Keeping Your Seat

In the Buddhist practice of shamanta vipassana meditation, which I studied in grad school, “keeping your seat” was a phrase that came up often. Your seat is your place on the meditation cushion in the correct posture, and keeping it means you don’t fight or flee from whatever thoughts come up, nor do you grasp and hold onto the more attractive and seductive thoughts. We applied the idea to psychotherapy practice. Keeping your seat with a client meant neither judging, getting overinvolved, or shutting out the uncomfortable stuff they brought to a session.

I’m not sure I was ever any good at psychotherapy, but in the limited depth of counseling I’ve done, I tried my best. It’s a challenge to sit with a rapist, child abuser, or murderer, and I definitely failed to keep my seat with one or two. But we’re not perfect as humans, and keeping your seat is a practice, not a place. You don’t arrive and stay there. You have to work at it.

In a more pleasant challenge, I’m working on keeping my seat when praise comes my way for my writing these days. It’s been a LOT. People who I admire tremendously like Hailey Piper, Laird Barron, Eric LaRocca, Tiffany Morris, Gabino Iglesias, Christopher Slatsky, and so many others have said good things lately, sometimes right to my face on zoom or skype – the gall! And part of me wants to run and hide in a hole.

I cringe from praise as a person accustomed to being the black sheep, the throw-away accident kid, and the last person in the room – especially in Sunday school – anyone ever wanted to hear from.

Being on the spot doesn’t feel easy or natural, but I’m working on the practice of owning the praise without running from it in terror or ballooning up with mad destructive egomania – honestly, not much chance of that!

If you’re someone who also suffers pangs of fear when you’re praised, a good place to start learning how to keep your seat is to answer praise only with thanks. That means no arguing. No explaining why the giver of praise is mistaken or deluded, no matter how much you feel that way. Yes, I know you feel that, but feelings aren’t facts. Listen to what they’re telling you. Just say Thank You, and leave it at that.

It feels weird at first. I know. But it gets easier. I promise.

Since I’d like to see more readers discover my books, especially with my collection CONVULSIVE coming out next month, I’m appearing on a bunch of podcasts and sending out tons (or what feels like tons) of social media posts. Do I feel like I should apologize? Yes. Do I spologize? Um, yes, once or twice (see above: practice is not perfection). Do I let it stop me? No.

The overwhelming response to my writing and even to my anxiety-infused ramblings in interviews has been supportive and excited for what’s coming next. I have to keep my seat, say thank you, and try to enjoy that warm fuzzy feeling after the cringe when someone like the delightful Hailey Piper – who has really championed my work from the first – once again makes a glowing remark.

I had the wonderful opportunity to be on a panel with Hailey and a few others from The Book of Queer Saints crew recently for Cursed Morsels podcast. I haven’t listened back yet (for T-voice reasons), but I know I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to have a lively conversation with some of my favorite people in indie horror including Sam Richard, Eric Raglin, and the mastermind and editor behind Queer Saints, Mae Murray. You can listen here:

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting it with a donation at

Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at and on Twitter @horrorsong.

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