bowing - bending L I F E S T Y L E   M E D I T A T I O N

R  E  S  O  U   R  C  E  S

Posture

Buddha Mind - get one, be one.

INTRO | BASICS | POSTURE | SAMATHA||VIPASSANA | BREATH | METTA | ASUBHA | WALKING

 


balanced bodies

 

 


centred

 


energy centres

This item looks at how to posture the body for sitting meditation and also at body awareness generally and the use of the body as a meditation object.

There are several meditation techniques but all of them assume one thing - that you have a body. I say this as a bit of a joke but the body is often so taken for granted that in fact it can be 'forgotten'. With people's lives so much more removed from nature in 'modern' society, body awareness now arises as an item for conversation and exercise and posture are familiar topics to most people. The establishment and maintenance of a balanced relationship of body and mind is important for health. It is possible to ignore the body but this is usually done through a determined, often manipulative, application of the mind - e.g. absorption into computers or other 'head' related activity - or, the body is used as an instrument to execute the desires of the mind (an exploited worker rather than a working partner). There is a balance point, and bringing attention to the body in a situation of awareness like meditation, will highlight areas of imbalance.

Considering meditation generally the suggestion is one of moving from the complex to the simple. Instead of juggling many things at any one time it is possible to choose just one of those things and to sustain attention on it as a meditation object. The most common meditation object is the breath [see BREATH]. This can be a bit too subtle for many people - especially if your mind is busy, busy - so the body itself, as a potentially more tangible object, can be used as an object of meditation.
Normally we are going here, doing this and doing that - our (physical) experience is quite complex. Classic meditation says - 'Stop. Sit down. Meditate.' This is not always possible - either on account of the time one has to spare or there is just too much energy and restlessness. So, how much can you change your bodily activity in the direction of stopping? Surely one can slow up a little - just for a short while?
The key in meditation is always awareness, but this is often lost because there is just too much happening, one tends to be overwhelmed by the multiplicity and by default function on automatic - through basic conditioning, habit. So, how much can you slow down (mentally and physically) and how much can you bring awareness to the current situation?

Structured exercises are good.
Because they have a set pattern they will let you know when you have lost awareness - you will suddenly be brought back to, awaken to your lostness. Examples of this are yoga and tai chi. If you loose awareness or forget the body you may well fall over! You have to learn a set pattern of movements and there is an emphasis on noticing the bodies energy flow, on establishing inner balance or centredness. Best reuslts would be achieved by joining a group led by a competent teacher. There are a lot about these days.

The body is an energetic system and various centres can be used as a focus for meditation. Developing a familiarity with the main points is worth doing as these will act as 'indicators' of internal or mental states; the body mirrors our emotional conditions. Focus the mind at the particular point and notice how it feels. Make a mental list of the qualities and any associated emotional states. If your concentration is not so good you can help direct your attention by putting your hand over the centre - just let it rest there or perhaps press or rub gently. You could try pressing with a finger or thumb and see if there is any nucleus of energy. The system of classification is quite complicated (there are good books on this) but two commonly used centres are:
The belly - often associated with heat, anger, tension, violence, passion, frustration, etc. - and;
The heart - the seat of 'love' and similar emotional states - elation, depression.
These centres respond well to simple massage, meditation and reflective thought. The heart will be discussed further under METTA

There are a considerable number of body awareness techniques on offer these days. Some will lead you toward peace and calm. You can experiment.

                Sitting meditation.

The classic sitting posture is the full lotus with the feet resting on the thighs, soles up. It is worth the effort to develop a good sitting posture and if you are able to sit in either full or half lotus that is fine. If, like many (even seasoned) meditators your knees or hips won't cooperate then you could try sitting cross legged. This is sometimes referred to as the 'Burmese' posture, with both forelegs laying flat on the floor. Experiment with either leg to the front or back.

In either instance I would recommend the use of a cushion; it gets the buttocks up off the floor which relieves the tension on the hips and knees and it tips the pelvis forward slightly which helps keep the back straight. You can experiment with a range of sizes, fillings, shapes, colours, designer labels! - but don't forget it is just for sitting on. If you find your knees complaining a lot you could try putting a cushion under the offending joint to raise and support it. One under each knee, two or three under the butt? Experiment.

[see: RESOURCES - Make a cushion]

The other sitting aid that might be worth considering is a meditation stool or bench.
[see: RESOURCES - Make a stool]

 

spine

less head

& other

things

Getting a good posture established is important if you plan to do regular sitting - which of course you do! Aim to be as comfortable as you can but remember that the body will always have an itch or a twitch or a twinge or a reason why you should move or shuffle or squirm. This is because the basic equipment (the body) is subject to the three conditions [see: 4 NOBLE  TRUTHS] - that's just the way it is, you will never get the 'perfect' posture. Try to keep the spine erect, head balanced evenly over the shoulders. Keep the chest 'open' to assist not only breathing but the general flow of energy. [See: RESOURCES - Intro. to Insight Med. for a few more notes on posture.] There are two common alternatives to sitting meditation: walking and standing. The first is dealt with separately. The second, standing, is very easy. Just stand - feet slightly apart, body balanced. It is an easy alternative to sitting in that if the body becomes too uncomfortable one can just stand up. If you are in a group this is fine - you do it quietly and in fact you take up less floor space.

During any period of sitting meditation there is usually a point when the posture becomes uncomfortable and one wants to change position. There is a discussion on discomfort thresholds under SAMATHA but basically, when you do need to move do so mindfully. The usual equation is: pain = move away. If you can be mindful enough to notice the arising or the increase of pain and then at some point make a deliberate decision; 'Now I am going to change posture,' and do so quietly and slowly, with full awareness - as opposed to just a 'blind' reaction moving away from the pain.

The posture should be firm but not tense. Put enough energy into the system to keep the body balanced and erect but not so much energy you turn yourself into a ramrod, with tight shoulders, knotted belly, tense thighs, heavy heart. Meditation is not about control. Relax. Enjoy.

INTRO | BASICS | POSTURE | SAMATHA||VIPASSANA | BREATH | METTA | ASUBHA | WALKING