Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Sitting Forgetting

The benefits of meditation are by now widely known and accepted. However, many of us still don’t have a regular meditation practice. The reasons vary – I don’t know how, I don’t have time, I can’t sit still, my mind is too chaotic, it’s too hard, I tried but it didn’t work, and so on.

But underneath all these reasons, I wonder if perhaps there is just a little bit of anxiety. Maybe we think we have to be good at it, and we are afraid to fail. Maybe we are afraid we’ll be successful and something unexpected or even scary will happen. Maybe we think something grand is supposed to happen, and if it doesn’t we’ll be disappointed.

I meditate for the simple reason that my life is better when I do. Not necessarily better each time, but overall. For the most part I meditate every day, but there are days that get skipped, and I don’t freak out about that.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying a meditation practice called in Chinese zuo wang. Zuo means sit. Wang means forget. So the practice is literally sit forget. At my age, this is so easy to do since I forget most things anyway!

The character for sit    combines the character for person   with the character for earth   . Put together, the character for sit shows two people sitting on the earth  .

The character for forget  places the character for heart    under the character  , meaning to flee or to lose. Because of the over/under placement, I think of forgetting as something lifting away from the heart  .

When you put the characters zuo wang together  坐 忘 , I get the sense of releasing thoughts that just fly away as the heart stays rooted to the earth. Sitting. Forgetting.

As thoughts arise during meditation, and they will, I remind myself to “forget” them, to let them float away like a balloon as my heart/mind sinks gently into the “earth” of my spirit/center. If a thought persists, I silently whisper zuo wang, and the thought detaches and goes on its way. I know the thought will come back later if I need it, and probably even if I don’t.

The benefits of brief times devoted to meditation permeate my life. The line between more “formal” meditation and daily life begins to blur. A Buddhist teacher, when asked about the timing and frequency of his meditation practice, replied, “I am never not meditating.” It reminds me of the encouragement in the Bible to “pray without ceasing.” It doesn’t mean that you should be sitting on your meditation cushion, or kneeling with your head bowed all the time. That’s not very practical. It means moving through your day with awareness and reverence. And that, my friends, is very practical.

In Greek mythology, the giant Antaeus was the son of Gaia, or Mother Earth. He was a famed wrestler who could not be beaten as long as he had contact with the earth, his mother. Even Hercules could not defeat him, until, realizing the source of the giant’s strength, Hercules held him aloft and vanquished him.

In chaotic or challenging times, any habitual practice that helps us stay connected to our root, our equilibrium, our inner strength, seems like a good thing. So if you don’t already have such a practice, maybe give it a try. If you have any questions or need some support, let me know in the comments, or email me at And please share your own practice and suggestions.

Here are some of my favorite meditation quotations:

Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively. ~Sharon Salzberg

To earn the trust of your meditation, you have to visit it every day. It’s like having a puppy. ~Chelsea Richer

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. ~Deepak Chopra

Meditation is offering your genuine presence to yourself in every moment. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

One conscious breath in and out is a meditation. ~Eckhart Tolle

Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated? ~David M. Bader

And my very favorite:

If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent. ~Pema Chodron

[Note: The photo above accompanies a news piece about a school that substituted meditation for detention, and then started teaching all students to meditate, with amazing results!]

8 thoughts on “Sitting Forgetting”

  1. Yes, I've hesitated to try meditation in the past, Galen, because of a reason you give here – afraid of not doing it right. But as I read the rest of your post, I am so encouraged! "Moving through the day with awareness and reverence." I do so much of that already, maybe I'm meditating to a degree and just never knew it! Thanks for enlightening us here, my friend.

  2. Thanks, Martha. See, you already do it. Taking a few minutes to meditate in a more focused way can enhance your practice throughout the day. There is not a right or a wrong way. There is just a doing it or not doing it.

    You know, there are several meditation methods rooted in Christianity that might be appealing to you. Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina are two that come to mind. I've tried both of these and like them very much.

    And another quote just for you– "Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening to God." ~Diana Robinson

  3. You do with the Chinese characters what I often do with my Concordance. Digging to the root meaning. I wonder if we have a language being used now that one could do that with in 1,000 years…

  4. It's so interesting, I think, to look beneath the surface of words to see where they came from and how they evolved. This has been a great source of contemplation and inspiration for me with the Chinese characters used in the Tao Te Ching. But the same type of inquiry can be made with most any language, I suspect. You raise an interesting question, CW. I wonder what folks 1,000 years from now will be looking back at from our time.

  5. Adiing regular meditation back to my life,about a year ago, in the single best thing I've done in years.Highly recommend.I use a simple mantra method (Transcendental Meditation) .. it's easy to learn on your own. P.S. Have not visited your blog in a while– love the thoughts.But the red background with stark white text, makes it very difficult to read! Maybe a tweak in the color scheme to make it easier on the eyes?

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Madeline, and for your comment. In the early 70s, I had a friend who used TM–it's been around for a while! You said it's easy to learn on your own, but I thought a teacher had to "give" you your mantra. I must be wrong about that. However, the basic practice of TM is very simple and effective, from what I understand. Simple is best, isn't it? It makes it easier to learn and more likely that we will follow through with regular practice.

    Thank you for your comment about the blog design. I like the look, but if it's not easy to read, then I should consider other options. I wonder if using a larger font would help. I will try that on the next post. Maybe you can let me know if that's better. If not, then I will look at other designs. I appreciate the feedback.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this one. I have thought of taking up meditation at some point of time. You are inspiring me. I need to quiet my mind and let the thoughts fly away. I do a lot of pondering but then that requires thinking which is good because I learn from whatever I am pondering about.
    That being said, I do believe that meditation is a good practice for health and I will put some more thought into how I might fit it into my day.
    The quotes were awesome and I too liked the last one.
    Blessings and hugs!

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