A 56 degree sunny day in March is a real gift after this brutally cold winter. Knowing we’re looking at a ferocious winter storm for tomorrow with 40 mph winds, 20″ of snow and temps dropping into the single digits, makes it even more so.
I took a walk up to the reservoir in Highland Park, found a bench with a view and sat to meditate in the sun. I was doing my normal breathing routine and watching people walk by with their dogs, the blue surfaces of the frozen reservoir water, and the snow on the walkways melting.
I found myself focusing on one patch of icy snow and decided to see if I could sit long enough to watch it melt completely. It was two little mounds around 6″ across on black pavement. This made for a pretty good practice and I ended up sitting for an hour until they were gone.
So what’s the big deal about sitting on a park bench for an hour on a nice day? When you’re emptying your mind and trying to let your thoughts go the ego puts up all its defenses to keep you from letting it go. This means distractions (pretty girl walks by, need to check phone, I’m thirsty, there’s a fly near my head, etc., etc., etc.). You’re not just relaxing, in fact it’s the opposite: You’re focusing on just being there without that deluge of chatter.
Watching snow melt was an almost perfect meditation technique because you can’t do anything to speed it up without cheating (yes, I did consider getting up, walking down to it and smashing it with my foot). But cheating during meditation is like cheating at golf- you’re just screwing yourself over. So I sat and watched.
I actually ended up having my longest sitting session ever at just about an hour. My previous longest was 40 minutes and I’d wondered if sitting longer would make a difference. In this case it did and I found myself in a place I had not been before for just a few moments (in case you’re wondering Dogen, the Zen mystic, says there are 60 billion moments in each day. No idea how he arrived at that number!). During those moments something stopped.