Assume The Position

What is the most important part of a meditation practice? Most would say it is being present to your breath, focusing on a mantra, opening your heart to God, feeling connected to the Oneness that binds all of us together in the web of life.

But after years of dancing in, out and around having a consistent practice, I believe that the most important part is sitting down. First there is getting yourself to stop whatever you are doing and actually get your tush on the cushion. That part is huge, and one of the biggest obstacles most of us face.

And then there is the posture itself — relaxed yet upright, spine straight yet fluid, base firm and solid, hands resting lightly on the knees or thighs, eyes closed or half-closed with an unfocused gaze, shoulders down, face soft and jaw unclenched. It is a regal posture; you are saying with your body “Here I am, present and attentive to whatever shows up, whatever thoughts or sensations or emotions flash through my being.” It also says “Here I am, taking my place in the lineage of people who seek to know themselves and how their minds work, so we can relate to ourselves and others with more compassion, wisdom and grace.”

Assuming the position on a fairly regular basis allows your muscles, bones and nervous system to acclimate to what that posture means. It allows cellular memory to build, so that even in your most unruly, agitated meditations, bringing awareness to your body brings you back to the task at hand. If the mind is indeed a monkey, swinging from branches and grabbing at bananas, then lightly touching into the sensation of our body in the meditative posture can slow the movement down and offer it an anchor.

So if you want to meditate but think you can’t, or are having trouble staying with the practice because your mind just WON’T…STOP…WHIRRING, forget about trying to meditate. Instead, make an appointment with yourself to sit for a few minutes every day; relaxed yet upright, spine straight yet fluid, base firm and solid, hands resting lightly on the knees or thighs, eyes closed or half-closed with an unfocused gaze, shoulders down, face soft and jaw unclenched. Take a regal posture.

Feel yourself suspended in space, either on your cushion or on a chair, embodying the solid, compassionate posture of a meditator.  Pay attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your lungs, and let your awareness connect gently with the feel of your tush and legs as they contact the seat, or your hands as they rest on your thighs. Your body holds much wisdom and a huge capacity for sense memory. Train it to carry you to where you think you cannot go.