This practice is for all of us. It is for me, for you, for whoever shows up. If you are even a little bit like me, you often find yourself busily hustling about, and your thoughts are filled with wishes (“I wish my world was working in this way, not that way”), momentary pleasures (“I got that taken care of”), and lingering disappointments (“where did the time go? there is still so much to do“). These thoughts sometimes wind us up and threaten to never let go.
Never, that is, unless we consciously stop and pay attention to what is going on. Not in the world of our wishes, pleasures, and disappointments, but, rather, in the world of the Here and Now. What am I touching, hearing, seeing? What emotions are present? What thoughts are drifting by?
Questions like these can be answered if we are willing to pause for a period of time in a quiet place. A place where no one is keeping score or assigning grades. In this space we can simply be. This is the environment that our meditation sessions offer – a quiet place, a place where we can each pause, be together with whoever shows up, and just be.
Our meditation sessions are “open”. You don’t have to sign up in advance. The sessions are not based on any particular style of meditation. You can use the space to practice in any way that you like provided that you sit (or lie/stand/walk) quietly*, and help create, as best you can, a quiet, supportive, distraction-free environment for others.
Beyond this, and the scheduled ringing of bells (see below), there are no rules, duties, or religious rituals. Shape your internal experience of our silent period according to your own wishes.
Requests and requirements:
Location: Nearly all of our sessions are scheduled to take place in the Eliot chapel (consult the sidebar at right and/or Our Schedule for the most current meeting times and locations). The chapel is located on the 2nd floor of Eliot Hall directly above the Admissions office. If you enter Eliot from the south (Great) lawn through the ‘Admissions Office’ door facing the lawn, and then go up the stairs to your left, you will enter the chapel directly. You can also enter the building through any other door, take stairs to the 2nd floor and enter the chapel through the doors at the west end of the hallway. Note to Reed guests: At this time, some Reed buildings may be closed to people outside the Reed community. Eliot Hall is an exception. Restrooms are located roughly in the center of hallways on most floors.
Practice: You may enter our session at any time and through any door. Likewise, you may leave at any time and through any door. You may sit wherever you want, in a chapel pew, a chair, or on a cushion or kneeling bench (these are not provided – please bring your own). See Silent sitting and Bell ringing schedule below for more guidance. Covid requirements: Masks are strongly encouraged for people when they are inside Reed buildings, especially in situations where social distancing is not possible.
Connecting: Join the Zoom meeting at https://zoom.us/j/639700409.
Practice: You may join the zoom meeting at any time, and you may also leave at at any time. You may engage in whatever form of meditation (sitting, lying, standing, walking) that suits you as long as it maintains a quiet, supportive, distraction-free environment for others who are attending the online session. Audio requirements: Mute your audio during the silent period (12:10-12:40). Turning on your camera is optional. If your camera is on, please minimize distracting behavior for the sake of other online attendees. It is not necessary to sit facing the camera, nor is it necessary to keep your eyes open. This is a meditation session, not a planning meeting.
Silent sitting. There are many ways to meditate, even to meditate in silence. What follows is one possibility of many: just sit.* This means allowing yourself to settle in your seat. The world, your mind, the sensations in different parts of your body, and maybe even some emotional feelings might appear. Let them. There is no job for you to do, no problem to solve, nothing that needs to be judged or assessed. If they disappear. Let them. There is nothing to hold on to. You can just sit.
If you decide to ‘just sit’, consider this. ‘Silence’ does not mean perfect quiet. ‘Sitting’ does not mean holding yourself with rock-like rigidity. When the need arises, adjust your sitting posture, cough, scratch, leave the session, re-enter. Or don’t. It’s up to you. Do what you need to do, but please act gently and mindfully in consideration of others.
One more thing. ‘Just sit’ doesn’t mean that your mind will go blank from bell to bell. All of the things that were listed above – the outside world, thoughts, sensations, emotions – will likely appear while you ‘just sit’. If you find yourself reflecting on a morning conversation or planning your afternoon, if you get lost in the soft light and gentle noises of the chapel or your home, or if you find yourself nodding off, it’s entirely alright. If a thought is interesting or important, you might follow it along. If a thought feels like a distraction to ‘just sitting’, you might say something to yourself like “thinking” or “worrying” or even “thank you” or “that’s okay”, and gently let your attention settle on whatever body sensation rises into view at that moment. Thinking is a natural part of our experience, but it is only one part of it. One of the outcomes of ‘just sitting’ is to discover the difference between thoughts and the rest of our experience of touch, sound, taste, sight, smell, happiness, sadness, tightness, and relaxation.
Above all, labels like ‘sitting silently’ and ‘just sitting’ are guidelines. They remind us of our intention to create and support a meditative environment where everyone can practice. They are not assignments. You do not need to evaluate your performance before you stand up and go on to the next thing. It’s just a way to invite stillness in body, quiet in sound, peace in thought, and to experience life without adding more burdens and distractions beyond the ones that inevitably arise.
Bell ringing schedule:
- 12:10 – 3 bells
- 12:20 – 1 bell (in-person only)
- 12:30 – 1 bell (in-person only)
- 12:40 – 3 bells
* New to meditation? The Resources page contains links to materials that can get you started with meditation. If you would like to discuss these materials, receive some personal instruction, or just discuss what happens when you try to meditate, please contact Alan Shusterman (email@example.com).