The position that I recommend for working and meditating is to sit on a cushion of about 10-15 cm high, commonly called zafu, you can also use a yoga brick, on a cushioned mat about 1mt x 1mt commonly called zabuton, or you can also put a folded yoga mat under the cushion.
Sitting cross-legged with each leg facing each other and resting on the ground. Hands on your thighs or left hand on top of the right hand with both palms up and the tips of the thumbs touching gently. Back straight, this is very important! and head aligned. The tip of the tongue behind the upper teeth. Eyes open and relaxed eyelids. This position helps you keep stability, upright but relaxed, so you can stay for long sitting in this way. If you feel sleepy or your mind is very fast you will notice it on your thumbs, in your eyes and in your spine. Try to correct your posture as soon as you notice that it is out of balance.
Find a quiet room or a place where you have no distractions or noise. Sit preferably in front of a white wall, since the objects and designs stimulate the mind and distract us.
Your goal is that your body and mind are still, as relaxed as if asleep, but really awake and alert at a time.
When we spend hours on the computer, sitting in a chair this hurts our body, so it’s good if you can adopt the half-lotus posture just described, also for working.
If your knees hurt and you rather sit on a chair, it is important to keep your back very straight.
Another position for both work and to meditate is to stand with a very straight back and head in line. It’s good to switch between this position and the half-lotus posture.
Finally there is the savasana pose, which involves lying down on your back on a yoga mat with your arms resting at your sides. You can put a small pillow under your head if it helps you align your spine. This position is excellent for relaxation and meditation, but it is not good to work! You also run the risk of falling asleep, so it is good to use it only when you’re stressed or when you have tension in the body.
What posture do you find most comfortable to meditate and work with? How long can you stay in that position without moving?
As a meditation teacher and artist, I’m involved in several
projects. My strategy is to meditate in between projects.
When you meditate, your mind rests from conceptual thinking. In that moment goals don’t matter, you find peace and happiness in the present.
After your meditation, focus on the project you feel more excited about. When you finish it or when you feel you can’t do anymore of that, allow yourself to go into Savasana posture, that is laying on your back with your arms to the sides and a little pillow on your head, you can also adopt the traditional sitting posture. Then do a Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation, 24 min is good, but it can be shorter, longer would be excellent.
After your session, repeat the process. Try to mantain a continuity on your mindfulness so you can enter easily into a state of flow in your next activity.
Have you ever felt motivated to do a project that at the time seemed very significant, or get involved in a job or activity that would be of much benefit to others? But as you started to develop it, you started to face the obstacles that come with any type of business or project?. You realized that in order to do that, you had to fight tirelessly, to do things that were unpleasant and that required money and effort and that there was no guarantee of success, not even knowing if it would really benefit humanity.
You questioned whether your motivation behind this project was not in some way also dominated by some self-centered desire, to get recognition, or money, or some kind of personal benefit. You met people who opposed or discouraged you, telling you that it was not worth investing your time, or that it was not a good idea nor a useful project.
Little by little you felt more and more discouraged, less motivated, and finally decided that it was not worth putting more time and energy into that project. You finally quited. And you started to wonder what’s really worthwhile?
I have been there, and the only thing I have found worthwhile is to watch my mind closely, to see how thoughts arise that crystallize into motivations, motivations that produce emotions that feed the energy that leads to action. Be aware, what is your motivation behind each action?. And when you discover that it’s a self-centered motivation, ask yourself if it’s really worthwhile.
Reflecting on our actions, becoming aware of our motivations, emotions and thoughts, is what really is worth, only in this way we begin to know ourselves, to become better people, more attentive, kind, generous and patient, and when we are dedicated to this observation and transformation we can begin to act wisely, effortlessly and selflessly. Action happens in a natural way. And when there is no necessary action, the stillness of our body, whether in the sitting position or in the supine posture, allows us to continue to observe our mind, in the present, releasing the clinging to the past and to the future.
What is it really worthwhile for you?
The fundamental nature of the human being is goodness, you and I and almost everyone knows it, but some people have many veils of ignorance that hide their true nature, it’s ignorance that makes them feel alienated, locked in a body, fending others and the world, they do not realize that by harming others they harm themselves.
When we recognize our fundamental nature, we eliminate ignorance and ego-clinging. And we recognize that our happiness is tied to that of others.
All this sounds great, and we know it in theory, but how can we start and really transform ourselves? It’s not enough to recognize that we have a big ego and that we are dominated by our mental afflictions, we already know, every time we blame, criticize or justify ourselves or others, we know that the ego is in action.
The best way to begin a real transformation is to start watching our minds. Carefully. Unfollow thoughts and bring our attention again and again to the present, to our senses, what we are doing, what we are seeing, feeling, hearing, etc. This is, to start living with full awareness. To see our emotions arise and decide how to react wisely. Cultivating concentration to focus on what it is worthy, cultivating a good heart to help those around us and develop our wisdom.
This process does not happen overnight, nor praying, nor reading books or discussing our views. The only way is to practice, and how do we practice? we begin by having a dedicated space for our inner practice, with proper posture, and devote 5, 10 or 20 minutes every morning to train our mind. During the day apply everything you practiced in your relationships with other beings and with the world. Click here to learn how to make the first practice. Gradually ego-clinging will decrease and your fundamental nature will emerge.
There is nothing more beneficial than the following five practices:
The Four Applications of Mindfulness (body, feelings, mind and mental objects)
Four Immeasurable (compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity)
The Great Perfection
These practices are a direct path to the realization of our deepest nature and potentials of consciousness. These meditations are essential for refining the attention, growing recollection, opening the heart, investigating the nature of the waking state and its relationship with our dreams, and finally investigate the nature of consciousness itself. Each takes you a step further on the path to enlightenment, but we need not believe in a specific creed to commit to them, and quickly you can see for yourself how these relieve the sufferings of our mind and will lead to a greater sense of wellness and satisfaction.
In each of these practices, we began the session by establishing a proper body posture, and cultivate three qualities: relaxation, stability, and clarity.
There are two positions that I recommend for this practice: sitting or lying down. Generally, the best and most widely recommended posture is sitting on a cushion with legs crossed. If this is too uncomfortable, you can sit in a chair with both feet resting on the floor. But another approach used, not as common, is lying on your back, arms outstretched at your sides, palms up, and your head resting on a pillow. This is especially useful if you have back problems or if you are physically tired or sick.
Any posture you adopt, let your body rest comfortable, with your spine erect but not rigid. Relax your shoulders, with your free arms loose at its sides. Soften your eyes. Let your face relax as much as that of a sleeping baby. After completing this initial relaxation process taking three deep slow breaths through the nostrils. As you inhale, breathe slowly and deeply to the bottom of your abdomen. As if filling a pot with water, fill your belly and expand slowly, then breathe into your diaphragm, and finally to the upper chest. After breathing let it completely free, without forcing it out. Do this three times keeping your attention in the body, especially noting the sensations of the entrance and exit of air. Following these deep breaths, breathing returns to normal, unregulated. Let this quality of physical relaxation be an outward expression of your mind: let your conscience be relaxed, releasing all your worries; simply to be present here and now.
As you inhale and exhale, turn your attention to the tactile sensations of breathing passage in the openings of the nostrils or upper lip. Take a moment to find the feeling. Rest your attention right where you feel the incoming and outgoing breath. Occasionally, check you’re still breathing into the abdomen. This will happen naturally if your body is seated with your back straight and relaxed and soft belly.
During each session of meditation allow your body to stay as still as possible, with minimal nervousness; remain motionless as a mountain. This helps to generate the same quality in mind: a quietness, where your attention is focused and continuous.
If you’re lying, still allow your posture reflect a sense of vigilance, not only collapsing into numbness. If you are sitting, whether on a cushion or in a chair, lift your sternum slightly, keeping your belly soft and relaxed. In this way, you naturally breathe in your abdomen, and when breathing deepens, feel your diaphragm and your chest expand as well. Sit attentive without slouching forward or leaning to either side. This physical posture also strengthens the quality of mental alertness.
On this post we are going to explore the first of these 5 practices we talked at the beginning.
Mindfulness of Breathing
Keeping focused attention is vital to virtually everything we do during the day, including work, drive, interact with others, enjoy entertainment and leisure time, and engage in spiritual practice. Therefore, is important to learn to focus our attention. Whatever your normal level, whether you’re usually dispersed or concentrated, the quality of your attention can be improved, and this brings rewards. In this practice, we are taking our conceptually compulsive fragmented conscience, towards deeper simplicity, moving towards a form of witness or an observer. In addition to improving attention, this meditation will improve your health, purge your nervous system, will allow you to sleep better, and improve your emotional balance. This is a different way to apply our minds, and improve with practice. The specific method is to continue growing mindfulness of breathing.
Because of habit, thoughts are likely to arise. When they arise, just as you exhale release them without identifying with them, not responding emotionally to them. Observe the thought emerge, passing in front of you and then fade. Hold your mindfulness of breathing as continuously as possible. You can count your breaths if that’s helpful.
Close your practice session in a meaningful way, dedicate your effort. Something has been gathered in our hearts and minds to apply to ourselves to this constructive activity. After completing the meditation session, you might want to dwell for a minute or so, to dedicate the merit of your practice that can lead to the satisfaction of whatever you find most meaningful to you and others. With intention and attention, this benefit can be directed to wherever we want.
Adapted from the book: “Genuine Happiness” by my teacher Alan Wallace. Spanish translation by Alma and Yonam Ayon