Between the stages
Perhaps this is a good time to remind you of your body. I’ve emphasized that it’s important to set up your posture at the start of a period of practice. Doing this provides you with better conditions for meditating.
It’s just like making sure that your kindling is stacked just right and that your matches are dry, so that you’ll end up with a good blaze instead of a pile of smoldering wood and a bad temper.
But when you take your attention away from your posture in order to be more aware of your breath, you’ll often find that your posture starts to drift. You might find that some parts of your body start to sag, while others become tense. And these changes lead to mental and emotional changes.
The tension in your shoulders might be related to some anger you’ve started to experience. The sagging in your spine might be related to a feeling of despair that’s crept in. If you relax your shoulders, the anger will start to disappear again. If you straighten your spine, you’ll start to feel more confident again.
As you become more proficient at meditation, you’ll learn that you can periodically take your attention away from your breath for a split second in order to check your posture and make minor corrections. You’ll get so good at doing this that you’ll be able to effectively keep a continuous awareness of your breath.
Remember learning to drive? You probably found that at first you’d take your attention off the road to change gears and when you took your attention back to the road (several long seconds later) you’d find that you’d drifted off towards one side or that a red traffic light had mysteriously appeared from nowhere. Later, you’ll have found that you were able to change gears without significantly taking your awareness from what was going on around you.
The same thing happens in meditation – we learn to deal with the seeming complexity of managing our posture and what we’re doing with the focus of our attention – elegantly and even effortlessly. A good way to start practicing this skill of monitoring your posture without disrupting your practice is to check and correct your posture in between stages.
You might want to do this every time you move from one stage to another. Later, you’ll find that you can integrate monitoring your posture into your practice in the way that I’ve described.