Addictions and compulsions take many forms, for some it’s alcohol or wild swimming, and for others it’s zazen. Here is Sarah’s confession:
My name is Sarah and I’m an obsessive sitter. It feels that this piece almost needs to start with that sort of confession. I sit a lot. A tally on a web community that I’m part of keeps track and allows me to see that I’ve sat for almost 1700 hours since the day when I suddenly found myself sitting seriously. I’ve sat at least twice a day since that day almost 3 years ago.
I can’t explain this other than sitting happens and needs to happen. It doesn’t take will power so it really isn’t about me being disciplined and it’s nothing I take credit for. It’s not a compulsion or done out of a fear that if I don’t sit something bad will happen – there really is no thinking involved in putting myself on the cushion, I just do it. I can’t even explain it as a habit because habits arise over time and this just appeared. It’s actually stronger than a habit too – I have a lifetime habit of brushing my teeth everyday but, given my tendency to rush around at full tilt and to be forgetful, there have been a couple of times when I have gone out having forgotten to brush my teeth. I even have a toothbrush and toothpaste at work ready for such eventualities but I have never once forgotten to sit. One night, getting in very late, I did climb sleepily straight into bed ready for sleep only to jump up seconds later and plonk myself on my cushion wide awake. Not sitting it seems wasn’t an option. Even in periods when I’ve known that I’d be sitting with very difficult stuff, dealing with floods of tears or waves of panic, I’ve still sat. In those periods I sit longer because I need it more.
And that amount of sitting does make a difference. For one thing, sitting bookends each day. I greet the world with the space that comes from sitting first thing and I go to sleep leaving nothing not dealt with. Life works differently because of that. Life and practice stopped being two separate things and instead I can’t really demarcate where one ends and the other starts. They just are.
I have been blessed with a number of spiritual experiences that seemed to just happen and these without a doubt lead to this sitting obsession or zeal. I feel very fortunate for those but, in terms of dealing with my own stuff and not carrying it out into my daily life through unseen or unaddressed patterns and grooves, it really is the daily sitting which makes the difference.
And although all this sitting does take time, it seems that I have more rather than less time in my life as a result as I no longer waste time off the cushion in endless cycles of planning and strategizing about the minute details of life and social encounters. I act rather than consider. I don’t spend anywhere near as much time in daydreams or catastrophizing about what might go wrong. That leaves a lot more space in which I can more appreciate life’s strange twists and fully experience its sorrows because you can’t have one without the other. Plus, having faced full on a lot of my fears and seen where they stem from, I hold back on life a lot less and smile a lot more.
My name is Sarah and I’m glad to be an obsessive sitter.