Monday, March 30, 2009

Four tried-and-true meditation positions — plus a few more

If you can’t sit comfortably in any of the usual sitting positions, you can take heart from the Buddhist tradition, which offers four equally acceptable alternatives for formal meditation:
  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Lying down
Giant statues in India and Southeast Asia show the Buddha himself meditating while lying on his right side with his head cradled in his hand. Yogis and ascetics have long meditated while standing, sometimes on one leg. And walking meditation is still widely practiced throughout the world, from the Zen monasteries of Japan and the forest monasteries of Thailand to the Sufi communities of the Middle East and the Christian hermitages of Europe and North America.
Of course, the Sufis recognize a fifth traditional posture — the spinning dance of the dervishes — and the Taoists teach the martial art t’ai chi as a moving meditation. In the West, some of the followers of Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung have developed a meditative form known as authentic movement, and some Christians practice walking in contemplation around a spiral labyrinth. Ultimately, any activity can become a meditation if you do it mindfully.
At formal silent retreats, I’ve seen people meditating in wheelchairs, newcomers perched on high cushions surrounded by bolsters, and oldtimers who do nothing but walk or lie down for ten days. And I’ve seen a photo of the great Indian yogi Swami Muktananda meditating while roosting like a bird in a tree. The point is, there’s no one right way to do it — just discover what works for you.

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