The meditation app on my phone is my little monk with his whacking stick, keeping me in line. I find it impossible to meditate without a timer, my mind constantly wondering if that’s enough, how much time has passed, and blah blah blah and blah. IÂ hear people say that they just sit ‘for as long as feels right’ but i’m not convinced about that approach. Not only because my mind is so fluttery with no end in sight, but also because i know that sometimes it is necessary to sit a bit longer than is actually comfortable in order to get a felt sense of what’s going on in my body and mind.
Ironically, no matter how long i sit, the ‘best’ part of my sit is often the part right after the bell rings. As the third bell chimes and fades away I will get a delicious sensation of pure freedom. A broad yet attenuated focus. Birdsong and boat engines, my own heartbeat, thoughts circling like bees, all weave together in a loose tapestry. For whole moments on end, meditation stops feeling like mental weightlifting and actually become pleasurable. I like to tease out this moment a bit before I bow, say my vows, and move on with my day.
When i’m in the zendo and the bell rings, I notice that even while the tremor of the bell still vibrates the air people are bowing and shuffling and stretching their legs. I get annoyed (and what is zazen for if not to notice yourself getting annoyed?). I want to say, hey people, sit still! You’re missing the gravy. And what’s more you’re fucking up my precious moment of samadhi.
I just had a realization of just why that particular moment, right after the bell, might be so sweet. I don’t think it’s only because i can finally tick this tedious activity off my list, make my coffee, and get on with my day. I think it is because at last i’ve reached the moment: the moment that points toward nothing. I am no longer waiting for the bell to ring. I’m not waiting for anything to happen. I have no anticipation, no expectation, just sincere and sensitive presence.
I wonder if it is possible to live my life, without always waiting for the end bell to ring.