Sitting Still.

I always find that it perplexes my mind when I think about sitting still. I am noticing more and more that friends, neighbors, lovers and strangers seem to be constantly going someplace. Every time I lift my heavy head from the book I am reading to peer out the window, I notice dizzying displays of entropy. All different kinds and colors of people, cars, buses and airplanes are quickly moving toward a destination that seems to become more illusive the older we grow. Maybe it is because I work from home and rarely leave my third floor apartment that I notice these things- but I fear the worst. I fear that the closer our world is coming to a kind of end or transformation, the more people have to come and go, occupy themselves or spend as little time with themselves in order to ward off the unsettling, collective anxiety which sits someplace inside all our hearts. The busier we are the less we have to feel and contemplate. I know that it is more complex than this, but as I watch my cat who sits silently on the windowsill day after day, I wonder why we humans are so incapable of just sitting still.
I have always thought of my cat as my teacher. I watch with great reverence towards his mastery of Vipassana meditation. There he sits gently breathing in and out, for eight or nine hours at a stretch, confined to a small apartment for the entirety of his life- practicing the art of preserving heartbeats. In Taoism it is believed that the key to longevity is preserving the heartbeats. I live in a society that is addicted to using up the heartbeat, in order to maximize profit, minimize body fat, maximize muscle, minimize reality by maximizing work and consumption. Anxiety is usually the end result of this manic cycle, which has created our modern world. I look out my window into the veritable gridlock of bodies in motion and wonder about the degree of damage/stress that all this movement imposes upon our hearts. Is it any surprise that in America there is a massive proliferation of injustice disguised as justice? An epidemic of greed and separation, which is really only a syndrome called dissociation? Is it any surprise that in America the leading cause of death is from the heart no longer being capable of sustaining life? Our hearts are worn out.
These days I go out very little. My way of life may be unconsciously closer to that of a Taoist than an American. I wake up every morning and sit in meditation for forty-five minutes. I chant and then proceed to do an hour or so of Yoga and by the time I am finished it is time for work. My desk is situated in front of a window that looks out over a main artery or street that runs through San Francisco. I work as a fiction writer, so when the narrative I am channeling ceases to come into my head I will often look up and ponder the scenes outside my window, for hours. This becomes my afternoon meditation.
I believe it was Pascal who said that all the ills of human kind could be avoided if we could just be content in our rooms sitting still in a chair. I understand this to mean that a great majority of the problems that each of us faces collectively today could be avoided if we could just preserve heartbeats. Taoists believe that you preserve heartbeats by moving slowly, sitting still and practicing love. Today I observed a man run up behind a woman and steal her bag. I noticed two men in suits arguing and then one man pushing the other in anger. Several times I noticed one fellow driver flipping another fellow driver off. I witnessed several arrests and a great deal of well-dressed human beings, with large amounts of shopping bags rushing to get someplace while homeless people begged them for change.
I thought about the year 2012 and the Mayan prediction that this will be the end of time, as we know it. There are two postulates. The first one is that there will supposedly be a great transformation in consciousness that causes all life on earth to become unified as one loving people working together to create and maintain balance and harmony on our planet. We will move from the age of technology and materialism into an age of wisdom. This is one postulate. The other is that because of our inability to preserve heartbeats and our constant need to drive, fly and consume resources we have irremissibly used up our heartbeats and brought all life on earth as we know it to an inevitable end. As I sit and watch the pulsating urban landscapes outside my window…it is the second postulate that seems to concern me the most. We have failed to maintain what we have because we always are rushing to acquire more, not realizing the damage this imposes upon our world. I look at my cat who is sitting still on the windowsill and I am reminded of something Franz Kafka said almost a century ago. “You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen. Simply wait; just learn to become quiet and still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

One thought on “Sitting Still.

  1. I didn’t know you moved to SF. When did you move? Are you still there? Hope you found a peaceful place to live. Rent is crazy high in the city. Its hard finding a quite place to live anywhere in the Bay area. I think thats why I go to bed so late. The nights a million times more peaceful and quite. I think thats why Zen monks get up at 3:30. Speaking of Zen, have you heard of Janwillem van de Wetering? He an excellent author.
    check it out. I think you would really like his sense of humor.

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