Practice Note: Posture

A friend observed that she was “at war” with her sitting posture–the posture she feels produces more alertness requires a lot of effort and other postures feel awkward. You may be familiar with the following technique; I first learned about it from Jack Kornfield and he attributes it to Michele McDonald. You can read more about it at Jack's website. It's a useful technique to employ whenever we encounter walls or obstacles.

There are a lot of ways to practice sitting meditation, but if everything we try seems stressful, it may be a signal to pause and use the RAIN technique to see if we can work with the discomfort and restlessness. Begin by Recognizing whatever is present. Accept (acknowledge) that discomfort is present and as best you are able, do not push it away.

Investigate the physical sensations in the body. At this point, you are not instructing yourself to relax or to change what is present in any way; you are researching and observing so that you can fully understand. When you have fully investigated what sensations are present, look at the mental aspects. Is there resistance? Anxiety? and so forth. Like the Russian nesting dolls or a series of nested boxes, you may find that seeing one factor leads to another and then to another. With each observation, note that there is Non-identification, no self entwined with what is observed. Each sensation or emotion is simply arising, supported by causes and conditions.

Once fully investigated, it may be that sitting meditation is not skillful at this time, particularly if the mind is restless or sleepy. Perhaps what is needed is to stand, walk, engage in body practices such as yoga or tai chi. The Buddha named sitting, walking, standing, and lying down as meditative postures; pick that which is skillful for your condition.