Archive for February 10th, 2011

It seems like as soon as my leg healed,¬† I injured myself again. This time it’s my foot. I was running around with my son and his best friend and managed to hurt the bottom of my left foot. Once again, I can’t go to the gym because I can hardly walk without limping. There’s no way I can exercise with it feeling this way.

At least with a foot injury I can still meditate. Unfortunately, I’m finding it hard to sit for long periods of time. The other morning I went to sit for 20-30 minutes but couldn’t get past the 15 minute mark because of the pain.

Even though I was hurting, I had committed to going to the Zen Center on Wednesday evening. I planned on sitting any way I had to in order to get through the night. As we began sitting, I felt my body begin to relax into the calm concentration of zazen and I began to focus my mind on the present moment and dismiss thoughts that arose. It didn’t take long before the pain popped up along with thoughts about it. This can be quite distracting when you are trying to meditate. Usually, pain is caused by sitting with your legs or back or feet being held in one position for too long. That’s pretty easy to address by gently moving whatever needs to be moved. This pain wasn’t going away that easily.

We were only 10 minutes into the first 25 minute sitting and I was having a harder time than I thought I would. I wasn’t sure what to do about the pain so I focused on sitting and keeping a clear mind. The beauty of keeping a clear mind is that when you are meditating in a group with others, you are all of the same (clear) mind. It’s one of the few times when one has a shared experience of that intensity. As someone who used to play music and as Brad Warner says in his book Sit Down and Shut Up, it is similar to the experience of playing music in a band when everything is going right. It’s a great feeling to be that connected to others and this happened to me last night.

This is not something that happens to me every time I go to the Zen center. It’s not something I try to force because that would defeat the purpose of sitting. When it happens, it happens and it’s nice when it does.

As I sat there in meditation, I felt a connection with the others in the room and a strange thing began to happen: I felt myself gaining strength from my connection with them. As I felt more “oneness” with those in the room, the pain in my foot subsided. I began to, literally, transcend the pain I was feeling. It was no longer an issue for me because¬†the pain in that foot was just pain in one of my feet and, at that point in time, I felt like I had 16 feet. Before I knew it, the first sitting was over and it was time for walking meditation.

This was really a concern for me going into the evening since walking was harder for me than sitting. I’m limping pretty bad because I can’t put much weight on my left foot. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to spend 10 minutes walking or if I’d have to stand aside while others walked.

My concerns and worries were unnecessary. The diminished pain in my foot continued through the walking meditation and into the next session of sitting. It was an amazing experience for me to be that connected to others around me in practice. I have read about it and have heard about it but I hadn’t experienced it to that extent before. I had felt this kind of connection in small doses in the past but this was the first time that I had felt that connection for an extended practice period. Even after we were done, I continued to feel a connection to everyone and everything around me in a way that I don’t normally feel. It didn’t last forever but it was nice while it did.

Tonight, my foot still hurts. I really want to get back into the gym and I hope to do that starting on Monday morning. The pain is slowly going away and I am moving faster and without as much of a limp this evening. I just wish that the relief I felt last night would have stuck around longer! But, one cannot force something like that.

I think that this experience has really helped me to see how important it can be to practice with others. Practicing alone or sitting by oneself is important as a daily routine is helpful. However, last night reminded me that to be a part of a community, a Sangha, is even more important and can be even more helpful. If you are practicing and not currently a part of a Sangha, I can’t encourage you enough to find one to be a part of. It will challenge you and encourage you and help you to grow in ways that you can’t on your own.

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