The Upside-Down Bell Curve

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  • Ryumon
    • Apr 2007
    • 1706

    The Upside-Down Bell Curve

    My sitting could often be graphed as an upside-down bell curve. Think of the image: at first, I sit down, start focusing on my breath, and my thoughts slowly start to calm down. As my thoughts calm, the curve sinks. Eventually, I get to the bottom of the curve, where I am in a starte of calm, with few thoughts, a feeling of openness, perhaps the "goal" of goal-less sitting.

    But then, shortly after, my thoughts begin again, but they are different: usually as they come back up the curve, the thoughts are more like "should I get up now"? "How long has it been?" "Isn't there something I need to do?" Interestingly, I never have these thoughts at the beginning of my sitting, but only after getting into the deepest state of calm.

    I guess there's no answer to this, and not even a question (because if I did ask how to make my sitting "better" that wouldn't serve much of a purpose). So I leave this as an observation, and wonder how many of you have the same kind of sitting.

    Ryūmon (Kirk)


    I know nothing.
  • PaxAnimi
    • Jun 2007
    • 28

    As I was sitting last night I observed that very curve, and, thinking on it, I usually do in one way or another.


    • egbrooks
      • Jun 2007
      • 29

      I was thinking about this exact thing the other day. I sit, I calm, and then towards the end of the sitting I become frantic. It's like my mind becomes this terrible out of control monkey. It's almost comical.

      I too was wondering if anyone else had this same kind of experience. It's not an uncommon thing for me.

      ‘Training and being spiritually awake are not two separate things.’ - Dogen


      • paige
        • Apr 2007
        • 234

        Hi Eric,

        Yes, I've been there. It lasted for a couple of weeks, but it did get better.

        It was very difficult to continue to meditate as I was anticipating this panic and anxiety from the moment I sat down.

        My teacher suggested doing some kind of exercise (eg martial arts, yoga, jogging, etc) immediately before the meditation. It helped somewhat.


        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39456

          Hi Guys,

          Of course, I will suggest that when feeling like panicky, anxious out of control monkey brain, just feel that way. When it is a clear day or moment, it is a clear. When it is a stormy day or moment, it is stormy. Like the weather, so goes the mind.

          And that is the only way to see that there is still a blue sky before, during and after the storm. I think.

          Having a "settled mind" during Zazen does not mean that we need to have a settled mind every second of every day, or every second of Zazen. It is a little like seeing the blue sky peak from behind the clouds. It is there even when the sky is 100% cloudy. You do not need to see it all the time for that to be true. Our practice lets us see the blue sky, sometimes completely, sometimes peaking between the clouds, sometimes clouds and blue at once. I think that seeing both at once is the most healthful in daily life, and maybe the heart of our practice, but it is not always possible or desirable. We come to know the blue is there even when we do not see it.

          However, the blue sky is not better then cloudy sky. Do not make that mistake. I think. Do not despise rainy, stormy days or moments. That is the only way to find true peace in the eye of the storm.

          Gassho, J


          • Keishin
            • Jun 2007
            • 471

            upside down bell curve

            Dear Jundo:
            We know how you feel about rain and storms, lightning and thunder:
            you are most generous in letting us sit in the middle of them with you!!!
            I just wish you could send the rain our way--we need it!.
            gassho, Keishin