In the article ‘how to live a meaningful life‘ we discussed the benefits of meditation in order to bring transformation in life. There are several types of meditation and it depends on individual which is beneficial for them. My experience comes from Tibetan Buddhism, so most of the discussion will be based on it. However, there is no distinction on which one is right or wrong. If someone have practiced in certain kind and that suits the best, it will be highly advisable to carry on that practice.
2 Types of Meditation
- Single pointed meditation (Samatha) – As the name suggests, the meditator chooses a single object and keep his/her concentration focussed on the chosen object (mostly breath)
- Analytical meditation (Vipassana, not to be confused with SN Goenka Vipassana) – Using single pointed the meditator now shifts his/her focus to a particular topic for deep analysis. Throughout the meditation, one is in deep observation without losing focus on the topic
Before starting to meditate it’s important for the mediator to consider the following points –
- Choose a time where mind is fresh and it is always better to start early in the morning
- Choose a calm and quiet place with no external sounds
- A place with very less distraction around so that the energy can flow
- Wear comfortable cloths so that it doesn’t cause hindrance on sitting for an extended period of time
So let us begin with the basic preliminary of our posture that can be conducive to our practice. Although meditation is all about mind but if body is too rigid and uncomfortable then the mind will become distracted. So the objective for a good posture is that the body can be comfortable and the mind can simply concentrate on meditation. There are 7 points to have a good meditation posture. And we will go through each point from bottom to the top.
7 Points Meditation Posture
Most of us have seen image of meditators in Vajra position which is also called full lotus position. This is considered the most stable posture for meditation since it locks the leg and make the back totally straight. However, this position is also the hardest to achieve with left foot on the right thigh and right foot on left thigh with sole facing upwards. Although difficult but with little practice one can slowly achieve this position.
If this is too challenging for someone then one can try the half lotus position where one leg is on the ground and the other leg is on top of the thigh.
Note – (If sitting on the floor it is much advisable to use a firm cushion to raise the buttock up higher than the knees. This can greatly help in preventing numbing the legs)
If someone have difficulty in sitting crossed leg, then one can use Japanese bench with legs folded back. Japanese bench is low in height where the legs can be folded backwards under the bench.
And if someone have medical conditions and is unable to sit on the bench or on the floor then they can choose to sit in a chair without leaning back on the chair and with sole of the feet completely touching the ground.
After experiment which sitting posture that works more conducive to you, the most important thing to keep in mind is to have a complete straight back. Just imagine your vertebrate of your spinal chord stacked straight as a pile of coin without having ay chance of caving. All our energy flows through our back from the feet to the head so if back is not straight we will eventually create a blockage and it will become a hindrance to our practice.
Then coming to the arms and hands. Loosely place the right hand on the palm of the left hand with palms upwards and the thumbs lightly touching each other. The hands rest effortlessly on the thighs, 2-3 inches below your navel. In Buddhist tradition the right hand symbolized method and left hand symbolizes wisdom, so the compassion is acting with wisdom. Shoulders should be relaxed and slightly back and arms should have a V shape allowing space between arms and the body.
We often have seen people meditating with eyes closed, however it is highly advisable to meditate with eyes open. At the beginning it can be quite challenging with our eye consciousness still very strong but slowly with habitual pattern it wouldn’t have much distraction. It is also better to have a free space in front of your eyes with no movement of any object. Once you are fully trained, you can meditate with your eyes open even at the busiest junction. So at the beginning let your eyes be slightly open, enough for the light to come in. This will prevent you from falling asleep during meditation. Lightly gaze on the floor at 45 deg angle without engaging on any object in particular.
Jaw should be relaxed without any flexing. Bring the jaw to its natural position.
Generally with the mouth closed, we let our tongue hanging. But if you do meditation for a longer period of time, saliva will start accumulating. This cause a much needed distraction for your practice since you need to swallow excess saliva every time. To prevent this, gently allow your tongue to touch the upper palette behind the teeth. Also, do not clutch your teeth against each other, rather allow a gap between the upper and lower sets of the teeth.
Head should be centered neither leaning left nor right and just inclining forward so that the gaze is naturally towards the floor. If the chin is too high, then you can start having mental excitement and if you hold your chin too low then you will start having mental dullness or sleepiness. So there is a balance to be struck.
Now since we have covered the 7 points meditation posture, we can finally begin our meditation practice.