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Favorite Meditation Position

May 31, 2011

KING “SEIZA”

Today I tried for the first time, the “Seiza” meditation
position. Traditionally this pose is used in the Japanese meditative tradition.
This involves kneeling on the floor, while sitting on a cushion. I experimented
a little, and ended up using two throw pillows, and a blanket folded several
times to give the pillows a higher base than the floor. There are specific
cushions that you can buy for this, but I think it’s easy to come up with a pillow/blanket
combination that is suitable.

I was very pleasantly surprised, as I anticipated back pain, knee
pain, or foot pain, but I experienced very little discomfort throughout my 15
minute session. My lower back was very balanced, and I did not feel the need to
crouch or lean. The only difficult thing was the placement of my forearms, as
they seemed to be too low, which pulled my shoulders down. None the less, this
was by far the least painful and most pleasant meditation position I’ve encountered
yet.

FORMER
POSITIONS

Up until now I’ve attempted meditation using a chair without
leaning against the back rest, or in a reclined position. The chair position
puts a lot of stress on my upper back, and I often catch myself leaning out of
position to account for this. As I understand it, this pain is valuable in some
practices as it prevents you from ‘falling asleep.” The reclined position
certainly has this threat, as I am very comfortable, and due to the relaxing
part of meditation causes me to fight off the pre-sleep fog.

Though they are considered to be the superior positions due to
stability, Full-lotus (cross-legged, each foot on top of the other leg) and
half-lotus (one foot over the other leg) are too difficult for me to do. I
simply do not have the flexibility to comfortably sit, or even execute. For
now, my zazen is not so deep as to need the added stability of either. It’s
more important now that I can routinely, and comfortably practice each day.

MEDITATIVE PRACTICE

I have tried multiple types of simple meditation. Currently I’m
practicing the first two steps of Zen meditation; Breath Counting, and Breath
Following.

Breath counting involves counting each inhalation and exhalation a
single point, working my way from one to ten. This would be five whole breaths,
without outside thoughts coming in and causing me to lose track of my count.

Sounds easy, and for five breaths it’s not very difficult.
Repeating this sequence over several minutes, takes focus. When these count
breaking thoughts arise, I simply let them come and go in their own time; neither
holding onto them, nor fighting them off. I eventually realize that my count
has been disturbed and I begin again back at one.

If things are going well, I change the counting scheme to one
whole breath as a single point. This now means that my goal is ten whole
breaths in a row, without thought distraction. I do this in order to give
myself less cognitive feedback, and more of a quiet mind state.

Finally, if I have time left in the session I move to Breath
Following. At this point there is no more counting. My cognitive focus is on
some aspect of my breath; Perhaps the feeling of the air against my nostrils/lips;
or the rising and falling of my stomach and lungs.

If I get to this point in a session, I feel very successful. It’s
at this time that I feel the most calm, and peaceful, and it’s a feeling that
lasts for a long time afterward.

If you’re trying and failing at meditation, my best advice is to
cut yourself some slack. Each time a thought disturbs your practice, let it go
without fighting it, and know that it is part of the process. It’s the normal
state of the brain during our busy day to constantly come up with ideas, or
remember tasks to be done. It’s difficult training to slow that process down. I’ve
heard my Tibetan friends refer to it as the “monkey mind.” I think it’s a great
visual description of the problem.

MOVING
FORWARD

I plan to continue with the “Seiza” meditation position. The
session was very peaceful, and focused since I was not fighting back pain, or
fighting off sleep. If you are new to meditation, I highly recommend this as
well.

 

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