How should I sit in meditation? Don’t feel you need to be supple enough to get into the lotus position on the floor in order to be able to meditate. Most Group members use a chair which is a good place for beginners to start. A chair is a perfectly acceptable meditation base provided you use it correctly.
Body: Sit comfortably on the front part of your chair, keeping your back straight with the head centred over the spine. Don’t lean on the back of the chair. Both feet should be planted firmly on the ground, legs at 90 degrees or slightly more to your body. You should have three points of contact to keep you steady in meditation – your bottom and your two feet. The importance of keeping the back straight is to allow the diaphragm to move freely. The breath is an important part of meditation as we shall see, so it is important to be able to breathe freely and deeply. In general, as we get older, our breathing becomes restricted, and less and less complete. We tend to take shallow breaths in the upper part of the chest. Usually, we’ve got our belts on very tight or we wear tight clothing around the waist. As a result, deep, complete breathing rarely occurs. It is important to loosen up anything that is tight around the waist and to wear clothing that is non-binding. Don’t worry what you look like – you and everyone else will have their eyes closed! The chin is slightly tucked in. Although meditation looks very disciplined, the muscles should be soft. There should be no tension in the body. It doesn’t take strength to keep the body straight.
Hands: The hands should be folded in the cosmic mudra in your lap. The dominant hand is held palm up holding the other hand, also palm up, so that the knuckles of both hands overlap. If you’re right-handed, your right hand is holding the left hand; if you’re left-handed, your left hand is holding the right hand. The thumbs are lightly touching, thus the hands form an oval. If this isn’t comfortable, just rest your hands on your legs.
The objective is to find a comfortable position and to stay in it for the whole of the meditation session without fidgeting. Although pain can be a meditation subject, it rarely brings enlightenment to a new student of meditation! Move if you need to but move mindfully and learn from your mistakes so as to find a meditation position that works for you.
What do I do in silent meditation? There are many different forms of sitting meditation. In our practice, concentration on breathing forms the basis of sitting meditation.
Silent periods of meditation generally last for about twenty minutes. These usually commence with three sounds of the bell. If we are waiting for the session to begin, we can make sure our posture is comfortable and begin the process of focussing awareness on our breathing. At all stages we are aware of our body which should be relaxed and alert.
Our breathing during sitting meditation should be unhurried, light but at the same time deep. We do not aim to control our breathing but rather we allow it to deepen as we relax with the practise. As we concentrate on our breath it becomes possible to follow it with our awareness. We follow the passage of air in and out, aware of our diaphragm or our belly rising and falling. The breath provides a focus for our awareness which unites the body and mind.
When we are distracted with unrelated thoughts, feelings or sensations during sitting meditation – as we all tend to be at times – we try not to dwell on these but simply acknowledge their presence and return to our breathing. We let them go; we do not follow them. Such thoughts, feelings and sensations become like clouds which we allow to pass by without clinging to them. Eventually, if we practise well, the sky will begin to clear.
When we begin to learn sitting meditation it can be helpful to silently recite the word In as we breathe in and Out as we exhale. Alternatively we can count a cycle of inbreaths and outbreaths – say from 1 to 10 before starting again.
Tell the facilitator if you are a beginner and we will try to find a more experienced meditator to mentor you in the early stages.