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Today we’re talking about 2 topics – firstly we’ll do a whistle-stop tour of some of the benefits of meditation (just in case your Monkey Mind needs some convincing!) and secondly I’ll give you a quick masterclass on meditation posture – how to sit so that you can feel comfortable when you meditate. It’s not supposed to hurt!
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How did you get on yesterday? Did you get time to sit with the meditation?
Any insights or questions? I’d love to hear from you![/heading][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]
Why On Earth Bother With Meditation?
The benefits of meditation are well documented. Even scientists are now agreeing with what meditators have known for thousands of years. Here’s a whistle-stop tour, to help your body and mind decide why you’re doing this:
- It is common sense that sitting quietly for 10 minutes or more each day will help us feel more calm and help us to de-stress.
- It can also give us more clarity in life, because we are training our mind – the monkey mind – the chattering mind – to concentrate, to relax and to focus. It can help us have more clarity, in everything else that we do.
- It can help us feel happier, because we are learning to accept life as it is and understanding how we impact our experience of life.
- We are practising exercises that help us to let go of the things that cause us pain and the things that stress us. Meditation has been clinically proven to have a positive impact on the hormones that cause the physiological and emotional experiences of stress.
- Scientists have now proven that meditation makes your brain grow! They have studied people who do simple mindfulness meditation exercises, even for a short period of time each day, and they have found that it physically alters your brain. It helps you to feel happier.
- Doctors are even using mindfulness meditation to help people suffering from depression. It is proving to be at least as effective as medication for many patients.
- Regular meditation has been proven to be good for your heart.
One of the side effects of regular meditation, though, is that it often allows you to become who you really are; it often removes the illusions, giving you deeper insights into life’s challenges; it often sets you free from those old, auto-pilot ways of responding to situations; it often helps you to release the baggage and the habits that have kept you stuck. It can set you free from those old blocks and fears.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to create a space for meditation in your daily life, it is likely to help you. As little as ten minutes a day will produce a shift that you will be able to feel.
How To Spot Someone Who Meditates Regularly
People who meditate regularly experience less stress, more calm, more happiness and a sense of being present in every moment.
They are less rocked by the tides of their emotions and are more able to easily handle their experience of life.
You can feel it, when you meet them. They are somehow more solid – more grounded – than most people.
They’re more likely to have a gentle smile on their face and a twinkle in their eye, no matter what is going on around them.
Convinced yet? How about sharing your own thoughts and ideas on this one – what do you think the benefits of meditation are? How do you want it to help you? How have you seen it help others? How about sharing, via our discussion thread?
And moving on… Did you feel any aches or pains during your meditation yesterday? I’m going to let you in on a little secret:
Meditation isn’t meant to hurt!
It’s not about turning your legs into a pretzel.
In fact one of the best places to do meditation, when you are starting out, is on a chair, rather than on the floor.
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
One of the most common objections I hear when talking to people about meditation is that they can’t sit still for that long; it makes their legs hurt and their back ache.
We live in a society where being busy and multi-tasking are badges of honour that we wear with pride. The idea of sitting still and doing nothing can be a real shocker.
But many of us find it uncomfortable to sit still.
Why is that?
Often it is down to tension.
It might be physical tension in the body or it might be due to stress, which is effectively mental tension.
It can also be caused by tiredness – it takes energy to sit still – in which case a deep relaxation will help.
It could also be your Monkey Mind, which loves to distract us from meditating. And if its usual chatter hasn’t worked, it’ll pop in with random aches and itches to drive us scatty!
How Should You Sit To Meditate?
We often think we have to sit in a particular way to meditate, conjuring up images of über-serene models or gnarled yogis, with their legs contorted into the lotus position.
Yes, certain traditions have their ‘usual’ postures. But if they don’t work for you, that’s ok.
There’s no such thing as ‘should’ or ‘have to’, when it comes to getting meditation to work for you.
I have a wonderful, inspirational friend who is in her eighties. We studied together to become meditation teachers. She suffers from genuine physical pain when she sits, and it can take her over an hour to get her body moving in the mornings.
But despite all that, she is still able to find a way to sit still and meditate. I figure that if she can do it, there’s no way I’m entitled to any excuses!
But sitting still for ten minutes is perfectly achievable – think about a typical day:
- when we are driving, we sit for more than ten minutes
- when we are at work, we manage
- at mealtimes, most of us do it
- watching television, we can sit for hours
- on Facebook. . . well. . . ’nuff said!
So we know we can sit still for ten minutes.
But there is something about meditation that can make us tense up into an artificial sitting position.
The most important way to sit when you are meditating is in a way that allows you to feel comfortable, but awake, to make it easy to accept your body. Sometimes if, at a deeper level, we are resisting our meditation, it can make our body tense up, causing discomfort and physical pain – all caused by mental tension.
What To Do If Meditating Hurts
The first tactic in dealing with meditation pain is to notice whether it is ‘real pain’ or ‘give me attention’ pain.
Is It ‘Pretend Pain’?
If you make a slight movement of the bit of you that is aching, does the pain go away? Yes? Then it’s most likely ‘give me attention’ pain – your Monkey Mind trying to distract you from your meditation. And that’s ok!
In that case, here’s a solution:
Imagine you’re breathing into the area that feels tense.
As you breathe in, imagine filling that area with a soft, golden light.
As you breathe out, imagine the tension and discomfort melting away, allowing the area to relax.
Do that for three breaths and the discomfort almost always goes.
Even the simple action of renaming this ‘pain’ as ‘discomfort’ takes away its potency.
If it’s ‘real’ pain…
If pain doesn’t go away when you make a small movement, then it’s ‘legitimate’ or ‘real’ pain. Don’t ignore it! Change your position. If it happens regularly, ask for help with your posture. A good meditation teacher, chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist should be able to help.
What About ‘Pins & Needles’?
This is a really common problem for meditators. If a part of your body has its blood flow restricted, the familiar sensation of ‘pins and needles’ will be the result.
If you get this during your meditation, don’t be a martyr. Change your position, let the blood flow return and then go back to meditating. If it happens regularly, then you need to revisit the posture advice in today’s message and in the ‘Getting Started’ section. If you are really stuck, then ask for help with your meditation posture, as for the ‘real pain’ advice.
Good Posture Is Key
Sitting with good posture is key to enjoying your meditation.
- Lousy posture hurts – even after a few minutes!
- And sloucy posture means you’ll fall asleep, instead of meditating!
Meditation isn’t supposed to hurt. It’s not about turning your legs into a pretzel.
If you’re sitting on a chair (and yes, it’s completly ok to sit on a chair!), it is important to have your back quite straight, rather than slouching. You want to be feeling relaxed, but alert. The easiest way to achieve this is to have the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems in balance. The parasympathetic nervous system is about relaxation, the sympathetic nervous system is about the body’s stress response.
To get them in balance, hold your back quite straight, with a slight tension at the midpoint. This activates both the nervous systems and helps to bring them into balance, leaving you relaxed, but alert.
That’s why we don’t meditate lying down – lying down is how we fall asleep.
Poor back posture during meditation can make you feel breathless. If your back is curved and your belly is squashed, your diaphragm will struggle to work properly and your lungs will also be squashed. This can impact the oxygen levels in the blood stream, which can trigger the uncomfortable feeling of breathlessness, which becomes more obvious when you’re sitting still and silently during meditation.
If you notice yourself feeling breathless, you might like to take 3 deep, sighing breaths – as we do at the beginning of each meditation – and to stretch your back gently. This should sort things. It’s also worth checking you’re not holding your breath – easy to do when you’re concentrating!
Note: persistent breathlessness should not be ignored – go and get appropriate medical help!
What Does Good Meditation Posture Feel Like?
To get a sense of what good meditation posture feels like:
- Imagine a string is connected to the crown of your head.
- Imagine someone is gently pulling that string, to help you lengthen your spine, from the base all the way up to your neck.
- Then tuck your chin slightly in – you’ll feel your neck lengthening and your jaw relaxing.
- Make sure your shoulders aren’t around your ears, but are feeling relaxed.
- It also really helps to have your hips either level or slightly above your knees, to prevent stress in the knee joints and to help you keep your back straight.
There you go!
This might feel a little strange at first, but it can really help with your meditation practice.
The key to good meditation posture is stability.
A stable posture allows your body – and mind – to relax. Once you are used to it, it takes very little effort to maintain it, allowing you to get on with your meditation.
How To Make Meditation More Comfortable
Playing with this at regular points during your day, when you’re not meditating, will help your body get used to relaxing into this posture – as well as gently strengthening your back muscles. Improving your posture generally during the day will make a big difference. Good posture releases tension and strengthens the muscles you use during seated meditation practice.
When you’re meditating in a chair, you might want to:
- add a cushion, just under your pelvis, to tilt it slightly forwards.
- add something under your feet, so that your thighs can be level, your back relaxed and your feet firmly resting on something. Dangling feet and meditation don’t go well together. I often use the phonebook, but you could use a cushion or a rolled up blanket.
- use a cushion under your bottom, to raise yourself up, so that your knees aren’t pointing towards the ceiling.
The key is to have your pelvis level with your knees – not above or below them.
If you are like me, with shorter legs, you might want to:
If you have the opposite problem – long legs – then you might like to:
Get Help With Your Posture
Good posture is a really important part of being able to meditate.
There are many tips, techniques and insider secrets, to make sitting still easier – especially when you start doing longer meditations.
It’s time to meditate. It’s the same meditation audio each day for your week on this course – the mind learns best through repetition. So if you downloaded it yesterday, you don’t need to do it again today. It’s the same file.
When you’re done, how about answering these questions:
How is your body reacting to sitting still for 10 minutes?
How are you handling it?
Got any advice you’d like to share? Or perhaps you’d like some clarity, to check what you’re doing is working?
Here’s where you can share!
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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]I’d love to hear how you get on today.
I’ll be back tomorrow when I’m going to let you in on the secret to keeping yourself motivated – you won’t want to miss this!
With love, Namaste,