Our 'effort' must be to relax ever more deeply. We must ultimately release the tension from both our muscles and our thoughts. When we relax so deeply that we are able to internalize the energy of the senses, the mind becomes focused and a tremendous flow of energy is awakened".
John Novak, Lessons in Meditation
Getting Started in MeditationSee also -
- Crossed Legged on the Floor
- Sitting Astride Cushions
- Sitting on a Hard Backed chair
- Keeping Warm
- Some Helpful Tips
To stop from repeating myself I've put most of the information needed under the title 'Crossed Legged on the Floor', so be sure to read this section even if you are not going to be using this position. However, the best advice for getting started or to snap you out of bad habits is to get yourself to a meditation class and ask the advice of the meditation guide there.
Choosing the right position for meditation is very important. We are used to seeing perfectly poised meditators, cross legged on the floor. However, this does not mean that the only way to successfully meditate is if we sit like that. Finding the right position for us to meditate in can be a good practice in showing loving kindness for our bodies and accepting it's needs. As is the practice of being humble. Our ego can make us feel we should be twisting and straining our bodies into a percieved 'best' position, distracting us from our true goal - meditation!
Not many of us are used to sitting in one position for longer than a few minutes. So, please don't expect your body to sit cross legged for 15 minutes without cramps and loss of feeling in the feet! It is worth remembering that meditation is not a physical endurance excercise. It is perfectly reasonable to sit on a hard backed chair to meditate, many people do. Below I have attempted to describe ways of making yourself comfy in different meditation positions. Get in touch with your own meditation tips.
Remember; If it feels a little bit uncomfortable now, after 5 mins meditating it'll be all you can think about. After 10 mins you'll be praying for the 20 mins to be up. When you finally reach the 20 mins it'll take you another 5 mins to get out of position and another 10mins to regain circulation to your feet!
Take as much time as you like to get yourself the right position and you'll come out of your meditation feeling refreshed, energised and surprised it was over so quickly!
Cross legged can mean:
1) the normal position of both legs crossed one into the other.
2) one leg sitting atop the other.
3) one leg sitting in front of the other in the cross legged shape.
4) Lotus position. Both feet resting in the crook of your hip or atop your knees, soles facing upwards.
Find which ever is most comfortable for you.
Place a rectangular mat or a folded thick blanket on the floor. It should be wide and deep enough for you to sit cross legged on without any of your bits hanging off the edge.
It should be of a thickness that stops any bony bits on your knees, feet and ankles from feeling the pressure that comes from being on a hard surface.
Tip: Another way to help relieve pressure on your feet and ankles is to get some rolled up socks and place them under your ankles.
The cushion you are to put your bum on should be firm and thick enough to protect any bony bits from undue pressure and to lift your bum to help put your spine in the right position. It should be big enough to accomodate you comfortably and be stable so your not leaning to one side and feel you could fall off!
What to do with your arms
To position your arms you could use the meditation mudra; your right hand, palm upward, atop your left palm, with your thumbs softly touching and your hands gentley resting on your lap (using a rolled up pair of socks for your hands to rest on relieves strain on your shoulders).
Alternatively your arms can be rested on your knees/legs, palms upward.
What to Look Out For
When you sit on the cushion bring your awareness to the shape of your back. Is it straight? Do you feel comfortably balanced on your bum bones?
If your shoulders are hunched in a slouchy kind of way this will prevent you from feeling alert and you may start to get a nodding dog effect during your meditation as you try to fall asleep! It will also be unhealthy for your spine and neck. It may be because your cushion is too low. Try putting another firm cushion on top of your current one, it should help. Keep fiddling till you feel comfortable.
If the bottom of your back is curved in towards your belly then your cushions are too high and this will become very uncomfortable not very long into your meditation. It is also unhealthy for your spine. So take the time, have a fiddle and get the height of your cushions right.
When you have done this check to see if you are feeling any pressure points, stress or strain in your torso, legs and feet. If your knees or thighs are feeling strained try putting a cushion under either one or both knees. Just lifting them a little can make an amazing difference! Don't forget the rolled up socks under your ankles to help pressure there.
As the title suggests you can also put two or more cushions on your mat and sit astride them. It is very important to be aware of the shape of your back, as described above.
The best tip for this position is the rolled up socks. Pressure can build up on your ankles, so putting a pair of rolled up socks under them relieves that.
I find that a solid dining room chair is best for this position. It is not comfy enough for me to fall asleep in and it helps to keep the back straight.
The best thing to do is to lift the two legs at the back of the chair with a couple of blocks as thick as thick books. YOU MUST MAKE SURE IT IS STABLE. This puts your back into a good position and keeps you feeling alert. You can fiddle about with how high you need to lift the back legs. It's easy, if it's too high you'll keep sliding off!
You can also place a cushion under your feet for more comfort in your legs.
If you have a bad back and nothing above is helping you, then lying down is probably a good idea. Don't be surprised to find that this position can induce sleep!
Lie on a full length mat or thick blanket to keep you warm and prevent pressure points. Place a cushion under your knees to support your back and if you need it support your head with a cushion. It may help to place a rolled up towel under your neck to keep it straight. Place your arms beside you palms up and make sure you will stay warm by putting a blanket over you. I have found that putting small cushions under my hands helps to prevent strain on my shoulders and neck.
It can make you sleepy if the room you are sitting in is too warm. It's best to be in a fresh feeling room and use a blanket to stop you getting cold.
A thin blanket wrapped around your shoulders or waist is warm and can be supporting for your back. It can also give you something to rest your hands in.
1) If you can help it don't meditate on a full stomach or an empty stomach. A full one will make you feel tired, heavy and probably need the loo. An empty one will start to rumble and be distracting and uncomfortable for you.
2) Remember to empty your bowels before sitting.
3) Make sure you wont be thirsty.
4) Try to choose a time that you wont be distracted. Unplug your phone.
5) Set an atmosphere condusive to peace and calm. You could do this by dimming the lights, lighting a candle and some incense.
6) Before starting to meditate, get into position check how your body feels, adjust your cushions and just sit for a few minutes. Let the busyness of the day settle a little and then re-check how your body feels. You can then re-adjust your cushions if you need to or move the incense away from your nose!
7) Don't forget to be kind to yourself. Meditation is not easy. Your mind will wander, your body will want to do anything but sit there, your nose will itch and you'll probably want to go to sleep. The worst thing you can do is get caught up in the feeling of anger that can arise. Approach these issues with kindness and calm and you will be practicing one of the hardest aspects of meditation.
8) If you're really uncomfortable, it's okay to move!
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