Monday, December 15, 2008

Sitting still, doing nothing

When I was a young Zen meditator, I worked as an attendant in a nursing home that hosted a range of patients, from a young woman recovering from bone cancer to our local Congressman’s father, who was dying of emphysema. Amidst this busy throng, I was fascinated by one person in particular — an old Italian fisherman who had lost both legs in a fishing accident. When his family members came to visit, he would hold court with great dignity, receiving their respect as the family patriarch. Where other patients might be content to lie in bed all day in their hospital gowns, he would dress and groom himself each day and sit with pride —and upright posture — in his wheelchair, silently observing the drama that unfolded around him. One day, I was running back and forth, unsure of what I was supposed to be doing. Seeing this, he called out to me, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, “Hey! You got nothing to do?” “Yeah,” I said,” obviously flustered, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.” “You got nothing to do,” he said, “then sit down!”

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