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Thread: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

  1. #1

    Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    Hi,

    I would like to recommend a book about, and entitled, "THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION" (by Will Johnson).

    http://www.amazon.com/Posture-Medita...ref=pd_sim_b_1

    I believe that its philosophy of finding a sitting posture is very much as we encourage here at Treeleaf, namely, we each have to experiment with our own self and make small adjustments to find (within certain rules) the posture "right for my particular body" (one size does not fit all). Further, sitting is not rigid and fixed, but always subtly fluid and changing, such that the posture at the start of a sitting period will not be precisely the same as at the end (or on different days!).

    For this reason, the author presents a philosophy of sitting, and a series of exercises, to help each of us find our "sweet spot" (again, a "sweet spot" that is not stagnant, but needs to flow and change even during one sitting period). It is based on finding (1) an alignment of the body (head, neck, spine, buttocks, legs) that is balanced and in line with gravity (2) relaxed, yet (3) resilient. YOU KNOW IT WHEN YOU FEEL IT. Better said ... when the body feels right, and when the body feels balanced and "drops from mind" (becomes no longer a distraction), it probably is right and balanced.

    This is also very helpful to our situation here, sitting at a physical distance from each other, for I cannot reach out and adjust peoples' postures. For that reason, I recommend that people first seek some basic instruction at a local Zen center (or other Buddhist group) or, if not available, with a local Yoga teacher (very good option, actually), then experiment and adjust on one's own (when the body is forgotten, and no longer an issue, it is a good posture). HOWEVER, the reality is that, even at an "in the flesh, under a roof" Zen group ... it is not that different from Treeleaf because the teacher will usually show beginners the basic posture once or twice at the start, viewed from the teacher's position outside (not from within the student's body and actual sensations) ... then leave the student on her own most of the time. The student still has to "figure out sitting posture for herself".

    Now, a few cautions on the book ...

    I - The author does not emphasize any particular posture. While he does praise and encourage the Lotus Postures or Burmese (as do I), he also says his philosophy works well with a sitting bench, chair or the like. (Like me, he does say not to give up on trying the Lotus Postures too easily ... and to really give them the 'old college try' ... that westerners tend to not give it a sufficient attempt). What is more, there is very little specific advise in the book on how to sit ... apart from some basic rules (such as keeping the knees down on the floor if in Lotus or the like, and the pelvis higher than the knees) combined with his "self tests" for finding a balanced/relaxed/resilient place. So, for example, there is very little specific advise on how to get the knees down on the floor, what to do if the legs fall asleep, etc., except for his advise to keep adjusting until the problem resolves itself. (We have some other threads here at Treeleaf, by the way, on stretches and other strategies for those issues).

    However, his general philosophy should help you find some answers that work on your own body.

    II - He is a little too focused on keeping the body constantly in mind, and making constant adjustments. I would prefer (in keeping with our form of Shikantaza) that folks adjust the body to their "sweet spot" ... then forget about it, and drop the body from mind, returning to "just sitting" ... until a little later in the sitting, for example, when they might give themselves a little "readjustment" if they feel they need, returning to "just sitting" again. I would recommend to "adjust and drop the body from mind", instead of making it a constant object of focus and adjustment, as he sometimes recommends.

    III - Some of his claims in the book are a little new agey and extreme ... such as that staying in line with gravity will have some effect on lengthening life expectancy. (Anyway, true or not ... a minor part of the book. And would it not be nice! ).

    IV - Some of his recommendations in the last chapter for keeping a balanced/relaxed/resilient posture in all of daily life sound not very practical, and some may be downright dangerous (like his recommendation for doing so while driving a car).

    However, with those few cautions ... I recommend the book to everyone at Treeleaf who would like some assistance in finding "the posture right for one's own body".

    Gassho, Oprah
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-10-2015 at 07:42 PM.

  2. #2

    Re: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    Deeply appreciate this. After many months of trying, and combined with other stresses in life, I sank into anger and frustration because I can't even get close to a 'proper' sitting posture, and my hips still hurt, and my knees still fly many inches above the floor. Predictably, I just gave up for a while. Now, I'm in a apathetic view towards posture, just trying to sit but not caring where my legs, etc want to go, so at least my butt is down for a minute or few. I HATE physical challenges, and have always been horrible at them, and this just became another thing I couldn't do. Hopefully the book can help. :| ann

  3. #3

    Re: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    I've often noticed that when my posture is good - and you can always tell, because when it's not you get tightness and aches - my sittings are good. (Not that we aim for good and all that, but you know what I mean...) It's _extremely_ difficult to sit correctly, though, because we are all unbalanced. A book like this could be great to feel more balanced when sitting, and eventually apply that to the rest of your life. I'm reminded of the Alexander Technique and how it helped me get in touch with a freer, more balance posture some years ago. Unfortunately, that's something you need to keep practicing regularly with a teacher, and there's none anywhere near where I live.

  4. #4

    Re: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    They even have it in stock at Amazon FR; I ordered a copy.

  5. #5

    Re: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    Just ordered this book.

    I hope, with the aid of this book, to be meditating so deeply by the new year that I'm levitating.

  6. #6

    Re: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    Me too. Just ordered from Aphrohead Books via Amazon UK at half Amazon price inc post!
    My pensioners fuel allowance is dwindling.

    Daiku

  7. #7

    Re: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    Got it. Read it. Liked it.

    This book provides a great reminder that there's no fixed posture to attain, that no one ever gets to a point of perfection and that there is no spot that I'm going to some day hit and never move from. I find this reassuring and encouraging. The entire book is this way for me.

  8. #8

    Re: Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    I've read most of it, and while it's basic premise is useful - basically what Brock said above - there's a bit too much woo in it for me. I think the whole thing could have been summed up in an article; the book's quite tiny anyway.

    It does remind me of a time when I was working with the Alexander Technique, which basically strives for similar things as Rolfing, which is what this book is based on.

  9. #9
    Thanks Jundo.

    Good idea regarding consultation with a yoga instructor! I have been a little concerned about straining my knees / knowing more about what my healthy limitations might or could be, so a yoga teacherís perspective could be the answer.

    Gassho,

    Frank


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Member Hōkan's Avatar
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    Crooked House by Wonderland Park in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, MN, USA
    I see that there is now a second edition (2020). Has anyone read it?

    https://www.amazon.com/Posture-Medit...dp_ob_title_bk

    SatToday
    Last edited by Hōkan; 03-26-2021 at 01:59 AM.

  11. #11
    I sat today.
    For years I have changed chairs, bought chairs, sat on zafus, and acted like a crazy person trying to find the "right" chair with the "right" back etc. It causes frustration and obsessive thoughts about sitting "right." I need something for my back and sitting on the pillow turned sideways causes my groin to go numb. (It's ok. You can laugh.) Help!!! gassho. kaye

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaye View Post
    I sat today.
    For years I have changed chairs, bought chairs, sat on zafus, and acted like a crazy person trying to find the "right" chair with the "right" back etc. It causes frustration and obsessive thoughts about sitting "right." I need something for my back and sitting on the pillow turned sideways causes my groin to go numb. (It's ok. You can laugh.) Help!!! gassho. kaye
    Oh, weíve all been there and return to that place over and over again! For years I sat on the same zafu and it wasnít right for my body.. Then I bought a different one, and another one, kept learning about my posture while sitting and became gradually more comfortable, until eventually I got a synthetic kapoc-like filling for my zafus and that, combined wit good posture did the trick for me. Mind you, it does not mean I sit there with absolutely no discomfort..
    I will say, in my experience, the posture matters as much as the cushion or chair.

    Sorry for running a bit over 3 sentences!


    Sat Today
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
    Join me on Insight Timer
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  13. #13
    I actually just bought this book and started reading it. I can easily sit in what feels like a balanced, stable posture, but after some time I start getting pain in my upper/mid back, below my shoulder blades.

    I'm wondering if I need a higher zafu (mine has compressed quite a bit since I got it; buckwheat hulls seem to do that).

    Can I get a posture check?

    20220802_092154.jpg

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly

  14. #14
    Yes, it looks a little low.

    For now, put a folded blanket underneath and raise it up an inch or two (experiment). If it feel better, you may wish to continue to do so, or to fill your Zafu more densely, or buy a new one.

    Any other opinions out there?

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, it looks a little low.

    For now, put a folded blanket underneath and raise it up an inch or two (experiment). If it feel better, you may wish to continue to do so, or to fill your Zafu more densely, or buy a new one.

    Any other opinions out there?

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    This same company (Dharmacrafts) makes a taller Zafu which I'm considering. I also can refill it, which I might do regardless.

    Thanks!

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly

  16. #16
    Hi Kelly,
    I also deal with upper and middle back pain while sitting. What I noticed is that other factor play a key role in my back pain: the mattress and pillows I use to sleep, the chairs and sofas I sit during the day, my general posture at work and at home, the amount of weight I carry during the day, the presence or absence of exercise in my daily routine and the like.
    I found that a higher zafu helps, but when the pain is hard, I prefer to sit on a char, despite my perfectionism demanding a zafu sitting (just my ego/self anyway) ó
    hope I can be of help to you.
    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    ...
    Any other opinions out there?
    ...
    Maybe try to tie a belt around the Zafu, keeping it a bit more together. Just for a test.

    It may be the camera angle, but it looks like you may be leaning a bit too much forward?
    Of course, every body is unique, but mine needs to be carefully balanced nearly completely upright ("allowing", not "forcing") shoulders far enough back.
    If I don't do that and the muscles have to hold too much weight, I am experiencing pain in the area, you describe.

    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  18. #18
    Thanks everyone! I ordered more buckwheat and I'm going to try filling my zafu a little more first.

    I do notice that I'm leaning a bit forward but I feel like I have to - raising the height of my zafu might fix that.

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly

  19. #19
    One thing that I have done in the past is put a large book under the zafu on the rear side. You put the book about halfway, and that tilts does the zafu up toward the front.


    Gassho,
    Ryūmon (Kirk)
    Sat
    流文

    I know nothing.

  20. #20
    I've been experimenting over the past couple days with raising my zafu with blankets - that made everything worse. My box of buckwheat hulls arrives tomorrow, I'll try refilling it a bit (if not, my pillow could use some anyway).

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by KellyLM View Post
    I've been experimenting over the past couple days with raising my zafu with blankets - that made everything worse. My box of buckwheat hulls arrives tomorrow, I'll try refilling it a bit (if not, my pillow could use some anyway).

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly
    Do you sit in burmese?

    Sat Today
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
    Join me on Insight Timer
    Help me feed those in need by joining my Share The Meal team HERE

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Bion View Post
    Do you sit in burmese?

    Sat Today
    Yes I do. I can't manage lotus. I can manage half lotus on a good day.

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly

  23. #23

    Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    Quote Originally Posted by KellyLM View Post
    Yes I do. I can't manage lotus. I can manage half lotus on a good day.

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly
    Ok. I struggle with burmese when I try it cause itís uncomfortable, but you can try tiny variations of that posture that might help with your back issue. Instead of placing both legs / feet on the floor try resting one slightly on top of the other (see attached picture). That might help give support to your back.
    Also, before even sitting on the zafu, angle it (see attached picture) so that when you sit, your knees will naturally rest on the floor.
    I donít know whether it will help at all, but, Itís all the ďadviceĒ I can give at this point.

    Sorry for going over the 3 sentences!







    Sat Today
    Last edited by Bion; 08-05-2022 at 12:35 AM.
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
    Join me on Insight Timer
    Help me feed those in need by joining my Share The Meal team HERE

  24. #24
    Good morning and I sat today.

    Can someone speak to the use of the seiza bench for sitting? I tried it for a few weeks and my left knee went out as well as having back and shoulder pain. These are ongoing issues from previous martial arts practice. I have tried various positions on the mat and am back in the chair again. I have placed a folding screen in front of me, around the chair, to mimic the wall and focus on that. I suppose I could turn the chair around to the actual wall. Thoughts and responses appreciated. Gassho
    Kaye

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaye View Post
    Good morning and I sat today.

    Can someone speak to the use of the seiza bench for sitting? I tried it for a few weeks and my left knee went out as well as having back and shoulder pain. These are ongoing issues from previous martial arts practice. I have tried various positions on the mat and am back in the chair again. I have placed a folding screen in front of me, around the chair, to mimic the wall and focus on that. I suppose I could turn the chair around to the actual wall. Thoughts and responses appreciated. Gassho
    Kaye
    I canít speak about seiza bench, because I never sat in one. But I generally turn the chair to the wall e sit. Putting the zafu on your back can help with chair sitting.
    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  26. #26
    Bion that foot position looks really comfy!

    Kaye I have a seiza bench and my feet will immediately fall asleep. I gave up on it quickly.

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly

  27. #27

    Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION

    Quote Originally Posted by KellyLM View Post
    Bion that foot position looks really comfy!

    Kaye I have a seiza bench and my feet will immediately fall asleep. I gave up on it quickly.

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly
    It is comfy! It might help give support to the back and get rid of some of that tension that causes you pain. Also, before actually sitting, allow your body to find its place and gravity center naturally, by swaying left and right and in a circle, beginning with ample circles and going smaller and smaller until youíre naturally settled and still. Like the example in this video, starting at minute 8 : 11 . OF COURSE: Thatís if you donít already do it!



    Sat Today
    Last edited by Bion; 08-04-2022 at 11:39 PM.
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
    Join me on Insight Timer
    Help me feed those in need by joining my Share The Meal team HERE

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaye View Post
    ... I have placed a folding screen in front of me, around the chair, to mimic the wall and focus on that. I suppose I could turn the chair around to the actual wall. Thoughts and responses appreciated. Gassho
    Kaye
    Whether it is the screen or wall, remember that we are not "focusing" on it. It is just there, what happens to be in our line of vision, not something we pay particular attention to or cling to. Our vision just lightly, naturally, is just seeing in a natural, relaxed manner ... much as we do not focus on any one thing while driving a car, but just relax and see what's ahead.

    The reason we face the wall in Soto (or some just look down at the open floor), is much the same as why the eyes are partially open, not closed. We may be reducing sensory stimulation during Zazen time, but we neither are shutting out the world nor running towards it. (This part, however, is different from driving a car, where I DO NOT encourage driving with eyes 1/3 open! )

    And as to the Seiza bench, very comfortable for many people. (I have only heard complaint from a fellow who had knee issues, and was putting weight on the knees). It is possible to make one if someone has minimum carpentry skills with wood and drill (but make sure it is sturdy!). Worth a try for someone who is perpetually uncomfortable on the Zafu.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-05-2022 at 12:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    And as to the Seiza bench, very comfortable for many people. (I have only heard complaint from a fellow who had knee issues, and was putting weight on the knees). It is possible to make one if someone has minimum carpentry skills with wood and drill (but make sure it is sturdy!). Worth a try for someone who is perpetually uncomfortable on the Zafu.
    I get cramps in my feet when I sit on a seiza; I've heard others say they get them as well. And, yes, it can be hard on the knees. But it's certainly worth trying out.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon (Kirk)

    sat
    流文

    I know nothing.

  30. #30
    I've also suffered from pain in my upper back between my shoulder blades when trying to sit in any kind of position where my legs are crossed, I'm just very inflexible!

    I've accepted my own situation and I now use a bench I made, as Jundo says, very little carpentry skill involved. The most complex part was cutting the legs to an angle, around 10į seems to work best for me.... and not even any screws, I just used some good wood glue

    Gassho

    Sat today
    Let everything happen to you: Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. - Rainer Maria Rilke

  31. #31
    I sat today.
    Thank you for your thoughtful responses.
    When I look back on my years of sitting, I realize I sought perfection in my posture, perfection in focus.
    I'm on the chair again now. No longer striving. Just sitting. Sometimes, my mind fantasizes about changing chairs again, returning to the seiza bench, etc.
    An old story. So, I say to myself, "Don't run after it. It is perfect as is. Just shut up and sit."
    Gassho. kaye

  32. #32
    Nice seiza bench, looks comfy Pebble!

    Gassho, Tokan (satlah)

  33. #33
    I put some more buckwheat in my zafu and made it through this months 4 hour Zazenkai with not too much difficulty (though I had to change positions a few times).

    Thanks everyone!

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by KellyLM View Post
    I put some more buckwheat in my zafu and made it through this months 4 hour Zazenkai with not too much difficulty (though I had to change positions a few times).

    Thanks everyone!

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly
    Good news! Know your own body, experiment with your own body's needs. It is not "one size fits all" for this kind of advice. Find what lets you sit long, feeling balanced, stable and pretty comfortable.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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