One day Shitou came upon Yaoshan meditating, he asked Yaoshan, “What are you doing?” Yaoshan said, “I am not doing anything.” Shitou asked, “Why are you sitting here wasting time?” Yaoshan replied, “If I was wasting time, that would be doing something.” Shitou asked, “What is this ‘doing nothing’ that you talk about?” Yaoshan replied, “Not even the ten thousand sages know.”
I like this exchange between Shitou and Yaoshan, the way it highlights the difference between doing nothing and wasting time. Hongzhi’s image of cultivating an empty field comes to mind. Having an empty field is cultivating that field. Letting it lay fallow for a season or so will ultimately increase its productivity. The same is true of a meditation practice.
Sometimes in conversations with people they somewhat awkwardly admit that they have not been meditating at all, or as much as they would hope. It always piques my curiosity, not about why they have not been meditating as much as they think they should be, but what they have noticed about their experience during that time of not meditating as much. It feels like an integral part of the practice, to not meditate, formally at least. I am reminded how I was told when I began meditating that once you begin, “you are doomed.” Doomed to know what it is like to pay attention to your experience. Doomed to pay attention to your experience even when you are not formally paying attention to your experience, which can result in a better appreciation of the various ways practice can look.
We will have the opportunity of noticing what it is like to not gather on Sunday afternoons at 4:00 o’clock from this week until after Labor Day. I suspect it will increase our appreciation of those gatherings. I also hope it will be the occasion to notice the other ways in which what is appreciated about the Sunday gatherings are available. An opportunity to reflect on what it is we appreciate about the Sunday gatherings. The 10:30 Sunday morning gatherings will continue and I will continue to host at least a couple of Wednesdays in August.
On the 7th day of creation God rested, it’s a good thing to take a rest, happy Sabbath to you, whatever day you read this. Every time we come back to now it is a Sabbath, a moment of resting in what is.