It is essential to assume a strong meditation posture. It should be relaxed enough to allow you to sustain your sitting, yet erect enough to allow you to remain alert and aware, without undue slumping or sagging.
Sitting on the floor.
You will need to sit on a cushion (or two), pillow or folded blanket.
Sit on the forward half to third of the cushion so as you cross your legs they slope slightly downwards to your knees which should both be in contact with the floor. You do not want to sit too high on the cushion as this tilts the pelvis forward and causes you to lean back (arching the spine) in compensation.
The correct position forms a ‘tripod’ with the 3 points of contact being your 2 knees and the base of your spine (after referred to as your sitting bone). If one of your knees does not reach the ground in this position you can place another cushion or folded blanket under it for support.
Selection of posture.
There are several ways of crossing your legs to assume a meditation posture.
- You can just sit cross-legged. This is fine, but you will probably find yourself getting uncomfortable (or your legs falling asleep) pretty quickly.
- Burmese style. This is the best selection for new meditators. Instead of crossing your legs, one leg rests in front of the other.
The sole of the front foot tends to rest against the shin of the other leg. Knees touching the floor if possible.
- Half Lotus. Requires slightly more flexibility. One foot is lifted to rest on the thigh of the other leg.
- Full Lotus. Everyone has seen this one. Each foot rests on the thigh of the opposite leg. Requires a hight degree of flexibility but is a very stable posture.
NOTE: do not attempt full lotus unless you have attained significant flexibility. Attempting to force your legs when not ready may damage your knee joints.
Some people prefer to sit in the kneeling position (Seiza). You can scrunch up a cushion or turn it on its side and straddle it between your legs as you kneel. Or you can use a commercially available bench like this one.
Sitting on a chair.
If sitting on the floor is not your cup of tea, or you just do not have the flexibility now to sit cross-legged, sitting in on a chair is perfectly good.
Sit slightly forward on the chair with your back away from the backrest. Legs slightly apart with feet flat on the ground.
Instructions for posture.
This is the most important part.
Practice sitting in your chosen posture with attention to the following elements.
Body and mind are intimately connected, so as you assume your chosen position your mind will associate it with the meditative state. Likewise, as you become more aware during your practice you will also become more aware of how you inhabit your posture.
- Back. Back straight but not ridged. Most meditation teachers will emphasise the importance of correct spinal posture. I think the easiest way to set your back is to imagine a thin elastic cord attached to the crown of your head and running up to the ceiling. Now imaging that the cord is pulling upwards, lifting your body into a relaxed, erect (but not stiff) position.
- Eyes. Eyes remain open. This is important. If you close your eyes you are likely to drift off to sleep. Instead, look downwards at a single point about 30-60 cm in front of you.
You do not want to have a staring gaze, but instead have a relaxed ‘soft focus’.
- Mouth. Lips gently touching or slightly apart. Relaxed mouth and face. The tip of your tongue just rests up behind the back of your front teeth.
- Hands. Hands rest palm down on your thighs, or you can rest them in your lap. Traditionally, we rest them palms up with the fingers of your left hand resting on top of the fingers of your right hand. Thumbs are simply relaxed or you can have them gently touching as if you were cradling an egg.
OK. That’s it for posture. Have a think about these points. Try it out.
Tomorrow, we will actually sit a 5-minute meditation.
Featured image via: Cdd20