October 20, 2009

What is the Right Way to Sit?

Different Buddhist schools recommend a variety of meditative postures. Some emphasize a still, formal posture, while others are less strict and more focused on internal movements of consciousness. Tibetan traditions, for instance, advise an upright spine, erect but relaxed; hands at rest in the lap, with the belly soft; shoulders relaxed, chin slightly tucked, and the gaze lowered with eyelids half shut; the jaw is slack with the tongue behind the upper teeth; the legs are crossed. A Soto Zen Buddhist saying instructs us to sit with formal body and informal mind. The common essential point is to remain balanced and alert, so as to pierce the veil of samsaric illusion.

–Lama Surya Das, from “The Heart of Buddhist Meditation,” Tricycle, Winter 2007

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The Heart of Buddhist Meditation

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karen gosling's picture

I don't belong to an Buddhist organisations or follow any taught methods, my meditations involve no thinking, third eye sights. I have worked these things out since childhood. When I have opened the third eye I use limited thinking depending on what I am faced with. I have always found that the most effective method is flat on my back, eyes closed and drawn slightly inwards, as if going cross-eyed slightly with eyes closed, and then centering the focus down to the tip of the nose, ahead in the dark. I then think only one thought, I look for a little tiny light..when I see it I keep looking for/at it, I find that there are beneficial times to do it. As the sun rises or sets -not necessarily on the dot,an hour before either works well but not too much more than that. Also, when there's a full moon is also beneficial.
My most profound experiences have been when I have done some very tiring physical job so I do heavy gardening to enhance/achieve this it helps to remove bodily focus/distraction. the body is completely relaxed. I realise my methods may not be the same as others. Can I say that there are many many ways to meditate. I find that as I have been meditating since childhood, it has become very easy to meditate in many different ways, even sat with the TV on, on train, plane or car journey as a passenger, lying sideways is also good, I choose to lay on my right.side. I have to be careful because I can slip into a meditative level by accident and where too many thoughts are not needed, so this is important when this happens, to be aware that it is happening. Many people slip into meditative states in many positions at many different times, it isn't unusual.
I hope this is useful to subject being discussed. I wouldn't like to say that sitting cross legged is not necessary as I am aware this is a chosen method by many. I have tried this but not found it anymore effective than my own methods.

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Robbie's picture

Having read first-hand accounts of the first western Zen converts in the 1950s and their severe struggles with the lotus meditation posture (sometimes to the point of at least short-term crippling injuries), this article comes as somthing of a revelation. (I myself got started at a relatively early age.) But I do notice that both the younger and the older people at my sanga are well able to sit on the floor and it is more the middle group that tends to use chairs.

bd's picture

I've heard it said that the Great Way is easy for those without preferences (no picking & choosing).