Author Topic: Are you sitting comfortably?  (Read 10489 times)

Mackthefinger

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Are you sitting comfortably?
« on: December 03, 2007, 01:05:20 PM »
Dia duit everyone,

As this is my first post, I guess I should briefly introduce myself before asking questions.

I've been interested in meditation for about 16 years, starting off with a TM course then drifting to
other methods without much discipline. When one didn't work, I'd skip to another; not very fruitful, I know. I've now decided to do a Vipassana retreat in order to teach myself some method and discipline.

So to my question which is a basic one - is there a best way to sit for beginners? Obviously there's no
'easy' way as such, I was just wondering if there was a simple method, just to get your body used to the posture. Others have recommended cushions, seats and something else called 'Seza'? I want to get more from the course than a sore back and crippling knee pain (an old gaelic injury means my knee gets quite
painful if in a difficult position for too long.)

Great forum by the way - I've perused a few of the topics and forums and there's some great information available.


Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2007, 01:37:22 PM »
Hello Mack

Welcome. Glad you are enjoying the forum.

I'm guessing you are in your forties and unless you have and do maintain a high level of overall physical fitness I would recommend doing anything to increase your overall level of physical fitness before attending a retreat. Swimming is particularly good. Meditation is hard work - especially at the beginning.

When it comes to sitting comfortably western bodies unused to lotus posture are going to suffer if they impose it on themselves for ten days as an "introduction". I don't know about the guidelines at Goenka retreats as I haven't attended one but it may be that sitting on a high cushion or even in a chair suits you better.

There is a style of meditation cushion invented by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called a Gomden ("meditation seat" in Tibetan). Without wishing to be rude (and this is not aimed at you) it was designed specifically for fat American asses (Trungpa's Sangha in America are the main users of the cushion):



If you click on the picture it takes you to Samadhi Cushions website. these cushions are actually really great for the novice sitter. Your hips are a bit lifted, you can sit in a loose and relaxed cross legged posture without attempting full lotus. They are basically big lumps of industrial foam with fancy covers so if you didn't want to buy one you could make one. You could try looking at the dimensions of the cushion and then modelling something the same height and fairly firm (a pile of well folded heavy blankets might do) and try sitting on it for a bit to see if it works for you.

Others may come forward with some specific advice from the Goenka tradition but that is what I know on the subject: In short sitting comfortably is more important than pretending you are a lotus when you aren't.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
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Mackthefinger

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2007, 02:29:32 PM »
Hi TIB,

Am actually in my early thirties with a skinny Irish behind so you're only ten years and a couple of thousand miles out  :) :) No offence taken!!

I do like the look of thon cushion, it might just be what I need. Surely its more important to be focusing on meditative technique rather than battling with bad posture? I'll check into my local spiritual
emporium, see if they have one in stock. Or experiment with blankets, see if that works.

Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2007, 02:45:42 PM »
Mack

The blankets are a good way of finding a cushion height that works well for you. Hell, just take a pile of blankets along to sit on if you get comfy!

With the US$ doing what it is doing ordering from the US is quite reasonable. And I am a great believer in DIY: When I went shopping for a little wooden meditation stool I found the local Buddhist centre wanted UK£ 36.00 for one and online they went from £ 30 - 100.

I came home with two hinges and some brass screws from wilkinsons and got my saw and some old wood out. An hour later I had my folding meditation stool. Cost £ 1.86.

So If all else fails go to your local foam cutter/retailer and from an off-cut they will cut you a cushion for pennies. And you can wrap a cloth round it and safety pin it into place - doesn't have to be fancy. Just be sure to get the industrial foam they use for pub seats and stuff as its firmer and tougher. A 20cm high soft cushion and you'll sway around like a drunk at 10pm on a Friday.

Re offence, none meant (either to you or Americans  but the obesity statistics say it all) - glad none taken. They don't call me irreverent for nothing ;) - one day I will tell you a story.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

mettajoey

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2007, 07:02:05 PM »

Re offence, none meant (either to you or Americans  but the obesity statistics say it all) - glad none taken. They don't call me irreverent for nothing ;) - one day I will tell you a story.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew

Well, I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say I anxious to hear this story!  ;D
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

Mackthefinger

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2007, 07:46:44 PM »
Thanks again TIB,

I'm off now to try a few cushions/blankets experiments. Am sure I'll find a suitable position.

Now I'm sitting comfortably, what about that story?  ;)

Stefan

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2007, 10:10:36 PM »
Hello Mack

I was sitting for two days in lotus, half-lotus or simply cross-legged, also tried kneeling, I used cushions and blankets, I built a castle from cushions ... nonetheless after two days my knees were aching badly, no concentration was possible! so I asked the teacher how to overcome the pain ... he told me I should sit in an ordinary plastic chair, and that's what I did! ... no need to be ashamed for western knees (mine are also in the middle thirties and not from america, presumed my mother told me the truth  ;D) ... teacher said that if it was about overcoming the pain, then we'd all have beds of nails. In the meantime, I'm able to sit in half lotus for an hour without pain (not right now due to a vein inflamation) - obviousely it takes time to sit comfortably for looong periods. I wish you good success for your retreat!

Metta to you, Stefan


matthew I'm toooo curious about that story ... maybe I'd understand something afterwards ....
« Last Edit: December 03, 2007, 10:16:22 PM by stefan »
anicca

Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2007, 02:07:46 AM »
loool if I tell you the story you may never come back   :-X
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Paul

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2007, 08:43:39 AM »
Mackthefinger, in the short term its worth experimenting with meditation stools etc to find which suits you best.  In the long term you might want to do like Stefan, get used to sitting in a half lotus position or whatever you choose little by little.  I started on a stool, but little by little naturally changed to a half lotus position, first for 10 minutes, then 20 and now 1 hour or more.  At first you can watch the TV or read in my chosen meditation posture just to get used to it.  In the long run, you might aim to find a position that you can adopt anytime, anywhere so that when you're out walking you can just find a quiet spot and meditate for a while - in Ireland you're spoilt for choice with places like that  :)

Mackthefinger

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2007, 10:31:40 AM »
Paul and Stefan,

Many thanks for your posts. Hopefully on the Vipassana retreat they will have some meditation stools that I can use. At the momment, its just the cross legged position and cushions, and its a constant battle. As the retreat comes closer, my monkey mind is coming up with a myriad of reasons why I'm not going to be able to sit still for ten days, and why I should sit on my comfortable sofa, sup baileys and watch reruns of 'Only fools and horses' christmas specials. But of course I'm more determind than that  ;)

Maybe the teachers will have some advice? I think I'd prefer to sit in a normal western straight back chair
until I'm comfortable with the lotus, half lotus or a stool, but have no idea if this is permissible on a retreat?

mettajoey

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2007, 12:31:06 PM »

Maybe the teachers will have some advice? I think I'd prefer to sit in a normal western straight back chair
until I'm comfortable with the lotus, half lotus or a stool, but have no idea if this is permissible on a retreat?

On your application they ask if you have any injuries.  If you mention a problem with your knee they will likely provide you with a chair.  At my retreat they had many, many cushions, pads, kneelers and whatnot to enable one to bear all the time sitting.  I toughed it out too long before I started alternating between cross-legged and a kneeler but I also learned some good lessons about attachments from that battle.  I really worried about all that sitting before hand and also the meager food. 
I still battle with the discomfort of sitting cross-legged but use it as both a catharsis and to help with equanimity.  I swapped for a chair when I got returned for a bit but now I'm back on the floor.  Anicca, anicca... 
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

Mackthefinger

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2007, 10:52:18 PM »
Silentflute,

Thanks for responding. Its good to know that chairs are hopefully available. My knee is really only a problem if I'm not in the lotus position/half lotus. Cross legged is generally ok (well so far, for the 30 minutes or so I can last at the minute.) The message coming across is that its best to experiment with different postures, but at the same time remember that its not going to be easy and that I can learn a lot from these attachments.

That's interesting what you say about worrying about meagre rations and sitting before you go in; I'm exactly the same. I'm learning a lot about my attachments even before I begin the retreat. The only one that's not bothering me is my nicotine addiction. I find giving up smoking easy, as I've done it many times, but only when I've decided to do it myself. The fact that I'm not allowed to smoke I thought might have made me want to smoke. But not so. Maybe I'll smoke when I leave the retreat, maybe not; but it doesn't seem that big a deal. Maybe its a worry dwarfed by the posture/eating concerns  :)

Many thanks to all for the useful advice so far. I've only been a member since yesterday, and was slightly worried my question was such a basic one - but people have been extemely forthcoming and helpful. Definately good to find such a vibrant community and one that's been able to help with my practical concerns.

yadidb

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2007, 01:09:44 PM »
In the first Goenka course i sat in various positions on a castle of cushions.. although my knees and legs would hurt badly after each one hour sitting.. it used to make me laugh hard after getting up because it was so difficult.

during the second course i found the best posture for me is with one pillow, cross legged but no leg on top of the other (burmese style someone said?)

this is quite a comfortable posture and i can sit for one hour without moving without any pain on my knees with this posture, try it out..

although sometimes the butt starts to hurt ;P

hehe..
have a nice one

Green Tara

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2007, 03:30:18 PM »

 They don't call me irreverent for nothing ;) - one day I will tell you a story.


matthew I'm toooo curious about that story ... maybe I'd understand something afterwards ....



Well, I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say I anxious to hear this story!  ;D
Now I'm sitting comfortably, what about that story?  ;)

sooooooooo TIB what is the story !!!!!!
"Samsaric beings! Cling not to worldly pleasures.  Enter the great city of liberation”

Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2007, 04:15:26 PM »
sooooooooo TIB what is the story !!!!!!

How easily the mind begins to speculate! I think I have to put an end to this.

~o~

It happened when I was living in a Buddhist meditation centre in France. We were a small community of residents - around 25 people year round, expanding to 150+ people during big meditation programs and the summer. During the quieter periods there was quite a lot of work to go round between us in terms of housekeeping type jobs alongside our usual roles (we had 25 toilets for a start!).

We had a work meeting every morning and at the Monday meeting each week we volunteered for the housecleaning jobs. There was a fellow member of the community from Holland and she had ideas above her place in the grand scheme of things. Every Monday as soon as the person running the meeting said "let's do the work Rota", Lisa - as I shall call her - would shout out "I'll clean the Shrine rooms". This had gone on for the whole six months she had been a member of the community by the time I got fed up with it.

One particular Monday I decided to take action. When Lisa volunteered to clean the Shrine rooms (meditation halls), I decided to butt in.

"Lisa", I said, "You've been here six months and I have noticed you always volunteer to clean the Shrine rooms. Don't you think it's about time you offered to do one of the dirtier jobs - like cleaning a toilet or something".

"I am the practice co-ordinator", whined Lisa, "I didn't come here to clean. My work is too important. I don't need to spend my time cleaning toilets".

"Well Lisa, it's like this", said I, "every day you use the toilets and every day someone cleans them. I make a point of volunteering to clean at least one bathroom a week because we all have to take turns at things or the community won't work. Basically Lisa I am fed up of cleaning your shit off the toilet and noticing you never volunteer to take your turn. I think you should clean some shitty toilets like the rest of us do".

At this point Lisa started shouting and so did about twenty other people. A great hullabaloo began. After about two or three minutes of everyone shouting at each other one of the Directors of the centre decided to calm things down. This woman had no idea of how to achieve anything however so rather than trying to achieve a sensible resolution she tried using a Buddhist saying as a platitude and excuse:

"I am sure it's fine if Lisa cleans the Shrine room", she shouted over everyone to quiet them, "After all - it's all one taste".

After a moments silence I stood as if to leave and said, "excellent - if it's all one taste I am sure no one minds if I go and take a shit on the shrine - that way Lisa can take her turn at cleaning up other people's shit like any normal person would".

~o~ brief interlude for world war three to commence ~o~

Once world war three calmed down (that took ten minutes or so), the guy running the meeting shut everyone up, turned to Lisa and asked "Lisa, which toilet would you like to clean?"

~o~

And that is how Lisa came to clean toilets and I came to be called "The Irreverent Buddhist".

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: December 07, 2007, 04:20:07 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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mettajoey

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2007, 04:32:40 PM »
Ha! That's a great story.  Maybe irreverent but certainly not irrelevant.
And we really haven't gotten too far off topic!
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

Stefan

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2007, 04:48:03 PM »
Now I'm sure this is the right forum for me ...

 :D :D :D , Stefan

PS.: I think Lisa was the one who acted irreverent!
anicca

Stefan

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2007, 01:22:22 PM »
... and I forgot to say:

"Very Well Done, Tara!

(...hmmm, Green Tara ... also an interesting story there? .... hmmm, Silentflute ..... hmmm ...)
anicca

Green Tara

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2007, 07:46:35 PM »
... and I forgot to say:

"Very Well Done, Tara!

I was in the army so I know how to get stories out of people.  8)

(...hmmm, Green Tara ...

I am afraid it is a story that can't be told.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2007, 08:10:40 PM by Green Tara »
"Samsaric beings! Cling not to worldly pleasures.  Enter the great city of liberation”

Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2007, 09:00:19 PM »
I was in the army so I know how to get stories out of people.  8)

I'm a storyteller ... Sooo ... I know how to make people want to get them out of me ;)
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Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2007, 09:02:11 PM »
Now I'm sure this is the right forum for me ...

Glad you worked that out ! :D :D :D

PS.: I think Lisa was the one who acted irreverent!

She certainly revered herself greatly. In that she was certainly irreverent regarding truth.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
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Green Tara

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2007, 11:18:16 PM »
[I'm a storyteller ... Sooo ... I know how to make people want to get them out of me ;)

TIB One Tara Nil
"Samsaric beings! Cling not to worldly pleasures.  Enter the great city of liberation”

Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #22 on: December 17, 2007, 07:33:31 AM »
[I'm a storyteller ... Sooo ... I know how to make people want to get them out of me ;)

TIB One Tara Nil

No .. it's not a contest ... everybody having a laugh. Sooo .. what did you do in the army? I love women in uniforms  8)
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Stefan

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #23 on: December 17, 2007, 10:13:36 AM »
I love women in uniforms

Hah! I "met" a woman in uniform at the border to Czech Republik ... wanna bet you wouldn't love her at all?  :P
anicca

Matthew

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Re: Are you sitting comfortably?
« Reply #24 on: December 17, 2007, 04:45:54 PM »
In Israel every bus has many beautiful young Israeli soldiers with machine guns, sun glasses and sexy asses. I like Israel.

:)
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