The practice of meditation is simple.
- Find your seat;
- Place your mind on your object of focus; and
- When your mind strays, gently re-place it back on that object of focus.
It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Over the next three posts, I’ll focus on each of the steps in more detail.
I teach meditation in chairs. It’s physically accessible to most people, and is a little less intimidating to new meditators than asking them to sit on the floor. When I practice at home, I usually sit in quarter lotus. The most important thing is to find a position that is upright and alert, and feels comfortable for you to sit in for several minutes. Try a few of the following options.
Seated in a Chair: Choose a chair that allows you to sit with an upright posture. A kitchen chair, or even a folding chair will work. A recliner or sofa are not ideal. Plant both feet on the floor so that your knees are directly above your ankles. If you prefer back support, but the back of the chair is angled, use a blanket draped over the back to create support that will allow you to remain in an upright posture. If your feet don’t comfortably reach the floor, use blocks or a cushion to support them.
Easy Pose: This is a great floor pose to start with. Sit cross-legged with your hips on the edge of a cushion, bolster, or a couple of folded blankets. If your knees don’t rest comfortably, or your hips are tight, you can use blankets or blocks to support your legs. In this and each of the following floor positions, your hips should be slightly higher than your knees.
Lotus: This is the classic pose you often see in pictures of meditators with each foot placed on the thigh of the opposite leg, but it can be tough on your knees. I do not recommend using this pose unless you already practice it and know you’ll be comfortable seated this way for several minutes. While I can physically get into this pose, it does strain my knees, and I never meditate in this position.
Half Lotus: In half lotus, one foot is placed on the thigh of the opposite leg, and the other foot is placed under the thigh of the opposite leg.
Quarter Lotus: In quarter lotus, one foot is placed on the calf of the opposite leg, and the other foot is placed under the calf of the opposite leg. This is my preferred pose. I find it to be more comfortable than easy pose for my short, curvy legs. 🙂
Supported Hero Pose: Kneel straddling a bolster or a yoga block covered with a blanket. If your ankles are uncomfortable in this position, you can use a rolled up washcloth or hand towel underneath to support them.
Your torso should be upright and alert, without becoming stiff. Imagine a string pulling upward from the top of your head. Your shoulders are rolled back and your heart is open.
As with your seat, you have many options for your hands. A simple mudra, or hand gesture, you can try is the mudra of calm abiding. For this, place your hands, palms down, on your thighs. This gesture brings a sense of stability and grounding.
The cosmic mudra encourages self-awareness. For this mudra, bring the tips of the fingers of your left hand to the roots of the fingers of your right hand, your thumbs together so the nails are almost touching, and lay your hands gently in your lap. Be mindful in this mudra not to let your thumbs collapse in.
You may already be familiar with chin mudra, or the mudra of consciousness. For this gesture, bring the pads of the thumb and index finger of each hand to touch, and rest them on your thighs.
Another favorite of mine is the earth witness mudra. This represents the moment of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and for me, helps me to feel both connected to the universe and present in my evolving purpose.
Your chin should be slightly tucked, as if you were holding an egg under it. Your mouth can be closed, or just slightly open, with your tongue resting easily, or just touching the back of your front teeth.
Your eyes are kept open, and your gaze should be directed downward toward a point just a few feet in front of you. The gaze is soft, not a hard focus on a single point. We keep our eyes open in this style of meditation to remain present, aware, and mindful in our surroundings. When we close our eyes, we have a greater tendency to turn inward.
Meditation is a practice, and each of the steps helps us practice for an aspect of our daily lives. As we find our proper seat in meditation, we begin to better occupy our seat in life with intention and stability. Finding your seat is part of the meditation itself. Do it deliberately and mindfully, and know that you can carry that action throughout the day. At home or work, take a moment here and there throughout the day to work through the points of posture and to intentionally inhabit your seat – literally and metaphorically – to ground, to connect with your purpose, and to be consciously present.