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My Meditative Moments

Taking Our Seat- Getting Started, Mindfully

by meditative - December 21st, 2015.
Filed under: Insights For Mindfulness Training, Mindfulness for Parents & Children.

Take Your Seat1We tune in to tune out distraction… relaxed, settled, focused & clear.

No matter what our age, young or old, we all have the inherent capacity to give our full attention, openly & compassionately, to know what we are sensing, thinking, or feeling… here and now… moment by moment. This is the Way of awareness.

Taking our seat is a formal mindfulness meditation practice we can do with regularity to help cultivate our innate ability to focus, concentrate, and pay close attention- whether specifically on a particular object like the breath, or freely on the expansiveness of our ‘pure awareness’.

When we take our seat, it is our purposeful intention to ‘sit’- to rest in awareness with a sense of relaxed alertness- closely and gently observing (experientially) whatever is present without judgment… letting be & letting go’. As the mind wanders, we kindly REMEMBER to bring it back… over and over again.  This is the intent- the attitude- and the practice.

Tuning in and ‘refining’- focusing, relaxing & stabilizing awareness not only helps us to better connect with ourselves- our own mind & body- it also strengthens our capacity to relate and attune to others as we gain clarity in understanding as to what may drive our own thoughts & feelings might be useful and relatable to being more sensitive, empathic, and compassionate with others. ‘Sitting’ is like taking the mind to the gym, and it is in this still, quiet & relaxed ‘space’ of non-doing where we can cultivate mental fitness through the simple yet challenging practice of ‘attending’familiarizing & befriending the mind & body just as they are. As we come to better know how we are… how the mind works and the rest of our body responds, we may begin to experience a shift in consciousness as we accept and settle deeper within ourselves.

After ‘sitting’ with regularity, we may find our mind to wander less- to be more focused & alert- more responsive & less reactive. We may also experience more energy, a recharged outlook fueled with greater compassion & sensitivity, rekindled curiosity & creativity, openness, confidence, and clarity for better decision-making and more appropriate choices. But don’t take my word for it… experience the transformation in the whole of your being for yourself.

In getting started, find a space where the potential for distraction is minimal- whether inside our outside whatever works best for you. ‘TAKE PAUSE’… whether in the morning or in the evening, or anytime of day that fits your particular lifestyle. The duration of the session should be relatively short in the beginning whether its 5, 10, or 15 minutes with some kind of timer (e.g. phone). What matters most is the quality of attention we can give to the practice not the time itself. If practicing with greater frequency is more feasible with shorter sessions, then two 5 minute sessions 5 or 6 days a week may be more effective than a single weekly 45 minute session. Let the practice build on itself, and ‘sit’ as best you can. Sitting some is better than not sitting at all. With time and practice, you may find 30-45 minute sessions to be the norm.

Taking a good posture is vital to sitting for any length of time. It helps to foster the relaxed alertness necessary in our practice. We can sit on either a chair, a bench, or on some kind of raised cushion on the floor. What matters most is a seat that’s solid, comfortable & stable. When sitting in a chair, the bottoms of the feet are touching the floor. On the floor we can use a pillow and a blanket, or a meditation zafu (round sitting cushion), gomden (rectangular block) & zabuton (floor mat/cushion)- sitting loosely cross-legged with legs comfortably in front of you touching your pillow or zabuton, in a half-lotus or lotus position, or kneeling with a meditation (seiza) bench. The gomden is generally a good option for bigger and taller people. If sitting cross-legged on the zafu, you’ll want your bottom placed on its forward third. The zafu can also be placed on its side, between your legs, for sitting in a kneeling posture. There are a number of online meditation supply sources for both adults & children- for e.g.  www.dharmacrafts.com,  www.ziji.com, etc.

The body should always be comfortable, stable, and erect. Keep your spine straight, shoulders down & relaxed, the back and neck in line with the natural curvature of your spine. Let the arms drop naturally to your sides, parallel with your upper body, and let the hands rest on top of the thighs- or in a “meditation mudra” where you simply rest your left hand inside the right hand, palms facing upward, thumbs lightly touching together in the lap of your seated position.

Take a moment at this point and check in with your body- if it is too far forward you will feel hunched, and if too far back you will feel stiff. To get the most out of your meditation session, you need to tune in your ‘instrument’- your body. Again, you are taking a posture to support ‘relaxed alertness’ and trying to minimize the potential for distraction by sitting too loosely or tightly. Ease in sitting comes from a balanced and stable posture.

Once settled into your seated posture, drop your chin a little, and gently allow your eyelids to lower with your gaze cast slightly downward. The eyes can also be closed, but if you become too relaxed or sleepy then utilize the former technique. Rest the tongue lightly on the roof of your mouth. Take a few moments and simply breathe into this posture listening to the body. When beginning to practice meditation, you might experience some initial discomfort with sitting as the body may be holding significant tension and not yet acclimated to being still in a naturally upright position- much as you would if you took up a new sport. Remember that it is ok to change positions if you are feeling pain. In a longer session, you may even try standing behind your cushion for a while until you feel ready to sit again. It is important to accept your body as it is and to be gentle with yourself. Meditation is a life-long practice. The Heart Sutra says, “No attainment, with nothing to attain”. In time your body will become comfortable and at ease with sitting, and you will look forward to “taking your seat” and “assuming the position”.

 

 

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