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I've heard that, in some schools of Zen, sitting meditation is talked about as a group practice - is it OK to sit by myself?


Whilst the notion of ‘self and other’ has power over us, the question of sitting alone or as part of a group may seem to matter. On a practical level, if we find sitting alone too difficult then we should continue to take the opportunity to sit in a group and forget about this question. Likewise, we should continue to sit alone if sitting in a group is not something we feel able to do, but we should not make a story about it. If our practice is sincere then circumstance will always manifest to support us. The whole universe is always right here supporting our sitting practice - we shouldn’t overlook what is right here and now wishing for some special conditions to carry our practice.

To meet directly our true Self, whether sitting alone or as part of a group, we must be prepared to throw our entire being completely into solitude - to throw away all ideas of right and wrong practice and return to a place where no self and no other can arise. Those who open their heart to the whole world do it by taking complete responsibility for their own awakening. This is what the Buddha was expressing when he said:-

     Be lamps unto yourselves.
     Be refuges unto yourselves.
     Take yourself no external refuge.
     Hold fast to the truth as a lamp.
     Hold fast to the truth as a refuge.
     Look not for a refuge in anyone besides yourselves.

Once this deep solitude has been tasted, then it will not concern us whether we sit alone or as part of a group. We sit as an expression of your true nature, without a reason for doing so or the need for preferred conditions. Throwing our mind and body completely into ultimate solitude at once the whole of society fills our heart - it has never been anywhere else. This is where the rational mind cannot penetrate - do not try - just leap into the silver light of the moon without knowing your feet have ever touched the earth.

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