SIT UP STRAIGHT!
A really simple tip this month but one that can make a lot of difference.
If you have ever been on an 8-week mindfulness course and had meditation instruction (especially from us!) you will know that there is a lot of emphasis on maintaining a good posture. Posture is important; it embodies the state of mind we are cultivating. Our bodies and minds aren’t two separate things; they are reflections of each other. If you are too relaxed, slouching or hunched up then your mind will reflect this and become dull, lethargic and restless. On the other hand, if you are too rigid and tense, your mind will inevitably reflect this by racing about, judging and commenting on your “performance”. What we want to do is adopt a posture that is both relaxed and alert. Those two things don’t normally go together. Normally when we are relaxed we want to go to sleep or just chill out. Alertness has connotations of being vigilant and ready for action. But we don’t really need to adopt either state of mind. There is another way. So here is the practice:
This week, make it your intention to notice your posture as often as you can. If you feel yourself slouching at your desk or the dinner table, just notice it and adjust your posture accordingly. Likewise if you feel too tense and rigid, loosen up a bit. There is a Zen saying, “Straight back, soft belly.” And that is the ideal we are after. Be upright, watch the spine rising straight but keep the front of the body relaxed so that the breath can move freely. Try sitting on the front third of your chair, if that’s comfortable, without resting the back and make sure the feet are planted firmly on the floor. Don’t cross the legs. Keep the shoulders and chest open so that the breath can move unimpeded. The word “dignified” is often used to describe this posture. For me it embodies a deep sense of acceptance and self-compassion. Keep bringing your mindfulness to your posture, moment by moment, throughout your day, and let’s see what happens. I’d go as far as to say that this is about the most important practice you can engage in because so much develops from awareness of the body and how you hold it.