Meditations Info ...
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Positions and posture ...
The goal of all meditation is to retreat from the world, and, as we have seen there are many ways of doing this.
As you gain experience in the practice of meditation, you will find that certain meditation positions work the best for you and, because of this, they make your meditation time of contemplation, and reflection the best it can be. However, at this stage in your meditation journey, you should try out different meditation positions in order to find the best position for you personally.
It is important when attempting new positions, that you do not force your body into a position. If you find that one of the meditation positions is uncomfortable for you it will be best to keep attempting the position, from day to day, until your body is supple enough to get into the proper position. Meditation is for people of all ages, so one must also make allowances for the bone, and muscular condition of your body.
Please remember that there is no right or wrong position to use for meditation – it is what works best for you, that you find comfortable and that you do not find distracting.
Sitting on the floor, take your right leg and fold it at the knee, until your right ankle is high up on your left thigh. Then fold your left leg at the knee and cross it on top of your right leg, resting the ankle high up on your left thigh. Place both hands extended straight out with elbows almost locked.
Palms face the ceiling and curl your pointer finger and thumb until they touch at the tip. Keep your spine straightened, and lower your chin until it touches your chest. This is a position to meditate and the most commonly depicted. It is not a position that people find easy to achieve. Unless your body is supple, this position takes a lot of practice. But as previously mentioned, do not use this position if you find it sufficiently uncomfortable to cause you the smallest amount of distraction, from the goal of meditation.
If it is the case that you are flexible enough to assume this position, and it is the position that you are most comfortable with, then use the Full Lotus. Otherwise use one of the other positions described below.
This meditation position is an alternative to the full lotus position. You can use this as part of your development towards the full lotus position, that is, if you are determined to achieve the full lotus position eventually.
Sitting on the floor, take your right leg and fold it at the knee, until your right ankle is high up on your left thigh. Then fold your left leg at the knee but keep it on the floor, so that the left ankle touches the right knee. Place both hands extended straight out with elbows almost locked. Place palms and fingers as for the full lotus position.
Indian Style Position
Some meditation requires an erect spine. Kundalini meditations are a type of meditation that requires sitting with an erect spine posture. In the case where you need to be sitting, but your knees or hips are too tight for lotus or half-lotus, go with Indian-style. (NOTE: We will discuss Kundalini meditation later in the course)
For Indian-style, sit on the floor and bend your right leg, until your right ankle is touching your left thigh just above your knee, but your right ankle is still touching the floor. Cross your left shin over your right shin, so that the left ankle touches the right lower thigh while the ankle still touches the floor. Place both hands extended straight out with elbows almost locked. Palms and fingers may be as the other positions. It is important to keep your spine straightened in the vertical position, and lower your chin until it touches your chest.
Laying Down Position
Many people prefer to lie down in order to meditate. This is comfortable and relaxing, but of course it is very easy, particularly at the end of the working day, to cease meditating and doze off. On the positive side one can let the body relax in a supported condition, with no distractions, while one’s focus of attention is directed internally. Unless you are using active meditation with movement, or a kundalini meditation that requires energy to travel up and down your spine, there are no disadvantages for meditating lying down, when compared to the sitting positions described above.
However, if you lie down to meditate you’ll more than likely end up falling asleep, which may be a pleasant relaxation, but it’s not going to bring about the desired changes in the quality of your life.
It should also be noted that there are many people who suffer from serious back problems, sometimes to the extent that even just sitting in a chair is not a suitable option. When I say “serious problems” I refer to conditions of intense, permanent pain that affects one’s life on an ongoing basis; not just when the sufferer is trying to meditate.
If you do suffer with serious back problems (or if you are teaching meditation to someone with back problems) then I suggest lying down to meditate. Make sure that your head is resting on something firm and yet padded. Do not use soft, comfortable pillows - a relatively firm cushion is the best option, or a firm foam block. If you are lying on a carpeted surface, it is sensible to have a folded blanket or a thin layer of foam cushioning (about 1 inch or 2.5cms thick) between your body and the floor.
If you do find that it is necessary to meditate while lying down then I recommend the Alexander Semi-Supine position. (NOTE: The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change (movement) habits in our everyday activities. It is a simple and practical method for improving ease, and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination)
In this position the knees are bent and pointing towards the ceiling. The feet should be flat on the floor, and should be approximately where your knees would be if your legs were lying straight out along the floor. If your legs tend to collapse outwards, as you relax, then you might want to try turning your heels outwards by a small amount, ensuring that your feet remain flat on the floor.
Let us now review some of what we have already covered and delve a little deeper into meditation posture.
The Seven Points of Meditation Posture
The seven points of meditation posture have been used for thousands of years, probably since time immemorial, by the great Masters and Yogis.
They have proven to be highly effective for creating successful meditation practices. These seven points are “meditation cues” and are a necessary foundation to satisfactory and successful meditation. If you do not pay attention to these points, or cues, you are unlikely to become truly successful in taming and managing your mind when practicing meditation.
During this course you will find that many new words are introduced. The majority of these words are from the Asian and Oriental traditions of meditation. Do not worry too much about them because they will be explained as we go.
Whenever you prepare to meditate, sit comfortably in your body, sense your body, and ensure that all 7 points are in position.
For the beginner to meditation, it may be found that the sitting posture may be an uncomfortable position to achieve. The most difficult part is usually found to be when sitting in the cross-legged position called Full Lotus (in Sanskrit this is called Padmasana). If you cannot do the Full Lotus Position, then you should explore the Half Lotus (called Ardha Padmasana). If you still cannot be relaxed or comfortable in Half Lotus, then just sit in a position that is comfortable and stable. The majority of people can sit in a loosely, cross-legged posture with the feet beneath the legs, but many people do not naturally have flexible joints, or may have some injuries, or damage preventing full joint movement. In this case the use of a chair or some system of support is necessary. Folded up blankets and/or cushions can work just as well to elevate the hips, and release discomfort or tension out of the legs, the hips, and the back.
The seven points of meditation posture are:
- The sitting position preferably the Lotus position, but take note of what we have already discussed concerning posture difficulties.
- The position of your back should be straight but not tense or tight.
- The position of your shoulders should be back a little. Raise your shoulders up to your ears and then roll them back so that your shoulder blades move downwards. This motion helps to guide the upper body into position.
- The position of our hands - there are three methods:
- For general relaxation, your hands are in your lap, not too low, with the right hand in the left hand, palms up and the thumbs touching.
- For determination, your hands are flat, palms down, resting one hand on each knee.
- For stimulation, which activates and frees the energy systems of the body (especially the Body, Speech and Mind), each hand has the thumb touching the base of the ring finger, and the fingers closed firmly, not too tight, round the thumb, and the hand resting palm down on each knee.
- The position of your neck is held tall, while lightly tilting the skull down just a few millimetres (by gently bringing in your chin). Ensure the balance of the skull is maintained over the neck.
- The position of your eyes: there are three methods:
- The eyes look down following the tip of your nose.
- The eyes are gently closed.
- The eyes look straight ahead, but very slightly lower than level or lower than the horizon.
- The position of your mouth and tongue; your mouth can either be closed, or just slightly open, so air can escape (as if you were saying softly the letter “aahh”). The tongue is relaxed in a natural position, or the tip of the tongue can lightly touch the roof of the mouth, just behind the area where the gums meet the upper front teeth (this called Jiva Bandha).
Once you have achieved a comfortable meditation position, you can now simply breathe out, breathe in, relax, and focus on the breath entering and leaving your body without any physical distraction. The ongoing traffic of thought in your conscious mind is, of course always there. Just let the thoughts occur and, pass through the conscious mind, neither focus on them nor try to interfere with them in any way. Do not try to change anything passing through your conscious mind, do not try to diminish any of it; do not try to increase any of it.
As you rest in your chosen position just watch the breath, as you continue to do this the thoughts will dissolve of their own accord. As the great spiritual masters have said “... they will diminish and dissolve to the earth ... dissolve to space ... and dissolve to the air”. As you move deeper into the meditative state, you will find that the mind will relax on its own, and thus, become more peaceful and content.
For those who wish to pursue meditation, and derive the benefits to be obtained from this ancient art, it is crucial to understand the following three-point instruction:
Three Point Instruction:
- Meditation is not meditation unless you make it a habit. When meditation practise becomes habitual, then it becomes true meditation.
- You have to spin the twisted yarn, or string of the mind, not too tight or too loose. Too tight, it will be too hard and it will break. And too loose, it will be too soft and it will also break. When you find this balance of mental tension, this becomes meditation.
- If you do not stir water, it settles and remains clear. If you do not disturb the mind, it will settle and become peaceful and free. When you achieve this state, this is meditation.
A regular meditation practise will definitely allow your mind to organize and stabilize itself, and this will allow you to gain peace, happiness, clarity, and above all tranquillity.
Mastering the seven points of meditation posture, as well as understanding the three point instructions on meditation, is of the highest importance. These are the key elements in cultivating a solid foundation for your meditation practise.
© 2014 The School of Natural Health Sciences (MEDITATION, Lesson 2, pp. 1-7).