This is the twenty-fifth of the series of reflections arising from a month in silence and solitude; the musings invite the reader to explore the Truth for himself or herself. May the writer's reflections be windows to look in, or out, onto the vista of our one Beloved, our deepest, truest Self. Peace! Brian K
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The goal, as well as the purpose of all spiritual practices and endeavors, is not to go somewhere. ... The goal is to come here. To come to the very core essence of our being, and to recognize this amazing reality, this supreme truth in which we are nobody and we have nothing.
*Thubten, Anam. The Magic of Awareness (p. 5). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.
So, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. Rather, when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not act like the hypocrites. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at street corners, to be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. Rather, when when you pray, go into your room and shut the door; there pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
*Gospel of Matthew, 6.2-6
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What we seek for inside meditation, we seek for outside meditation. In such a matter as posture, we do not treat this as in a special compartment, pertaining only to in meditation. Our aim is a discipline whereby we embody consistency and momentum regarding posture in three ways, blending into one: posture-of-body in meditation, posture-of-life outside meditation, posture-of-heart in and outside meditation. Posture-of-heart supports and inspires good posture in and out of meditation.
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The posture in meditation is important. Why? For the posture reflects your way of being in the world and shapes it too. If your posture in meditation is sloppy, what does that say? If your posture in meditation reflects dignity, what does that say? If your posture appears stressed, unnatural, what does that say? If your posture appears relaxed, natural, what does that say?
I used to tell my meditation students, after teaching them posture, "I don't care what is your posture, even if you're hanging from the ceiling, if that works for you." They would laugh. I was saying not overly to be concerned about posture. Relax, do not turn this into a huge deal to be anxious about. Relax, do not think you have to have this right, there is no right for everyone, right for you is what works for you. I was not saying, be sloppy about it. I was not advising be careless, be lazy about it.
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There is much information about posture, and a lot of pridefulness. This pride is normal for beginning practitioners, and the path has a way of wearing it away. You can view persons online, in a lotus or hatha yoga position posing for the camera, like "Look at me, look what I'm doing." I am not against that, if it has a purpose. Yet, what purpose would it have? Possibly, if one is advertising his or her meditation, yoga, ... class. Otherwise, what purpose? As with our posture in life, we need not call undue attention to ourselves, be ostentatious. There is absolutely nothing special about any posture, from lying supine to full lotus to twisting the body this or that way. Persons in some Eastern cultures once sat in lotus, for that was their everyday chair. There was nothing special about it. So, naturally, when meditating, they would sit as they sat at other times. Do not make a show out of your spiritual path, that is disrespecting the path and the Teachers and ancestors of the path. Be more dignified than that, honor the path, Teachers, and ancestors. Simplicity and humbleness is wisdom in the Way. Simplicity is beautiful, do not underestimate it. The ego oft likes to appear special, so relax and rejoice in being simply with others as a human being. Your posture, in life and spiritual practice, let it communicate sane dignity, not arrogance or a sense of specialness. The path is special, your engaging the path is not special, your posture is not special, not at all.
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In solitude, I explored a sense that I had become too relaxed in my posture. So, after going into solitude, I endured about a week of pain to adjust my body to sitting on a meditation bench. I found my legs and knees became okay for 40-minute sits, some times up to an hour. I sit two times daily now, at home. More than 45-60 minutes each sit and my knees and legs will not tolerate it. I can engage other postures, as well, but I most enjoy being on the bench. Yet, I cannot undo either age or the miles in cycling and running on my legs and knees. And all this connects with the Three Poisons in Buddhism, one being "greed, clinging." I can be relaxed and know my limits, rather than cling to, be greedy for, pushing beyond healthy limits. So, yes, I would like to meditate longer on my little bench sometimes, but, anyway, I agree with meditation teachers that in longer sits, say over 45 minutes, the quality of meditation begins to lessen. So, really, if you cannot sit for as long as you wish, that is not necessarily bad news. Shorter meditation sits, with wakefulness, is better than longer wherein the mind sags in its alertness. See, one thing some persons may not know, is meditation is intense, though relaxed. And, yes, our minds are not used to that degree of being-present for long periods of time. One may, then, be surprised that too much meditating or too long sitting can lead to mental and physical exhaustion.
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As the mechanic for my bike told me once, when we were discussing distance in my cycling, "Your body will let you know." So, our body lets us know a workable posture and a good time not to go beyond. The posture in meditation and life needs to be workable. Some discomfort on a consistent basis is okay, and that can sharpen awareness. If I am using a bench, I usually have discomfort, but not extreme, in the second half of the sit. That is workable. Meditation teachers give assistance on how to work with bodily discomfort.
I have meditated before, was in too much discomfort, and got up. So, listen to your body. Do not be like the dear lady I read of who stayed in her posture to the point of tears. This says to respect yourself. In life the same way, adjust as you need for life to be workable. If you are under too much stress, mind or body, then, adjust. Work with life, including your mind and body, in a natural way. In life and meditation, be present, let mind and body be in ease. Then, in ease, body and mind are more likely to be able to be open to the posture of the heart.
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I was trained in meditation sitting in a chair. We all sat in a chair, including the Teachers. I recalled, during the solitude, one of the Teachers, years later, sitting before the altar in the little chapel of the retreat. I sensed and saw the wakefulness and being-present, the ease of being. That image has never left me. That is our posture in meditation and life, regardless of how we position the body. Forced and strained is not natural. Natural is natural. Posture should facilitate relaxation, alertness, and receptivity.
I had a meeting for spiritual counsel, years later, with this same Teacher. I shared with her of a different way of meditating and posture I was engaging. I wanted her assessment. She simply said, "I don't think God cares what we do, as long as we are present." So, again, that is part of what we are sharing today. Technique is not priority, wakefulness, being-present, receptivity is. And this in meditation and life. If you get up from meditation and go about your way mindlessly, what is that saying? Momentum, consistency is important.
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We engage a posture in life and meditation to embody pride in the path we are on, this wonderful life given us. We feel blessed to walk the wisdom path and share life with others. We, in both, need a posture kind to body and facilitating being wakefully present, being open to Presence, being receptive to what Grace is working within and through us. We embody the dignified wisdom we aspire to live and share with others. Posture matters, for life matters, yet is not to be held to as though one posture is superior to another posture. Such is simply delusion, another of the Three Poisons. In our varied ways, inside and outside meditation, we can embody the Grace and gracefulness our heart opens to, and such Presence is demonstrated in humbleness before and graciousness toward others. We could say, posture is life, life is posture.
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*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at email@example.com .
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.