My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby Beneath the Wheel » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:05 pm

I attended the first course in a six-week "meditation for beginners" yesterday. I've done some reading about meditation on my own but I'm usually more inclined to do things as part of a course or program rather than by myself, so I temporarily shelved my copy of "Mindfulness in Plain English" and sat for the first time yesterday evening.

It was a really pleasant environment with a group based around the Thai Forest Tradition, which I am already somewhat drawn to, so I was very comfortable and eager to get started. After some basic instruction, we did two 15 minute sessions of guided meditation, focusing on the breath. It was quite an experience to be sitting silently in a room with around 40 other beginners.

I settled into what I think was a decent Burmese posture, and after around 8 minutes my left leg was almost entirely numb. I'm not sure if my knee was off the mat a bit, or if I just need to stretch more, but even after I noted the sensation and returned to the breath, the discomfort become so great that I had to shift around slightly. This kind of jarred me out of focus a bit.

The next session I tried half-lotus to try and alleviate some of the stress on that knee, and it seemed to help a bit. I still felt tingles toward the end of the session but not quite as intense.

I think the most surprising thing was how forcefully my mind tried to wander. I could barely make it past 2 breath-cycles before I'd find myself thinking about work, moving to a new apartment, and "I wonder if I can make it to the gym after this session and get a run in before it gets too late....oh, I wonder if you can do walking meditation on a treadmill? I'll have to ask later."

No, return to the breath.

I'm just assuming this attention gets easier as time goes on, but I really wasn't prepared for how strongly I'd have to struggle with my attention-craving mind.

Well, I just wanted to share that. Anyone have any advice for my poor legs? I'm really looking forward to next week.
User avatar
Beneath the Wheel
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:41 pm

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby bodom » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:12 pm

...so I temporarily shelved my copy of "Mindfulness in Plain English"...



Instead of "shelving" one of the very best meditation manuals for beginners available, (though I understand why you did) you should have read this short section on how to deal with this problem:

Legs Going To Sleep

It is very common for beginners to have their legs fall asleep or go numb during meditation. They are simply not accustomed to the cross-legged posture. Some people get very anxious about this. They feel they must get up and move around. A few are completely convinced that they will get gangrene from lack of circulation. Numbness in the leg is nothing to worry about. it is caused by nerve-pinch, not by lack of circulation. You can't damage the tissues of your legs by sitting. So relax. When your legs fall asleep in meditation, just mindfully observe the phenomenon. Examine what it feels like. It may be sort of uncomfortable, but it is not painful unless you tense up. Just stay calm and watch it. It does not matter if your legs go numb and stay that way for the whole period. After you have meditated for some time, that numbness gradually will disappear. Your body simply adjusts to daily practice. Then you can sit for very long sessions with no numbness whatever.


http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe10.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4580
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:40 pm

BtW,

Sounds pretty much like my first retreat and. in fact, the first day or hours of every subsequent retreat. Hang in there and your legs will get used to it. Metta.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=148031379279&v=info
Kiva-Theravada Buddhists:http://www.kiva.org/team/theravada_buddhists
Dana on the Interwebs:
http://greatergood.com
http://freerice.com
User avatar
Khalil Bodhi
 
Posts: 1610
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:32 pm
Location: NYC

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby Beneath the Wheel » Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:08 pm

Thanks for the feedback. When I said I shelved "Mindfulness", I meant that in a very temporary sense. I tend to accumulate books and read, but never "do". I'll certainly go back to it for more information now that I've spent a little time on the cushion.
User avatar
Beneath the Wheel
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:41 pm

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:22 am

Beneath the Wheel wrote:I'm just assuming this attention gets easier as time goes on, but I really wasn't prepared for how strongly I'd have to struggle with my attention-craving mind.


This is the first "wake up call" everyone has when they start meditation, before this most people don't realise how out of control their mind is. It means you are doing it right, yes it improves over time, but it is a major part of the cause of the sense of unease in our lives so it won't disappear overnight.

Beneath the Wheel wrote:Well, I just wanted to share that. Anyone have any advice for my poor legs? I'm really looking forward to next week.


If you can sit in Burmese posture with knees on the ground and back straight you are doing very well. I've found when I lose feeling in my leg it's due to one of two things, either the cushion is too hard, or the trousers I am wearing are not loose enough, jeans for example.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1874
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby daverupa » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:46 am

Meditation benches are delightful, and can prevent leg pain for those unaccustomed to bare floor seating.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:12 am

Yoga can be very helpful (like the butterfly stretch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqPmI__5g2k). The hips have got to open up, so I am told, but after 8 years, my right foot still goes completely numb...
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby beeblebrox » Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:14 pm

I think the only thing I'd be concerned about is knee. If you feel a pain in it, you really should let it out, and then try again after it feels OK again. Do this as often as you have to, try to find a better position each time. There's really no good reason to try stick with something that will lead to an injury.

I'm not talking about the soreness after you've sat for a long time, which I think is OK, but a twist in the knee that is caused by inflexibility in the hip... which would be noticeable fairly immediately if it's a serious twist, or after a few minutes for a more subtle twist. Never try to force your knees like this, or they'll end up ruined eventually.

Also, if the numbness becomes too uncomfortable, and your attention becomes agitated, I think it's really OK to just let it out. If you can't focus, I think that kinda defeats the purpose.

:anjali:
User avatar
beeblebrox
 
Posts: 939
Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:41 pm

Re: My first sitting, or, "why can't I feel my left leg?"

Postby Beneath the Wheel » Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:24 pm

Is it advisable to use guided meditation at the beginning of one's practice? I see several guided meditations from Ajahn Sumedho and others on a Dhamma Talk website and I'm wondering if it is helpful for a beginner to go along with such a thing, or if that is best left for a bit later in my meditation career.
User avatar
Beneath the Wheel
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:41 pm


Return to Insight Meditation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests