Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Sitting

Somewhere At 41,000 Feet Over The Pacific Ocean

June 20, 2013



This essay, Sitting, is the companion piece to
  1. Poet Laureate
  2. Flying
in that order.

It is also the fifth in an open group on Zen: It is also the prequel to Sitting II.




I've flown literally millions of miles. I have respectable accounts with about half a dozen of the airlines' frequent flyer mileage programs. I have more then two million miles on American Airlines alone (for which I've earned Platinum  status for life), over half a million miles on United Airlines, and between one hundred thousand and one hundred fifty thousand miles on each of three or four other airlines.

Sitting for hours at a time when you fly a lot, you look out the window a lot. If you've brought paperwork to do, you can get a lot of paperwork done while you're sitting there for hours thousands of feet up in the sky. If you're done looking out the window and your paperwork is complete, you may watch a movie or three. If it's a really  long flight and you've watched all the movies worth watching and you're looking for something else to do to while away the hours, to ease the interminable wait, you may eventually delve into the seat pocket in front of you and read the in‑flight magazine. Once you've read the in‑flight magazine, you may even do the in‑flight magazine's puzzles: the crossword, the Sudoku  etc.

When you've done the puzzles and there's nothing left to do, you sit there. You're sitting. Doing nothing. Sitting. And sitting. And sitting ... and sitting ...

You can just sit. Now, there are many ways of sitting. You can sit berating the interminable wait. You can sit complaining to yourself about the cruel lack of leg room which forces your knees up to your shoulders. You can sit fuming at the guy in the seat in front of you whose reclining seat puts his head almost on your lap. You can even sit fantasizing the flight is over, bearing it, tolerating it, suffering  through it until it really is over.

But that's not the way of sitting I'm suggesting. The way of sitting I'm suggesting isn't an effort. It's not a hardship. The way of sitting I'm suggesting is an opportunity  - and a rare  opportunity at that. The way of sitting I'm suggesting could even be called an art form  - and flying on long flights is an opportunity to practice this art form. The way of sitting I'm suggesting is pure Zen. Long flights are actually priceless opportunities to practice and to experiment with the gentle Zen art of sitting - aka Zazen. And while I'm aware that referring to plain sitting as "the gentle Zen art of sitting"  or "Zazen" runs the risk of making it far more significant than it really is, calling it "the gentle Zen art of sitting" / "Zazen" is good enough for jazz.

... sitting ... noticing you're here  but you want to be somewhere else  ... sitting ... noticing you're having this  experience but you want to be having any experience except  this experience ... sitting ... noticing you want the flight to be over ... sitting ... noticing you want this  experience (whatever it is) to be over ... sitting ... noticing your impatience with the now  ... sitting ... ... noticing your impatience with the here  ... sitting ... noticing you want to move on to the next thing - whatever it is ... sitting ... noticing you want to be doing something else, anything  else ... sitting ... noticing you want to be doing anything else except this ... sitting ... noticing you want to be  anywhere else except here  ... sitting ...

That's us.

We're almost never doing  what we're doing when we're doing it. While we're supposedly doing what we're doing, we're really doing something else. We're not engaged in the task at hand. We're thinking about something else while we're engaged in the task at hand. We're distant from the task at hand while we're engaged in the task at hand. We're never fully engaged with the people we're engaged with while we're engaged with them. While we're engaged with the people we're engaged with, we're judging them, we're noting their failings, shortcomings, and imperfections. While we're sitting, we're never just sitting. While we're sitting, we're doing anything but  just sitting.

This is the opportunity on long flights (and on really long flights in particular): to ... just ... sit. To practice sitting while you're sitting. To do nothing else  while you're sitting except sitting. To experience sitting completely, fully, and totally - and nothing else  except sitting. To take the time - for once - to do what you're doing when you're doing it, and to do nothing else but  what you're doing when you're doing it. To be fully engaged in just sitting when you're just sitting.

I don't have to live in a Zen monastery to practice this. Today, here, and right now, seat 45H in the economy class cabin of an Air New Zealand wide body Boeing 777‑300ER on a thirteen and a half hour non-stop flight from San Francisco California to Auckland New Zealand, is my Zen monastery.



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