Sitting in meditation as done in Zuo Wang (Sitting and Forgetting) there’s really little to depend upon. I think this is why most people acquire real doubts about practicing meditation. We can go to many types of workshops and seminars to learn various things that seem to have some aspect of a tangible practice we can hang onto, but for many people the act of just sitting seems too simple and too difficult for consistent practice.
For this reason most people set aside meditation and take up other practices that seem more fascinating. We are drawn to the mysterious experiences of spiritual practices in order to satisfy our individual desires and to substantiate our beliefs in something greater than just entering a state of emptiness. But, no matter what we learn in the workshops and seminars we attend to fulfill our spiritual perceptions and desires, they never hit the mark, proving tenuous and unreliable. More often than not the so-called more fascinating practices leave us feeling unfulfilled, in the sense that we can never quite live up to or experience the outcome expected or promised in them.
When Zuo Wang becomes our main preference of practice, however, all these more fascinating practices become less frustrating and unfulfilled. The problem is that we always forget about change. You can feel good in one instance and a moment later feel bad. Just like in Zuo Wang, you can feel yourself entering mindfulness in one moment and in the very next moment notice it all slip away. This is why those fascinating practices never fulfill us. They can’t do so because we haven’t learned to settle down. We are restless, and we feel the practices are endless. Learning one thing just opens the door to feeling there are ten thousand more things to learn and practice. Hence, we cannot simply focus on just one thing—sitting.
Sitting seems so pointless. You do nothing, you expect nothing, and you are always trying to forget everything. It is not easy to be empty or blank. It’s not easy to forget, but that is not actually the goal of Zuo Wang. The true goal is to be completely present in the moment, just be completely aware of what you are doing in that moment. Hang on to the consciousness of the moment, yet keep to the emptiness of it. This is what Lao Zi meant by, “Keep to non-existence, yet hold onto existence.” Stop relying on fascinating practices to fulfill your spiritual needs and quests, rather rely on yourself in the moment. Zuo Wang doesn’t mean to be unaware. On the contrary, it is about full awareness of the moment. Forgetting means we forget all those spiritual desires and experiences we seek. It will do no good to just sit in meditation anxiously awaiting some great spiritual experience. Forget that, just experience the moment. Forget the past, forget the future, just be in the “here and now” and just with yourself. It is not complicated, but difficult to grasp if always seeking something beyond yourself. Just sit, just forget, and just leave the mind alone.