Mindfulness Blog

Taking the Mountain Seat

| | In Practice

Meditation is not a passive activity. It requires a full and deep commitment and a courageous spirit to sit still and not budge as life does its thing. Conventionally, we might think that courage is about action, daring sports or facing physical danger and, while it is true that it does take some courage to face the fear of injury or death, I don’t think that is the highest form of courage.

Sitting quietly and facing life honestly without distraction, without assigning blame, without looking for a way in or out is a different kind of courage altogether.

I heard a story about a martial arts expert who told his students that of all the practices he had done, sitting in meditation was by far the most difficult. My teacher once told me that a U.S. Marine came and sat an intensive meditation retreat with him and confessed afterward it was the hardest thing he had ever been through. In Zen we call it “taking the mountain seat.”

To take the mountain seat means that we commit ourselves to really staying true to our deepest intention, to stay true to what ever happens without trying to change it. You can test yourself right now. Ask yourself this simple question, “Can I be OK with things the way the are right now, forever?” This is the practice of true meditation, to take the mountain seat of strength, dignity and surrender. Meditation is a practice based on love and acceptance but it takes real courage and grit to do it.

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