the more famous ones, although I would think they are mostly hidden and unknown. And is the experience the same for me as it is for you?
In any event, Up at that Starbucks, which also faced East, I would open early in the morning and go out on my break and sit like a yogi and watch the sun come up and just be and think a bit and reflect and enjoy the preciousness of having the time to sit in silence. Oh and I had the coffee and smokes too. I guess it’s good I didn’t have the coffee and smokes when I was nine!
There have been other places where I have had good sitting experiences, but they don’t rise to the sublime holiness of these three places. I hope to find other places that work as well.
You know, one of the things I learned Saturday, in addition to affirming my calling to sit in silence, is that when you give yourself the time, at first your mind needs to just start to sort things out. Then as you write and write and write, everything becomes focused and the revelations and inspirations come. You start out not knowing, but if you let it work, eventually you get to a good point. It’s like working a crossword puzzle or playing the guitar. Eventually, it seems like the song writes itself. And if you sit and think and reflect, eventually the thoughts will think themselves.
You know, the secular world is committed to not giving you the time to think. The meaningless tasks are created and the silly entertainment all work to occupy the mind with nonsense and distract you and pull you off center. How can you think clearly or have room for something deep when you are constantly occupied with nonsense!
One of the nice things about this sitting is that it can be social too. Many times at Starbucks, after work, I would sit cross legged in a chair at a table outside and in no time be surrounded by friends and acquaintances, and we would share the journey. Yes, we talked about mundane stuff, but we talked about spiritual stuff as well.
So enough. Go sit and shut up. Let your mind do what it wants to do. I’ll warn against obsessive thought, of worry and anxiety thinking. But give yourself some time to think and reflect and worki out solutions to problems, and allow the sublime to do its part as well.