Just Sit For a While
by Chris de Serres
Something interesting happens when you have a consistent meditation practice. You develop a capacity to sit, watch, and listen. Meditation is all about just being. Letting thoughts and emotions flow around and through you like clouds in the sky.
Often I find myself sitting on a bench, not craving any particular thing, not pulling out my IPhone, and not stressing over what I need to get done. Just sitting and watching. Trying to take in what’s around me. The people. If i’m patient enough I notice other things, like a line of ants in the cracks of the pavements. Crows are especially interesting because they are so clever.
The task today was to find a place and sit for 20 minutes and notice everything around me, and write about it.
I am blessed to be working in one of the most beautiful college campuses in the U.S. The University of Washington here in Seattle. I walk by Sylvan Grove each day. That’s where a young philosophy major named Bruce Lee used to give free lessons to other students. Just past Sylvan Grove is one the largest medicinal herb gardens in the US. Over 1,000 plant species, treating everything from the common cold to heart disease.
If I continue south to the shores of Lake Washington, hiding in the shadows of the enormous Husky Stadium, is another piece of history. It’s the sort of place that you don’t even know is there unless you take the time to really sit and look.
It is a series of concrete walls with rocks of different sizes attached to it. It’s adjacent to an enormous parking lot. People park there cars and often catch a climber or two scaling it’s walls.
In today’s world of enormous climbing gyms in every neighborhood, the modest UW Climbing Wall is easily forgotten. That’s actually one of the things I like best about it. Even though some of the best climbers in the world have trained on this structure, you wouldn’t know it. On any given day I never see more than 2-3 folks using it.
I go here to sit and quietly take everything in. I do some climbing too, but this spot near the lake is just so beautiful that I make sure to give myself plenty of time to just be.
So I sit here now. I feel a cool breeze from the water. Over to my right a boat or two slowly glides through the narrow Montlake Cut, on their way out to the Puget Sound.
I climb to the top of the tall central structure of the wall and I can see the Husky football team doing drills in their enclosed practice field. It’s high enough to seriously injure myself if I fall, but i’ve climbed up it hundreds of times. I try to relax.
Our bodies send frantic fight-or-flight signals out whenever it feels like we are in danger. Part of the gifts of climbing is to experience danger and learn to calm yourself while in the midst of it. I take a long exhale to get all the oxygen out of my lungs, then inhale it back in. I experience a sinking feeling in my gut as I look down. Then I wait. Soon this feeling passes by me like a cloud. I see it but i’m not attached to it.
Soon some students gather below me, wondering what I am doing up so high. Waiting for me to do something next. I can see Mt. Rainier off in the distance.
I carefully, artfully climb down to the ground. I have ten minutes left in my lunch break. Time to go.