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Finding a comfortable seat

Aug 20, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, meditation, Yoga  //  1 Comment

The first night of advanced yoga teacher training (“ATT”) has come and gone, and now I’m preparing for the start of a new day of learning. Last night, we spent part of our evening “finding a comfortable seat”.

folding chair

Sounds like an odd and easy task for a yoga teacher training, it’s almost like pulling up a chair and sitting on it. Our purpose for finding a comfortable seat was not for the purposes of hanging out, but for the purposes of bringing stillness to the body to enable us to bring stillness and awareness to the mind.

Last night, we explored a form of meditation called samatha or mindfulness meditation. Before we could begin our meditation practice, we needed to find a comfortable seat, where our body could be relaxed with the spine long, shoulders broad, legs comfortable, and palms resting gently on our thighs. This is a much more challenging task than it sounds. We explored two options for set up: a cross-legged seat (sukhasana or siddhasana) and a kneeling pose (modified virasana).

set up for cross-legged; rolled blankets can be placed under the knees on both sides of the body for comfort

set up for kneeling; ankles lay over a rolled blanket (adjusted for the height of your ankles), knees align next to one another

Settling into the comfortable seat, the crown of the head reaches towards the ceiling, while the spine remains neutral. The gaze is slightly in front of you and generally down towards the floor. And for this type of meditation, the eyes remain soft and open.

The purpose of samatha meditation is to enhance awareness. It is often referred to as a “thinking” meditation, for as you become aware of your breath, you label thoughts that come to you as “thinking”. This is acknowledging the thought without the thought taking control of your mind. Although this is a type of Buddhist meditation, anyone can practice this. It is not a religious practice; it is a practice of spirituality which can help you become more aware of yourself, your connection with the universe, and your relationship to your spiritual being (e.g. god, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed).

We found our comfortable seats (I prefer the cross-legged set-up as it is easier on my knees) and we began to meditate. Our first practice was for 10 minutes. I sat focusing on my breath, breathing in and out through my nose, gazing on a spot on the floor (trying really hard to keep my eyes soft, as I felt an overwhelming urge for them to close as my contacts got dry). I allowed myself to settle into the space. I found that my mind was relatively still and my bigger challenge was maintaining stillness in my body. I have come so far over the last year as my mind was able to focus on my breath, acknowledge what was happening around me, and then let it go. My mind wasn’t raising. My body, which I couldn’t keep still before we started our session, settled down and calmed. And at the 10 minute mark like clockwork, my right foot fell asleep.

Samatha translates as “calm abiding”. The calmness that the body feels after practicing this type of meditation is a pleasant side effect of the increased awareness, but it’s not the sole purpose for practicing this type of meditation. And my body definitely felt more calm and relaxed afterwards. For many years, when I’ve practiced this type of meditation, I’ve done it for the purpose of calming my body and my mind; now, I will do this to become more aware of my body and my mind.

Samatha is one of a variety of meditation techniques that we will work with over the next year in this ATT. I am excited to work with more and feel more confident now that I can guide a short meditation practice, at least guiding this style of meditation. If you haven’t tried this kind of meditation, I encourage you to find a comfortable seat, set a timer for 2, 5, 10 minutes, and give this mindfulness/awareness meditation a try. And when you are done, journal about your experience or share your experience here.

Check out this article (recommended by my teacher) to find simple instructions for performing samatha meditation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-nichtern/taking-your-seat-simple-m_b_410303.html.

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About Lisa

Auntie to two adorable little boys and a beautiful little girl. Sister. Friend. Yogini. Yoga teacher. Accountant. Knitter. Amateur photographer. Very amateur golfer.

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