Touching the Earth.
In meditation practice, the posture is often overlooked. This is unfortunate, because in the posture we find a “vital quality of mind.” Our body is the gateway to basic sanity, and this article explores that basic principle by looking deeper into the practice of somatic posturing.
The teachings of the Buddha point us back to our true nature, which is that of a Buddha or awakened. We see that underlying all of the distractions we are fully awake: open, clear and confident. Neither Buddhism nor meditation make us better people; rather, it is a process of discovery. However, discovery only takes place when we stop looking for something, because when we stop looking we discover space, our true nature.
Without the proper view, meditation practice is nothing more than a concentrated attempt to validate our delusional, self-centered beliefs in order to establish some sense of solid ground for ego. It is important that we see the ego as a subtle effort to create and cling to entertainment. The ego is dependent upon amusement because it is dependent upon confirmation.
As a result, we have become addicted to busyness. This busyness arises in our practice the moment we install a “point” or goal. So, it is so important to guard your practice against inbred influence by returning, again and again to the instructions.
When we look at meditation in the Buddhist tradition we see that we begin with Buddha nature, the whole path consists of realizing Buddha nature, and finally the result is realizing Buddha nature or our own awakened state. That is why Gampopa in his Jewel Ornament of Liberation, calls Buddha nature “the foundation of all practice.” This is also why I keep saying that we are not talking about becoming a better you; instead we are talking about realizing the essential perfection that is already present. When we first hear this idea it might sound lovely, but from a practical point of view it can be somewhat difficult for us to relate to such an idealistic principle.
In Mark 1:14 Jesus says, “That the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Meister Eckhart says that we must first develop an awareness of our kingship.
So therein lays the problem: we are ignorant of the inborn sense of royalty embedded in the human condition. This is a simple, but profound principle. If we see ourselves as some disgusting piece of crap, then we will probably relate to the world as though it is one great big toilet. On the other hand, if we see that we are kings and that all beings posses this potential, we will begin to relate to the world as though it were our Kingdom—because it is!
We no longer have to arrange the world to suit ourselves. Rather, we can simply accept the world as it is. This why Mathew 5:5 says, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
Meek here is connected with the idea of humility. Humility is not the attitude of a coward. Humility doesn’t lay down and become a doormat for the world. It is the type of humility that is born of deep insight into our true nature, and manifests in the form of openness and interaction with the Kingdom.
This attitude is connected with the mandala principle in Tibetan Buddhism. We are not talking about becoming a dictator who tries to force his will upon the world; rather, we are talking about accepting the Kingdom as it is and learning to actively participate in that isness. Accepting the Kingdom as it is, is our invitation to work with it. Otherwise, we sit around, whining and complaining, because it isn’t how we think it should be. On the other hand once we accept it, it is like hearing the music and now we can begin to dance.
So how do we initiate such a drastic change in the way that relate to the world?
First, we have to recognize that there is no fundamental separation between mind and body, that the two are inextricably connected. This recognition enables us to affect our state of mind, our attitude by affecting our posture. We begin by taking our seat.
Meditation starts with our posture, with the body’s attitude. A flimsy view of ourselves leads to a floppy posture—one that has little respect and dignity. We lay around like sacks of flour. That is why when you walk into a temple there are certain rules, like no laying around, because these postures are the manifestations of attitudes that do not agree with the principles of meditation practice. So starting today we arrange ourselves with confidence.
Once again, this confidence is not some constructed state of mind. It is a natural endowment of the human condition. So, striking this chord is contingent upon consenting to the human condition. Meditation practice is nothing more than an act of consent. The practice begins with the posture, because it is the most accessible dimension of the human condition, the body. Basic sanity is a relationship with reality. This relationship is mediated by the body. It is through the body—physical sensations, smells, tastes, sounds, and sights—that reality is revealed. When we move out of the head and back into the body, we feel the earth supporting us, the lungs breathing, the heart beating—we notice life. It is through the body that we are afforded the opportunity to re-claim the inheritance of our human condition, basic sanity.
A moment of physical alignment is a moment of grace because a moment of alignment is an act of consent to our humanity. The posture in meditation reflects the human condition by allowing our physical structure to establish the posture. Basic sanity begins with somatic awareness. Assuming the throne is returning to the body.
The mechanics are simple enough: we sit in the cross legged posture, with our back straight. Slightly roll the hips forward. Place the hands palms down on the thighs, with the shoulders pulled back gently. Bring the eyes to a slight gaze, and place the tongue behind the two front teeth in the roof of the mouth.
When we sit with openness, dignity and confidence we feel available, dignified and confident. Over time, these attitudes begin to follow us as we walk away from the cushion. We begin to see that our presence in other aspects of our lives has changed because it radiates this confidence.
We walk with poise, we sit in our chair with dignity, and we talk with respect. Conversation becomes a little lighter, more spacious. We no longer feel threatened or afraid; there is no need to fight or hide. This confidence isn’t limited to ourselves—it is extended out towards everything. We are completely involved, and all this begins with taking our seat.
Editor: Brianna Bemel