As is the case for many of us, I started meditating at a particularly full and challenging point in my life. I was living on a mountain and my land bordered a Zen Center. It was a major draw for me as I suspected at some point I would benefit from whatever it was they did over there.
Meditation, or “sitting,” as it was introduced to me, needn’t be complex or esoteric. It is, as the name implies, merely sitting with a few simple guidelines. The people at the Zendo would speak of “our 11 o’clock ‘sit’” or that our “sit’ might consist of two twenty minute sits with a walking meditation in the middle. At any rate, making plans to sit is easy. Actually doing it can prove more challenging.
Sitting can be uncomfortable. The physical act itself is enough for most of us to feel a hip, lower back or knee within 5 minutes into a sit and, of course, the other side of meditation relates to our minds. Specifically, our mental activity, our unique proclivity towards perseveration of thought (or not) and how we choose to see and define ourselves and lives by what we are “thinking.”
Thus, first off, in any sit at Sunrise, we teach that comfort is foundational and essential to the process of meditation. We are attempting to quiet the body as much as possible such that we aren’t distracted by a tight hip flexor or a foot gone numb and asleep. So, whether you are sitting on the edge of your bed or in a folding chair, or hovering 6 inches off the ground in a full lotus, get comfortable and find this comfort and ease in a posture of attentive receptivity. Attentive to the moment and receptive to insight and information flowing in a space of nonjudgmental and kind observation.
We visualize this posture as rolling the tail under, rooting the sits bones into the earth and stacking the vertebrae, tucking the chin, extending the crown into heaven and folding our wings long onto our back as the side body melts long, to forearms folded in hip creases, hands palm-in-palm with thumbs gently touching. This posture says, I am awake, I am here, I am ready and I am humbly receptive and accepting to all.
Once we are sitting and reasonably comfortable, there’s nothing “to do” per se, we simply try:
- To not fall asleep.
- To remain in open receptivity.
- To breathe (however we are breathing).
- To observe…and to not get carried away on a tide of branching thoughts or judgment…and if we do, we try again.
Remember it’s not Rocket Surgery … it’s just sitting.
Michael Schroeder, Lead Counselor, MA, LMFT
Michael received undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Printmaking from the University of California Santa Cruz. He then studied graphic and furniture design at Parsons School of Design in NYC and trained as a Yoga Instructor at New York’s Integral Yoga. For many years, Michael worked as a fine artist with gallery representation in New York City and Santa Fe. Art led him back to psychology, and he received his Master’s Degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute, graduating summa cum laude. Michael has strived to maintain the connection between art and psychology in his career and personal life. He is a licensed psychotherapist (LMFT) in California and New Mexico and has worked extensively with couples and kids.