Day 7:
Sitting and Forgetting

Live Like a Daoist

After completing the assigned exercise for today, click here to access the prompt for tonight’s reflection and to submit your 1-2 paragraph journal entry.


Yan Hui said, “I am making progress.”

Confucius said, “What do you mean?”

Yan Hui said, “I have forgotten humankindness and responsible conduct.” Confucius said, “That’s ok, but you’re still not there.”

Another day he came again and said, “I am making progress.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have forgotten ritual and music.”

Confucius said, “That’s OK, but you’re still not there.”

He returned another day and said yet again, “I am making progress.” “What do you mean?”

Yan Hui said, “I just sit and forget.”

Confucius, jolted as if kicked, said, “What do you mean, you sit and forget?”

Yan Hui said, “It’s a dropping away of my limbs and torso, a chasing off of my sensory acuity, dispersing my physical form and ousting my understanding until I am the same as the Transforming Openness. This is what I call just sitting and forgetting.”

Confucius said, “The same as it? But then you are free of any preference! Transforming? But then you are free of any constancy! You truly are a worthy man! I beg to be accepted as your disciple.” (ZZ 6 / 62)

Over the last few days you have sought to occupy unfamiliar perspectives or even those opposite of your normal views and values. Yan Hui’s “sitting and forgetting,” though, is not intentionally taking up any given stance, but rather trying to live without any specific stance or preference. This might be what comes from “fasting the mind,” and it would be helpful to review that passage as well (see here for previous discussion on Day 4):

Yan Hui said, “What is the fasting of the mind?”

Confucius said, “You have so single-mindedly focused your will that you have been constantly hearkening to it, not with your ears but with your mind, and not only with your mind but even with your vital energy. Instead let your hearkening stay positioned at the ears, your mind going no further than meshing there like a tally. The vital energy is then a vacuity, a waiting for the presence of whatever thing may come. The Course alone is the gathering of this vacuity. This vacuity is the fasting of the mind.”

Yan Hui said, “When I am not yet able to make something happen in the actual world, I regard myself as this person named Hui. But just where something is actually made to happen there, this Hui has not yet begun to exist. Can that be what you mean by vacuity?”

Confucius said, “Exactly. I tell you truly, this way you can go roam around in his cage without feeling the pull of reputation, the pull of all the names.” (ZZ 4 / 37)

Today's Exercise

For the final day of this week’s exercises, we’ll experiment with Yan Hui’s “fasting of the mind” and try to “sit and forget.” To the extent you are able, don’t do things just because you’re supposed to, because they are part of conventional roles or duties. This does not mean you can ignore health guidelines or schoolwork. It may help to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the day trying to identify specific things you’ll “forget.”