Sitting in an urban environment

Today I sat twice. I found myself unable to do my normal sitting on my usual cushion with my beloved timer, but rather, I made two openings in the day among the moments of my urban existence.

I sat on the Muni train. And I sat on a low marble wall in a city courtyard. Both sits were fairly formal, in terms of the mindfulness practice I was using. Both were fairly successful in the sense that I had time to settle, became focused primarily on the breath and present moment body sensations and thoughts.

On the wall, I was in a fairly noisy environment. I could sense others around me, but didn’t feel I was disturbing them, and they gave me the courtesy of not disturbing me. But still, it was unsurprising that self-referential thoughts would arise about others seeing me sitting there upright, with eyes closed, not moving for a period of time. I have a light green rain shell that I wear – it’s a modern sort of windbreaker, and common enough. I had my hands folded completely within the sleeves, so that my mudhra was not in sight, so as not to draw too fine a point on the fact that I was sitting. So I sat with a busy sort of mind, in a noisy sort of place and came to eventually settle down a little and get present. Then the timer I was keeping in the upper coat pocket went off and I stood up and went to get my salad lunch.

On the Muni, I was able to get a seat. Sitting there with eyes closed is much more common and typical. People often sleep or close eyes on the train. I have only 13 or 14 minutes before my stop. My focus was quite good already, so my attention didn’t waiver much. I played primarily with seeing if I could focus intently on the breath’s more subtle aspects, and then open up some and be more broad in my awareness, relaxing a little, but seeing if I could still keep a constant awareness of breathing. I was completely conscious of each stop as it was called out and as I got to mine, I stood up and walked off the train, with a momentary glance behind me at the empty red seat to see if I’d left anything behind. Nope.

What are your urban sitting stories?

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