Sitting By the Sea

I had the chance in June to meditate at two unique and beautiful locations in California. The first was on a remote, black sand beach on the Lost Coast in Humbolt County. While my two hiking partners lay in their tent, I was alone on a magnificent, secluded beach with towering cliffs, pelicans and the rumble of the waves. I mounded up the charcoal-colored sand under my butt and half-buried my knees in its fog-dampened coolness. My exhalations at first matched the length of some waves, but as I settled deeper, breathing waves extended longer than ocean waves, rumbling on further as the waves retreated. Although no longer in sync, neither was one wave with the next, all just arising and falling separately, yet part of the whole, like separate chords in the sussurating symphony that is the sea. Awareness always seems easier here and if occasionally I was carried away in thought like a piece of flotsam, it was also easier to come back with the raucous cry from a gull or an especially noisy wave. It was also easier to forgive that errant wanderer we call our everyday mind.

The second meditation opportunity was at Green Gulch Farm, in a zendo constructed amidst towering Redwood trees, where I had the opportunity to attend Sunday services and hear Zoketsu Norman Fischer give a dharma talk. Mr. Fischer probably gave an interesting dharma talk, but I have completely forgotten it. During Q and A, in response to a new student’s inquiry about how to deepen one’s practice, Mr. Fischer responded that the student should carve out time to sit more frequently and regularly and perhaps attend sesshins at SFZC or a similar place a few times a year…… yada, yada, yada…But, I think he missed an opportunity here to say: go sit outside among the redwoods and breathe in the overpowering fecundity of the Earth and feel the gentleness of the wind. Sit by a stream, or in a barn while cows are lowing, or the crow cawing outside.

So if you have the chance before you die to sit in the presence of an enlightened “master”, then don’t pass up the opportunity, bow down before the ocean and feel the waves become part of you and rumble in the very core of your being.