Many of us struggle with formal meditation. Do I need to sit with my legs crossed in lotus position, or with my hands on my knees with a ram-rod straight spine? Open hips, and flexible knees? Too much effort, forget it.” When we begin to realize that it’s about the intention behind the meditation, then the physical posture specific to our body begins to take form!
Why are you meditating? Have your own reason; not because others are doing it. It might be to unwind, to be a better person off the cushion, to increase your attention span, etc. Tell yourself your reason each time before meditating to initiate the experience. Maybe even use a note card in front of your cushion to ingrain the meditation each time you drop down on the cushion. This will naturally fill your posture with purpose, and be a catalyst for deep meditation.
Dignity Jon-Kabat Zinn and Matthieu Ricard (check out their work ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’ and ‘Why Meditate?’) talk about sitting in meditation with dignity. Sitting with dignity is a good middle ground for our posture. Most of us who sit in meditation for any amount of time, play with trying to sit with a steel rod in our spine. This causes major discomfort in the erector spinae, rhomboids and muscles, leading our thoughts to focus on the uncomfortable feelings in our body. The opposite extreme is sitting with little attention to posture, and slumping. Then we begin to get sleepy, and can’t keep focus on the breath.
Try envisioning dignity in your body. Your spine energetically lifts up from the waist, your chest rises, and the crown of the head gently rests with the neck long, and the jaw spacious. The arms, hands and feet soften. Both Zinn and Ricard note that our physical posture affects our mental posture. It makes sense. Walk around a room with rounded shoulders, looking at the ground for two minutes. See how this affects your mind. Next, energetically hug the shins to the bones, thigh muscles to femurs, and let the spine drift forever upwards. Lift the gaze slightly above eye level. Walk for two minutes. What does this do for you? Lastly, where is your vision normally throughout the day?
- Every moment meditation Anytime we bring awareness to ourselves in the way that we see ourselves, from the witness or supreme consciousness viewpoint, we are in meditation. I like to think of the witness as if we are constantly taking mental pictures of where we physically are in space in any moment. This can include where we mentally are as well. So when we begin to find that small space between stimulus and automatic response, we have a moment of becoming aware of the stimulus, and step in to take the more empowering choice. That is meditating. So make it part of your daily meditation to improve your mediation posture throughout the day; not just when you are on the cushion for thirty minutes. When you sense you are slumping, find your posture of dignity. Try sitting with dignity the next time you sit, to anchor the attention, and create a moment-to-moment meditation for yourself.
Matt Cooke is a 200-hour Kripalu Certified Yoga teacher, Matt’s yoga classes are a sweet blend of living optimally, and taking action to soften to our Creative Warriors! Website: Creative Warrior Movement