Meditation posture/cushion

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Meditation posture/cushion

Postby householder » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:43 pm

Hi all,

Recently on a retreat I experimented (not always by choice) with posture, impact on mindfulness and effect of cushions.

Apart from reaching the obvious conclusions (straight back and good posture = vastly improved concentration and awareness) I found the following:

1. No cushion, just sat on floor in half-lotus = back slouches after a while
2. One cushion, sat in half-lotus = back slouches quite quickly and mind tends to wander extremely quickly
3. Two cushions (or my large zafu at home), sat in half-lotus = extremely good back support, rarely slouching or if so it's only to a small degree, and good concentration (indeed on a couple of occasions I've obtained access concentration). But on the retreat, after around 15 minutes, a very painful stretching sensation arises in the tip of the knee of the leg that is folded in half-lotus. I'm wary of many warnings regarding knee pain, and this is not knee pain borne of unfamiliarity with sitting meditation.

Given my ordination intentions, I want to obtain the benefits of 3 from sitting on the floor, as I do not often see bhikkus sitting with cushions.

My current technique of dealing with the slouching back is to note and adjust. Unfortunately when it slouches fairly quickly this can become quite irritating as it distracts (if it's a concentration practice I'm doing). I wondered whether anyone could assist with tips and ideas on how best to work to improve, and then set and maintain posture whilst sitting on the floor, stretches or exercises leading up to a sitting etc. I remember a lay meditator of some 4 years experience on my first vipassana retreat who set his position, with a ramrod straight back, and held it more or less without moving for each 45-minute sit. It was very inspiring!

Thanks all. I'm quite tired so if the post is rambling or incoherent, please advise which parts I should clarify.

h
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:49 am

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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby icyteru » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:24 pm

Try no cushion. Full lotus.
It's all about custom. If you keep practicing you can do it with ease, without pain. :buddha1:
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby David2 » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:46 pm

icyteru wrote:Try no cushion. Full lotus.
It's all about custom. If you keep practicing you can do it with ease, without pain. :buddha1:


So, if it is just about custom, why are there so many people with a lot of sitting experience who don't sit in full lotus and can't imagine doing this comfortably?
Really just custom?
Last edited by David2 on Sat Jul 02, 2011 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Jul 02, 2011 2:28 pm

icyteru wrote:Try no cushion. Full lotus.
It's all about custom. If you keep practicing you can do it with ease, without pain. :buddha1:


My knees aren't what they used to be, and I'm not going to make things worse by doing yogic contortions like this. A chair works just fine these days.

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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby daverupa » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:27 pm

In many people the hips are too narrow to make full lotus possible sans knee injury (runners are often in this category), and in some cases even the Burmese style is knee-endangering. In these cases, the best choice is a meditation bench that allows for a seiza-like posture but with the weight held by the bench rather than the legs.

Western people generally are simply unaccustomed to the lotus postures, and I think it's unhelpful to consider a seated yoga posture to be a meditation prerequisite. Having said that, however, the choice to use a chair isn't great either because the knees aren't generally below the hips, and such a posture isn't as easy to maintain over long periods due to improper maintenance of lumbar lordosis (the natural supportive curve of the spine).

So a bench strikes me as ideal for many. You can make a serviceable bench with just a couple of bricks and a board. It can be well-worth the time saved avoiding attempts to pretzel up, and the motivation to meditate becomes remarkably easier to come by when you know that the posture - in and of itself - isn't going to be an arduous test of endurance.

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    "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]
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby Kenshou » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:14 pm

Usually I sit against something, a wall, whatever, but lately I've been trying to do more without that. Better not to be dependent on something to lean on in order to meditate, right?

I've always been a pretty limber person, and my knees and hips never have any problems with the cross-legged posture. But my back gets stiff quickly when sitting unsupported, and it's much harder to get the body (and so also the mind) settled down. I suppose it's just a matter of practice. Damn western culture and it's chairs.

I find seiza to be quite comfortable, but I don't plan to switch to that unless I have to.
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby daverupa » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:19 pm

Kenshou wrote:But my back gets stiff quickly when sitting unsupported...


Roots of trees and empty huts offer such back support, so you're in good company. I will lean on something if I haven't got a bench handy; it's a good posture to become comfortable with when lotus postures aren't practicable.
    "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]
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Re: Meditation posture/cushion

Postby bodom » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:25 pm

Kenshou wrote:Usually I sit against something, a wall, whatever, but lately I've been trying to do more without that. Better not to be dependent on something to lean on in order to meditate, right?


Ajahn Chah might have some words for you about that. :tongue:

Ajahn Chah Remembered

We used to sit for long hours at times, and the meditation hall for the monks was a stone platform -they don't use cushions in Asia. You have a square cloth, like a handkerchief, that you put down on the stone to sit on. I remember when I started, because sitting on the floor was so painful, I would arrive early at the hall and get a place where I could sit next to one of the pillars and lean against it. After about a week of being with Ajahn Chah, he gathered the monks together for an evening talk after the sitting and he began to talk about how the true practice of Dhamma was to become independent in any circumstance; to not need to lean on things. And then he looked at me. - Jack Kornfield


http://www.fsnewsletter.amaravati.org/html/27/27.htm

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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
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