sit there

July 10th, 2012

Conventional wisdom has it that Los Angeles is sinking into the Pacific. One more quake, they say, and this silly sandcastle will be swept offshore. But they have it upside down. We’re already on the bottom of the sea. Five million years ago, seismic storms pushed the Pacific crust to the surface of the Earth. We are the children of a risen ocean. We scuff our shoes on its billowy floor.

Conventional wisdom says this ancient practice of mine no longer reaches. It does not translate. Westerners don’t get it. It’s too hard and long and fruitless (although science, medicine and common sense affirm it at every turn.) I once studied with another teacher who prodded me. Faster, faster! He wanted to see flying colors, coach a champion, build a team. I quit that place. Later, he trademarked a new way to sell enlightenment, a method sped up for the restless and distractible. We’re competing with many other pastimes, the reasoning goes. Better give people what they want when they want it, or they will . . . do what? Scatter, like so much dust.

Thinking like that is a sure way to lose ground. Where wisdom is the agenda, there is no wisdom.

“I was afraid Maezumi was just going to let you sit there,” he said. I didn’t know better at the time, but now I can answer.

My teacher was unafraid to just let me sit there.

This is my inexhaustible desire: that you will find a guide who is both patient and daring, unafraid to watch you struggle, drift, and finally settle in the tempest of your own pot. One who will keep you quiet company as you go deep and dig, until you look up and see that you are not sinking, you are not hopeless, your cause is not lost. There is no war and no enemy, no hurry and no wait. You are sitting upside up in the echoless calm of a deep, clear ocean, no wind or waves, and you are breathing, breathing, breathing.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, Los Angeles


  1. Very interesting. why do people think there is some hurry, something to transform, some awesome otherness to find? And so often in places where we can hardly miss the wonder of right now as things are.

    Comment by Chris — July 10, 2012 @ 6:42 am

  2. Chris – because people think.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — July 10, 2012 @ 6:53 am

  3. Wonderful insight and beautifully written. No coincidence that a few thoughts of this very nature have been on my mind the last couple of days and now here I am reading your words that bring me the reassurance I was calling out for. Love that.

    Comment by Katie — July 10, 2012 @ 7:56 am

  4. You are all of the above and more.
    “My life is yours” saved me and goes both ways.

    Comment by Roos — July 10, 2012 @ 9:36 am

  5. First…so much I didn’t know about your past studies. So much that makes sense for me now.

    Second…thank you. For your willingness to be patient. To give those you teach room to fall – and the courage to get back up again…permission to see for themselves.

    Most of all – thank you (again) for helping me discover my path.

    With Love,

    Comment by Erica — July 10, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  6. As a recovering Type A for whom being “productive” seemed next to godliness, it’s still a struggle to…well…to struggle. Struggle with not knowing the answer, struggle with no knowing the (metaphorical) arrival time, struggle with the fear that time is slipping away and I won’t be able to get IT all done or experience IT all (whatever IT is). And yet, I can’t imagine any other way to live now. Thanks for the reminder.

    Comment by Clara — July 10, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

  7. Again, I am touched, reassured, soothed, by your tender wise words.
    Again, I am reminded of David Whyte’s poem, “Enough.”
    Again, thank you, ever, always.

    Comment by Katharine — July 12, 2012 @ 9:28 am

  8. This post made me teary. Of all of the gifts you have given me, the one I am the most grateful for is that you have kept me company while never attempting to save me from my own tempest in a teapot. Thank you.

    Comment by Mani — July 12, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

  9. “Is that true?” Aviva asked after standing over my shoulder and reading the first paragraph. “And what does she mean, we’re on the ocean floor?”

    Comment by Jena — July 15, 2012 @ 1:32 am

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