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Posture

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Some people make a big deal about body postures for meditation. It is important, but if you're new to meditation, don't worry too much. Physical discomfort and an over-pushy mental attitude can be a hindrance, so it's important find a way of doing things that feels fairly comfortable. Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothes, and (unless you're doing a walking meditation outdoors on stony ground) it's also a good idea to take off your shoes.

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rotating dot LYING DOWN.

Lying down can may be fine for guided fantasy meditations, or if you have back problems, but the big problem is the possibility of falling asleep! Falling asleep isn't recommended, if only because among other things we are trying to develop 'concentration', and you ain't concentrating if you're asleep!
Choose a surface that's not too soft (a carpeted floor is fine) and lie down with the feet slightly apart, and with your arms down by your sides, palms open. The head should not be raised too much (a thin cushion is much better than a thick one). Rather than make a habit of lying down to meditate, try 'working up' slowly towards say, the half-lotus. For most meditations, closing your eyes is a good idea.


rotating dot SITTING ON A CHAIR.

Choose a straight-backed chair that is just the right height for your legs so that the legs below the knee are straight when they touch the floor. Sit with your back against the back of the chair so that your spine remains fairly erect (but as with most things here, don't force it TOO much).
Let your arms rest on the top of your knees, or alternatively put your hands together in your lap so that the back of your right hand rests lightly on the palm of the left, with the ends of both thumbs lightly resting against each other.


rotating dot SITTING CROSS-LEGGED.

The simplest way to sit cross-legged is to use an optional thin wide cushion or piece of foam for comfort, with the legs lightly crossed in front of you, and the back resting lightly against a wall or chair.
This is fine, although personally I find that a half-lotus position actually gives more support to the back than when the legs are just loosely crossed. Similarly, practising the half-lotus without the help of a wall behind seems to exercise the muscles of the stomach and the back, helping to improve the posture generally, so it's a good one to go for. Doing the half-lotus or lotus positions on a hard floor can result in sore ankles so a thin cushion or piece of foam may again be advisable.
For newcomers to the half-lotus the first thing is to find out which side (of your legs and hips) have the most flexibility. Sit down and tuck the ankle of your least-flexible side well into the middle toward the base of your spine, so that the side of this leg is fairly flat along the floor, foam or cushion. Now hold the ankle of the other leg with your hands and place the top of this foot down on top of your other thigh, such that this ankle is fairly near the middle too. There is a kind of 'gap' there for the top ankle, and with a little experimentaion you can find the most comfortable option. Ideally the knee of the uppermost leg should be down toward, or on, the floor.
The full-lotus usually takes a lot of practise for those of us who aren't naturally very supple. This is the 'classic' eastern posture. Go for it if you have the discipline to develop the suppleness (yoga, stretching, gymnastics may help!) but it's definitely not a good idea to force yourself into this posture for meditation if it's very uncomfortable for you. In the full lotus posture, the tops of both feet rest on the thighs of the opposite leg, with the knees down toward the ground. For all cross-legged postures, the hands should be together, resting lightly in the middle in front of the groin.
Placing the back of the right against the palm of the left, with the ends of the two thumbs lightly touching, feels good, but remember that nothing here is 'set in stone'.


rotating dot WALKING.

Yes, walking! Walking meditations have been part of the practise of many traditions for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. All I can say here is that loose clothes and a loose body (and the right attitude -see elsewhere) are the most important things.
Also, keep in mind that with a bit of practise, you can meditate in all kinds of different situations. The postures mentioned here are simply the most common.


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