and body: the need for posture
7-point posture of Vairocana
which may help
There are many different breathing techniques
used in Buddhist meditation. They can be extremely beneficial
but can also be very dangerous and therefore one must learn them
under the direction of a competent master. It is risky, to say
the least, to just pick up techniques from friends or books. Some,
such as vase-breathing and forceful holding of the breath, can
(when not used in the right circumstances) provoke long-lasting
psychological troubles or health problems.
Beginners' meditations mainly help to calm
and stabilise the mind. For this, it is best to breathe naturally
and evenly: not forcedly or artificially. The main point of the
practice will be to keep returning the mind to its focus of attention,
be it the breath or something else, as well as to relax. Natural
breathing helps one to relax, lettting the body find its own settled
You may notice, as you meditate, that
.. the inbreath,
.. the holding of the breath
.. or the outbreath
are not all taking the same length of time. One or more may be
very short or very long compared to the others. If this is the
case, it may be helpful, from time to time only, to practise breathing
evenly, perhaps by counting slowly 1 -2 -3 -4 for each stage,
i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4 for the inbreath, then holding the breath 1, 2,
3, 4 and then 1, 2, 3, 4 as you breathe out. This is quite calming
and can help to create a good, even breathing habit which helps
the mind be more balanced.
One breathes evenly through both nostrils
of the nose, if possible, with the mouth almost closed. The best
breathing is diaphragm breathing, i.e. a process of breathing
animated by the abdomen going in and out somewhat like a bellows,
rather than the main breathing movement coming only from the chest.
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Sometimes elderly people, those with physical
disabilities or problems or even just newcomers find it too difficult
to maintain all aspects of meditation posture. They want an 'at
least' option. The main thing in that case is to try to maintain
the back as straight as possible and to pay attention to the position
of the head, the gaze of the eyes and a natural, even breathing.
One can sit on a chair. Comfortable armchairs (which cause one
to lean backwards) and lying on the floor are to be avoided, as
more often than not one becomes sleepy and dreamy. This is fine
if one only wants to relax but the main point of meditation (not
relaxation) is to awaken the mind; to go from illusion to truth.
If, for whatever reason, you need to meditate
in a comfortable armchair, try to pack cushions behind the back
so that you don't lean backwards.
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crookedly, i.e. do not lean to the left, the right, the front
or the back. Due to physical imbalance, many people feel that
they are sitting perfectly straightly when they are quite twisted.
Meditation texts describe the various sensations, experiences
and problems caused by each wrong posture, once it becomes a habit.
For instance, meditating with the head tilted slightly backwards
can produce some fairly pleasant, spacious feelings at first but
leads to neurotic ones later.
The best thing to do is to have a meditation
teacher or experienced friend helps you establish a good posture.
Mirrors or video cameras can be a help too. This initial training
may require some effort and even slight pain at first but it is
a truly worthwhile investment which will bring its rewards each
time you sit..
environments. Stuffy, dirty, untidy or noisy places and places
with many associations and distractions make learning to meditate
much more difficult for beginners. Clean, neutral places, well-aired
rooms and, if possible, pleasant outdoor places, especially those
such as hillsides where one can have a lot of space before oneself,
help one first learn to settle the mind and find inner peace.
sessions for beginners. It is better to just meditate well, in
a good posture, for a few minutes than to become drowsy and pained
over a longer period of time. The idea is to associate the meditate
session with the most precious, awakened moment of the day. If,
after say 5 minutes, there is pain and distraction, one can take
the mind away from its focus and let the body relax - perhaps
stretch or fidget a little without getting up from the cushion.
Then one returns mindfully to the practice for another 5 minutes.
As soon as one can line up several sessions of clear, crisp meditations,
then one can lengthen each to 6 minutes, 7 minutes and so forth.
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