Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Meditation Posture

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Meditation Posture: Head

The position of your head in meditation is very important.

Your head should be balanced, and should almost seem to float effortlessly on top of your spine. You can imagine the crown of your head being drawn upwards, as if the string of a baloon were attached to it.

Your chin should be slightly tucked in, and the back of your neck should be long and relaxed. So as you tuck in your chin, feel the muscles on the back of your neck relaxing and lengthening.

head position in meditationIf your chin is tucked in too far, so that your head hangs forward, then you’ll find either that you tend to feel dull and sleepy, or that you become caught up in circular, and often not very positive, loops of emotions.

If your head is tilted too far back, so that your chin is in the air, you’ll find that you tend to get very caught up in thinking, and that you become rather “speedy.”

But when your chin is nicely tucked in, you’re able to be aware of both your thoughts and emotions without getting lost in them.

Sometimes if I’m feeling dozy in meditation (the mid-afternoon sits on retreats can be killers) I actually raise my chin a little above the recommended level. I then make the position of my chin the main focus of the meditation practice. As I start to doze of and the chin starts to sink down, I draw it back up again.

If I don’t start with my chin raised the by the time the chin starts sinking from its normal position it’s generally too late to catch it and the next thing you know is that you have that uncomfortable feeling of jerking awake.

Also…

  • Relax your brow. Some people try to meditate with their forehead muscles!
  • Relax your tongue, and let it rest with the tip just touching your teeth.
  • Relax the jaw muscles so that the teeth are not clenched and in fact are not even touching.
  • The lips should be lightly touching.
  • If you can wiggle your nose then magic will happen. (Just kidding).

The eyes

Many people wonder whether the eyes should be open or closed during meditation, and different Buddhist meditation traditions vary in their approach on this point. In the mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana practices, as taught here, I would recommend having the eyes closed. This allows for greater one-pointedness of mind. The exception to this is when you find you are tired, when the eyes can be opened to provide more stimulation.

The eyes should be lightly closed, with the muscles surrounding the eyes as relaxed and soft as possible. Even though the eyes are closed, you can think of having an “unfocused gaze.” This soft, unfocused state is more conducive to relaxation and mental calmness.

Comments

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Comment from Navita Jain
Time: July 21, 2011, 9:48 am

Hi!
I have being meditating for a long time . I had out of body experience few years back. Nowadays my right big toes pains alot and I have problems in walking. since last few days I am having pain in my right thumb also. Please advice. Sometimes I have to come out of deep meditaion for some reason like a loud noise outside or somebody calling me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 21, 2011, 10:12 am

The pain you’re experiencing is really a medical problem and I’d suggest you talk to a doctor. Here in the US I’d probably visit a good chiropractor, to see if your posture is causing the problem, but I don’t know whether you have chiropractors in India, or how good they are. Even in the US it’s a bit hit-or-miss how good they are.

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Comment from Rachel K.
Time: March 10, 2014, 4:56 pm

Hello, Bodhipaksa. I have an exceptionally difficult time controlling my eyes while attempting to meditate. It feels as though I have to exert the force of my brow to keep my eyelids from springing open, and occasionally, I find myself straining my eyes so much that I’ll start to develop a cluster headache behind one eye or the other. My difficulty, I suspect, comes at least in part from visualizing the parts of my body that take part in respiration. At one meditation retreat, I was told not to visualize and to relax my eyes, but the instructor had no specific or practical advice for how best to go about this. It’s been difficult to keep my practice going since I’ve developed a fairly strong aversion to the feeling of eye strain and cluster headaches that sometimes result from my meditations. Is there any advice you have for people who have trouble closing and calming the eyes? I have just finished reading this article, so I’m not sure if there is another resource on your website that I haven’t read yet that offers further advice on the topic. I just really don’t know how to approach the obstacle of my eyes continually darting around, sometimes to their painful limits. Thanks very much for reading.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 12, 2014, 2:04 pm

Hi, Rachel.

There’s no need to “control” your eyes while meditating. Meditation isn’t about “controlling” anything. So just let your eyes be relaxed, and if they open, they open. You can meditate with your eyes open.

Who taught you to visualize the parts of the body that are involved in breathing? The point of the mindfulness of breathing practice is to notice the sensations arising in the body as you breathe, not to visualize the body. Perhaps that’s why your eyes are more active than they need to be. Paying attention to the physical sensations in the body would help you relax your eyes to some extent, although you’re probably going to find that a hard habit to break. I also have a peripheral vision exercise, though, that might be helpful.

Good luck!
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Rachel K.
Time: March 18, 2014, 4:25 pm

Bodhipaksa,

I must not have been clear in my previous message. No one taught me to visualize the parts of my body during meditation. Rather, it’s a tendency I find difficult to prevent while meditating. During the one vipassana course I took, my instructor cautioned me against visualizing the parts of my body, as it may have a role in my eye strain. It sounds like this is just something I will have to continue to try not to do while meditating. It has definitely proven a hard habit to break, like you said.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 19, 2014, 9:30 am

You might find walking meditation helpful, because the physical sensations in the body are stronger and so it’s easier to feel them. Perhaps that would make it less likely that you’d slip into imagining parts of the body rather than experiencing them.

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Comment from Stan
Time: June 14, 2014, 4:56 am

love to find new/correct ways to sit in my meditation

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