Are you sitting comfortably? for Meditation
People often ask me about meditation and why it's so hard to do. Well the truth is, it's not - here are three key principles to making it easier.
A. Find a comfortable way to sit
Sitting comfortably allows you to be upright, which in turn keeps you alert and not too relaxed. There should be little effort so you may need some support.
Let's start with sitting cross-legged on the ground or your yoga mat.
1. Use a wall to support your spine in sustaining an upright position. A bolster or cushion between your back and the wall can create a softer surface to rest into.
2. Sit on a zafu, block or cushion - a slightly soft surface is better than a hard surface as the longer you sit, the harder it feels. If you choose to sit on one or more blocks foam blocks will be more comfortable than cork blocks.
And the magic is that when the pelvis is raised higher than the floor, the hips can open a little more, the knees can drop a little more and the spine can move into its optimal stacked curves that support your body without you having to hold yourself up, which takes effort. Try a few blocks, a large bolster or mini bolster and notice the difference in your spine and your breath. Find the right height to make it easy to maintain for some time.
When you sit cross legged, with your pelvis supported and raised up, you might find your shins can rest on the floor - which will help you keep a stable and comfortable position for meditation. Alternatively, you might find that your knees are still up off the ground; if this is the case, it can feel better if you pad the space between your legs and the the floor with a cushion, blanket, or bolster under each knee (or thigh). That way your muscles won't be struggling to hold your legs still during meditation, instead you can let your legs rest on the supportive props.
3. Use a yoga mat, zabuton or folded blanket to sit on so your ankles can rest into something soft - the longer you stay, the harder it can feel on the ankle bones
4. If sitting cross-legged is a big XXXX no go for your hips and spine, you can straddle a bolster with a soft surface underneath, you can use a chair and plant your feet on the floor or two blocks to feel grounded, or sit on your sofa with a cushion behind you...whatever you choose, there is no correct position for mediation apart from being upright for some time so support yourself in getting out of the way of your body calling for attention.
B. Find a good way to settle all that is stirred up in you
So now you're sitting comfortably, the next step is to become still. Easier said than done!
Often, when you become quiet and still, you may notice how busy your mind is, how fidgety your fingers and toes are, how tired your physical body is - this is a natural result of focusing your attention on being still. So when you are all stirred up, highly charged, irritably fidgety, find a way to tend to this first. Take some long breaths, sigh out, hum, lift and drop your shoulders, even get up and shake out, left foot in, right foot out, shake it all about, jiggle and wriggle, laugh and scream, discharge energy that is getting in the way of you being present to yourself. You may not need to be so vigorous, rocking, swaying and soft humming can help to self-soothe and regulate.
A visualisation you can use is to imagine muddy water in the lake with the sediment starting to settle and move to the bottom to create a clear lake with a mirror-like surface. A pint of Guinness settling can be just as good, use something that has meaning for you!
3. Let go of trying to make something happen
Be alert but not pushy. Again, easier said than done!
My suggestion is put a timer on your phone so you commit to staying here for 10 minutes at least, even if you end up writing a list of things to do in your head or going over that conversation you had and how you would've like to show up in a different way...
Every time you notice your mind drifting off into the past or the future, tell yourself that it's natural for the mind to be switched on. Acknowledging this and not trying to change it can have the desired effect of passing through on its own. This helps to let go of the past and the future and bring you into the present moment,
Ask yourself what is true in this moment - simple things like - I am breathing in, I am breathing out, I am thinking this, I am warm, my fingers are cold, I can feel the contact between my body and the floor, this prop makes all the difference, I think I'll try taking one block away and feeling what difference it makes.
A message reaches the brain that you are tending to yourself, that you are gifting yourself attention - and wow, does your body love it when you come to play! Keep it going, don't be attached to any results of your doing this and trust that whatever comes up in your awareness is just the right thing for today.
Let me know how you get on,
Love Yoga United Meditative Helpdesk
At Yoga United, we sell props to make sitting easier - check out our yoga props section.