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The Importance of Meditation Posture

You’re welcome to print this to take yourself on a guided meditation with a supportive meditation posture.

The practice of meditation really starts with how we inhabit our bodies. There are a few important elements of a good meditation posture. The most important thing in a proper meditation posture is that your hips are really stable and supported. When the hips are supported, the spine can rise up freely out of that base of support. You want to sit in a way that allows your shoulders to be balanced right over your hips, and allows your head to be resting right at the top of the spine, so that you’re not leaning forward or leaning back, and you feel really balanced both from front to back and from side to side.

You may choose a firm but comfortable chair where you can place your feet flat on the floor, sit with your hips supported, but your back unsupported, so that you can sit with a long spine with all of its natural curves. Or you may choose to sit on a meditation cushion on the floor that is supportive of an aligned meditation posture. If so, you can sit with your legs either comfortably crossed in front of you or you can sit kneeling.

The eyes are open with a soft spacious gaze, downcast to the space in front of you. The eyes aren’t looking for anything in particular, you’re just allowing the eyes to see. Similarly, the ears receive the sounds that are in the environment around you, without listening for anything specifically.

Take another moment to notice everything else that is here for you to feel in the environment that you find yourself in right now. As you practice, you’ll continue to be aware of things arising in the environment around you. Whatever is here, arising in the present moment, is simply a reminder to be present.

Now, turn your attention to your body and take time to fine tune the alignment of your posture, feeling your body from the inside out. Feel all the points of contact between your body and the ground. Allow your hips and your pelvis to relax into the support of the cushion or the chair. From that ground of support, feel your spine gently lengthening, feeling an uplifted energy rising up through the core of you.

Bring your shoulders right into balance over your hips. Rest your hands palms down on your thighs in a way that supports this upright quality of your meditation posture and at the same time allows you to relax deeply. Feel your head resting buoyantly atop the spine. Feel the crown of your head lifting skyward. Relax your forehead, jaw, and throat. Allow the breath to flow naturally in and out through your nostrils.

See if there are any little subtle shifts that you can make to the alignment of your body to bring just a little bit more of a feeling of ease, so that you can settle in and really commit your physical body to stillness for the duration of your meditation.

It can be difficult at the beginning, as you settling into your meditation posture, to be truly still in the body. There might be a temptation to scratch every itch that arises, or to stretch, or to wiggle, or otherwise fidget. That tendency to move out of stillness is totally natural, but the invitation is just to notice the body, and to allow what arises in the body, and to recognize that we don’t have to scratch every itch, or stretch every time that instinct comes. We can actually allow the body to relax. You can rest your hands palms down on the thighs in support of this intention to be still and to be upright in your meditation posture.

Having arrived fully into stillness, feel for the movement of your breath. Attention to breathing is the heart of the practice of meditation. Notice what happens all by itself when you place your attention wholeheartedly and single pointedly on the feeling of the breath in your body.

Relate very directly and intimately with the feeling experience of the breath as it comes in and goes out, not simply thinking about the breath. As you sit and breathe, you’ll continue to be aware of sounds in the environment around you, sensations within the landscape of your own body, and thoughts and emotions arising in the space of your mind. Let everything be exactly as it is.

When you notice that your attention has been drawn away from the breath by a sound, a sensation, a thought, or a feeling, simply acknowledge what has called you away and very gently, but very precisely bring your attention back and reconnect with the feeling of breath in your body.

It really doesn’t matter how many times your attention is called away. Please don’t judge yourself or give yourself a hard time for becoming distracted. This is the practice of meditation. The only thing that really matters is that you notice when you’re distracted and that you bring your attention back and relax with this next breath, and this next moment. Be right here, right now.

Take a moment to rejoice in this opportunity to practice meditation. Recognize that the practice of meditation has the ability to benefit you by bringing greater well-being and happiness and peace. It also has the ability to bring those qualities of well-being, happiness, and peace to everyone that you come into contact with throughout your day, and to your whole world. Take a moment to offer a dedication of the goodness of your practice:

May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. Peace, peace, peace.

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Compassionate Action

Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.

– Pema Chodron

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Everyone is a Student and a Teacher

Everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher as well. By default you are teaching something. Whether you want to or not, whether you acknowledge it or not, either by showing people what you should do or by showing what you should not do. Someone learns from you even though you may not deliberately want to teach. From just the way you walk your life, someone can learn from you.

– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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Community Spotlight: Adam Smith

 

Where do you live?

Austin

How did you come to meditation?

Upbringing and curiosity brought me to meditation. My father is a bit of a mystic and I grew up around metaphysics and meditation. As a teenager, I learned transcendental meditation from disciples of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru to the likes of the Beatles — as most of you reading this probably know. It was an experience that left me both surprised and impressed.

What inspires you to meditate?

LIFE inspires and necessitates my practice.

What does your meditation practice look like?

It looks like me.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

I would say that insofar as life does not support my practice, it also supports my practice by not supporting my practice. I think there’s a double helix in there somewhere.

How is your life different because of meditation?

I am kind, sane, level headed, and aware of my feelings in any given moment.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

Making time, and using time I find, to settle down. Fortunately, I have been sitting long enough that the siren of serenity is still louder than most of the noise and distraction out there.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

1. Get a cushion that you think is cool. Like a new pair of sneakers, you’re more likely to get out the door and exercise — at least for a little while — if you can make it novel and fun for yourself. (Disclaimer and acknowledged conflict of interest: I sell cool meditation cushions!).

2. Find a support group. We are all in a perpetual state of recovery from our lives and meditation can be hard at times, especially in the beginning. Community is another good word for support group.

What does your heart most long for?

Peace and contentment. In all things. The kind that comes with a long deep breath at the end of life, knowing that you left no personal stone unturned.

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Deepen Your Practice, Become a Meditation Teacher 

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” ~ Lilla Watson

What gifts has meditation brought to your life? Do you feel inspired to share them with others?

When you connect with a practice that has been so life-changing for you, there is a natural desire to want to share it with others. That has most certainly been my experience. I started teaching before I felt “ready” to teach, because I was motivated by a longing to share my experience of a practice that had brought so much goodness to my life, and I was fortunate to have many teachers guiding me not only in my own personal meditation practice, but also on my path to becoming a teacher.

The foundation of a good meditation teacher is a good meditation practice. Arguably, you cannot teach meditation if you are not practicing yourself. By good, I don’t mean perfect, because there is no such thing as a perfect practice. A good practice is one that is ongoing, with highs and lows, joys and challenges, successes and failures. As my friend Elizabete reminds me, “the only way to fail at meditation practice is to not do it at all.” A good practice is one that you return to again and again, day after day, year after year. After awhile, meditation practice becomes a place of refuge, like a trustworthy friend, where you know you can connect with yourself and your open heart and your fundamental worthiness as a human being.

Teaching meditation, in turn, helps deepen your commitment to your practice because when you become a teacher of meditation, it opens up a whole new level of commitment to the practice. You no longer practice only for yourself, but for others. The compassionate motivation to be of benefit to others is the greatest source of energy and inspiration.

There is so much suffering in our world right now, which I am feeling both on a personal and universal scale. Some days I wonder if I am doing enough to alleviate the suffering that I see, and I feel a very real desire to do more. Recently, my friend Kaleigh shared an image with me that I am not soon to forget. She said that when we inspire someone else through our actions, our two hands become four, and as they inspire others four become eight, and so on, and the impact of our actions multiplies.

One of the most profound blessings of being a meditation teacher has been witnessing my students’ hearts opening and seeing how they are living more whole-hearted and compassionate lives as a result of their meditation practice. Knowing that I have inspired others in this way reminds me that I am not alone and that we are all in this together.

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The Dakini Meditative meditation teacher training is a program designed to help you deepen your own practice and learn to take your seat as a teacher so you can clearly and confidently share the practice meditation with others. If you feel ready to take this step on your meditative journey (or even if you don’t feel ready!) you can find out more about the teacher training here

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Three Things

To return back into ourselves, there are three things needed, for which you don’t require a computer, television or radio: the first is a bit of stillness. Nothing can happen without a certain stillness. We also need silence. There is nothing so vocal and articulate as silence; all good language, all great words, are born of it. And the third thing we need is solitude. We need to acknowledge that solitude is an invitation to the soul to come alive. Solitude is utterly luminous if we lose our fears and begin to enter it more deeply.  

– John O’Donohue

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Peace of the Forest

We spend our days in gentle walks and thoughts
Of helping others, here in the silent
Peace of the forest, flowing in soft breezes;
We live doing as we please in our mansion
Of a wide flat rock, cool with the touch
Of moonlight and sandalwood scent of the holy,
Living deep within the woods
Of peacefulness, completely emptied
Of conflict and the afflictions.

-Master Shantideva 700 CE

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Community Spotlight: Chuck Roper

 

Where you live?
Austin, Texas

How did you come to meditation?
I came to meditation accidentally (if there’s such a thing as accidents). I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2016. I had been looking for a spiritual path I could relate to before then, but after the diagnosis, I felt an urgent need to find something I could get my head around. Coincidentally(?) at about the same time, I met Kelly Lindsey, an Austin-based meditation teacher. She agreed to teach me meditation skills, and I took her up on it. That’s how I came to meditation, as well as to a spiritual path that I embraced with gratitude.

What inspires you to meditate?
I don’t need much inspiration to meditate. It has become a regular and essential part of my daily life. I get up early, feed and visit with my three dogs, drink two glasses of water and a cup of bone broth, and lovingly set my butt down on my meditation cushion. I give the cushion a minimum of 20 minutes, followed by a half-hour or so of journaling and planning my day. What inspires me is the way that meditation enriches my life and nudges me forward on my spiritual path.

What does your meditation practice look like?
I practice daily, typically between 7:00-8:00 am. I like to begin my practice with a brief ritual that re-establishes my vows to be an ethical person who leads an ethical life. I sit in meditation for twenty minutes, or more if I feel inspired. I sit cross-legged, facing my altar, with lights dimmed and doors closed.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?
I do. Before I get out of bed in the morning, I say a prayer that was inspired by a description of the Dalai Lama’s morning rituals. I meditate facing my altar, which holds statues and other items that mean enough to me to give them a holy spot alongside the Buddha. I remind myself of my Buddhist vows every morning with three prostrations. I created physical space that supports my spiritual activities and path.

How is your life different because of meditation?
Thanks to meditation, my life is so different in so many ways, but the one that stands out for me is the novel experience of opening my heart, allowing me for (I believe) the first time as an adult, to give and receive heart-centered love with no strings attached. I was always known as a nice guy, a good guy, but my niceness was connected to wanting to be loved, and the “nice” and “good” came from my head and not my heart. Meditation was the essential ingredient that opened my mind and then my heart.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?
Easily–my biggest challenge is true consistency–that is, living pretty much according to the goals that I set for myself. I personally live with mood swings that can influence my motivation to take care of myself generally, including my motivation to sit. That said, I don’t remember a single time when I didn’t feel better after 20 minutes on the cushion.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?
I’m a believer in getting started with the help of someone who knows at least more or less what he’s/she’s doing. This doesn’t mean hiring a high-dollar private instructor. There are many affordable group classes every day that are led by experienced teachers who are oftentimes happy to share their expertise. And if that’s a problem, then there are scores of good books that describe and illustrate meditation. My favorite is Pema Chodron’s “How to Meditate.” The main thing: Give it a try.

What does your heart most long for?
Easy question… My heart longs for a sense of belonging, where others genuinely want me to be a part of their inner world, and I feel worthy of accepting their invitation. I realize that heartfelt desire in my sangha–that is, my community. We are spiritually like-minded women and men who meet and meditate together at least twice a week and retreat together twice a year. I feel accepted and not judged. I belong. For me, it started with meditation and continues with meditation.

Chuck teaches meditation through Mind Oasis, a non-profit, online meditation community. You can find him teaching their Meditate on the 8s membership classes weekly at 8:08am CT Monday mornings!

 

[Photo by Lacey Melguizo]
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