Monday, February 18, 2008

About Meditation Posture

Some observations about what posture and other bodily specifics work best for meditation. I may add more later as I keep discovering new things or recalling something that I noticed and then forgot.

Pretty much every posture is good enough if it is well balanced. Your mind needs to get centered inside your body, and if posture is not balanced, that will keep distracting your mind and stirring the cloud of emotions and parasite thoughts.

Also, posture that is out of balance will disrupt your breathing and that is not a good thing. Breathing is the most important thing for body and, consequently, the fear of suffocation is one of the most powerful emotions that can make your body tense and bring the sense of anxiety into your subconsciousness. That works in regular life too - a lot of anxiety and unrest may come because we forget to breethe properly or sit in a posture that compresses lungs and diaphragm.

Anyway, like I said, any balanced posture that lets your breathe freely is good enough. But the lotus pose is the best. It is hard for Western people though as we are used to sitting in chairs, so your legs are not flexible enough. I can only sit in half-lotus, and even then I don't put my leg on the hip most of the time - I keep it on the ankle, next to the knee.

But that makes my knees to lay too far apart. In proper lotus pose the legs are on hips and that brings knees much closer together. Why it is good? You need to try it for yourself. Basically, it brings the whole body into much more compact form and naturally evokes the sense of being balanced, centered and, for the lack of better term, "at home". You really get a warm cozy feeling that your home is right here in your body, that you are complete and everything is just all right. Maybe later I'll find better words to describe this feeling.

Plus, this way of sitting has few more benefits:
  • It brings your center and awareness to the "hara" area, as Japanese call it - basically, your center of gravity. That's where all body's power comes from and most people never use it because their imaginary center (where they feel their "I" resides) is located much higher, close to the head - e.g. mine is located in the neck area. So when they act, they act from that center and not from the center of the body. So many problems arise from that - I'll have to come back to this subject some other time.
  • It removes some strain from the back and allows you to keep the spine in a vertical position easily. Your sit like a king on a throne and you feel like a mountain.
  • Vertical spine also means that your lungs and diaphragm are properly expanded and you can breath freely and spontaneously. You don't really need to think about breathing when you meditate, unless you are at a very early stage when you try to follow your breath (e.g. count it) to discipline your mind a little bit and teach it how to stay concentrated.
  • Also, proper lotus posture puts your ancles in a position where they naturally become a comfortable support for your hands - your palms calmly rest on ankles right next to your hara area and reinforce it.

Like with anything else, with meditation you can't just rush in and "try hard-er". First, you need to gradually "break in", and even after that, your practice needs to be very gentle and comfortable. It is all about learning to feel signals that are normally buried under your and outside frantic activities. That goes for the posture too. You can't just break your legs and force yourself into the full lotus. Even if you succeed, in few years your joints will become a total wreck.

You need to stretch the muscles first to the point where sitting in the lotus posture feels comfortable and does not strain your knees - especially this! Knees are very fragile and it is way too easy to make the ligaments loose. It's not the ligaments that must stretch - it's the muscles.

Here is a link to a good set of stretching excercises - http://membres.lycos.fr/zenmontpellier/Lotus-english.html. Unfortunately, on my computer images does not come up properly - this site is old and probably not maintained anymore.

Good luck, friends!

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