Fall 2011 – 40 Days of Sitting, and One More Thing

Every year I hold a Sit Off. The first Sit-Off was a response to the ferocious debate on the merit of yoga competition. Should we, or should we not? Is it yogic? Is this all that yoga has been reduced to? Just aerobics, just asana? It went on and on.

After a while, I had enough of it. So I said, in my best Cartman impression, “Screw you guys, I’m going to have a meditation competition, no, even better, a Sit-Off, like a Zoolander Walk Off.”

I also made up some ridiculous rules, like you must be able to sit still while PETA releases hoards of bees into the room and Cotton Eyed Joe is playing on repeat on the background. It sounds horrific, but none of that action or irritation compares to the guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, fantasy, excitement, and memories that my mind can conjure up.

It started out as a joke, but I found a nice side effect. When I set a period of time to devote to something, it focuses my actions and it reinvigorates and strengthens my practice. Also, knowing that many others, oh, who am I kidding, a few others, are doing this with me, can give me a sense of accountability when me don’t feel particularly self-disciplined, which is most of the time.

So, I’m hereby announcing the 3rd round of the Sit-Off.

Why now? If you remember, I already ran the 2nd annual Sit-Off in February. (You totally remember, right?) Well, it occurred on me the other day that from Monday October 3, 2011 to November 11, 2011 are exactly 40 days. And I, predictably like most geeks, have a thing for binary dates.

(Proof: my friend Khoi, a computer engineer, told me he decided long ago he’d get married on 10/10/10, and it didn’t matter with whom.)

The number 40 has always been interesting to me because one year, I wanted to know why Lent is 40 days, so I spent several hours reading Wikipedia on it. Here are some things that Wikipedia sayeth on the subject, some more or less well-known, depending on who you are and what part of the world you live in:

  • Moses spent three consecutive periods of “forty days and forty nights” on Mount Sinai
  • Jesus fasted “Forty days and forty nights” in the Judean desert, which is like
  • The 40 days of fast that Buddha made to the desert before to exert his apostolate.
  • Muhammad was praying and fasting in the cave for 40 days. which is like
  • The 40 days that the Buddha supposedly sat under the bodhi tree before his enlightenment. (Some accounts say 49, not convenient for my purposes here at all.)
  • It is believed that one who assists a blind man for forty steps becomes worthy of entering heaven.
  • Prophet Yunus was in a whales mouth for 40 days (he was having a whale of a time!)
  • Human pregnancy lasts approximately 40 weeks from the time of the last menstrual cycle and childbirth (38 weeks from fertilization).
  • Symbolize the death with oneself and the spiritual rebirth.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

One More Thing
Along with the usual rule, which is that you can sit for any length of time, I’d like to give extra credit for those who’d like to Don’t Break the Chain à la Jerry Seinfeld with any activity that you’d like to start, or stop doing.

In addition to sitting every day, do this just one more thing that you’ve always wanted to do: read that book, write that novel (NanoWriMo is coming), run, work out, floss, etc. The only requirement is you must do it every day. Every. Single. Day. Even just for a minute.

Won’t Power
I read somewhere that if you don’t have will power, have won’t power. I don’t know exactly what that means, having not taken part in any Won’t Power Heart Opening Workshop or Won’t Power Blow Your Mind Tour.

The idea appeals to me in the way a koan does: it turns your head upside down a bit. Does it work? If “I will go to bed early” requires iron will power, and doesn’t always work (usually never), will “I won’t go to bed late” do anything for me?

I don’t know, what say you we find out? As always, let me know you’re in by using the hashtag #openpractice on Twitter, or tagging “openpractice” on your blogs and on Flickr.

Even more extra credit: Start on October 1st instead of October 3rd. 10/01/11 to 11/11/11 make 42 days. And 42, as you know, is The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, at least according to Douglas Adams.

Also, 42 in binary is 00101010, another reason why my friend Khoi wanted to get married on 10/10/10, come hell or high water. Told you us geeks are weird.

But never mind us. Just be where you are, and sit with me.