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Selections from Donít Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein, Copyright © 1996 by Sylvia Boorstein.  Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"Itís the elaboration that makes life more difficult than it needs to be."

Sylvia Boorstein, 
Donít Just Do Something, Sit There,
Part 1

Donít Just Do Something, Sit There

When I was offered the opportunity to write this manual, I was delighted. Worrying arrived one moment later. "Uh-oh," I thought, "a manual usually prescribes things to do. Can I possibly say, ĎDonít just do something, sit there?í"

I began to think of Buddhist rituals I know. Certain practice lineages contain ceremonies, prayers, and chants, quite lovely ones. Just as soon as I remembered them, though, I put them aside. In mindfulness practice, the only thing we add to current experience is calm attention.

Mindfulness, seeing clearly, means awakening to the happiness of the uncomplicated moment. We complicate moments. Hardly anything happens without the mind spinning it up into an elaborate production. Itís the elaboration that makes life more difficult than it needs to be.

I discovered my habit of transforming neutral fact into painful opinion many years ago when I phoned a monastery to arrange to do a private retreat. The person I spoke with said, "You need to talk to Robert, the retreat master." I left a message for Robert and was assured he would call me back. The following day I had a message on my answering machine from Robert saying he was returning my call. The day after that, I phoned and was told, once again, that Robert wasnít there. I explained that I had called Robert and Robert had called me and here I was, now, calling Robert again. I added, embroidering the situation, "Maybe this is a sign that Iím not supposed to do my retreat there." The response I got was, "I think itís just a sign that Robert isnít here." I had complicated the moment.

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