I’ve wanted to write this post for a while because I think a lot of teachers make the actual “sitting” part of sitting meditation seem like it’s not complicated. But it is.
It can take a while to figure out your sitting style and really, I’m not even sure if I know mine yet. Regardless, I wanted to share my experiments and thoughts.
I sit on a crescent shaped buckwheat Zafu on a Zabuton. I highly recommend investing in BOTH if you plan to be sitting on the floor. I also recommend a bean or crescent or otherwise altered shaped Zafu to accommodate the hips and pelvis. The round Zafu’s just aren’t as comfortable! I got my Zafu from Sun Moon, but now that I look at their site, they don’t seem to sell the exact one I have anymore. (Their Cosmic Cushion looks intriguing…)
Anyway, my set up….here:
Please don’t sit on a bed as this picture shows. Place your Zabuton on a hard floor and then place your Zafu on the Zabuton.
Then come to sit on the zafu. Sit on the front half of the cushion so that your hips roll forward, allowing your spine to be brought into proper alignment. If you’re sitting correctly, you should feel that your spine is almost floating. It should be easeful. Take a few moments to find this comfortable seat.
Ok so what about the legs?
I sit in Sukhasana Pose (Easy Pose), or the Burmese position. Apparently this position is not so easy for all, but it’s about as easy as it gets for me (when we’re talking about the cross legged positions):
Still, I have been meditating every single day for the past 150 days. You would think, at this point, I would be able to sit comfortably every single time that I sat. But alas, not so. My legs still fall asleep sometimes. My legs still get antsy and restless. Especially if I’ve gone for a long run recently or haven’t stretched much before sitting.
As much as I’d like to practice a half hour of yoga before coming to sit to loosen up my hips, I just don’t always have the time. I work full time, I do a lot of running (which makes me feel great but also tightens the hips), and I have other interests. Maybe some day I’ll have hips flexible enough for the holy grail of meditation postures (full lotus) but at this point sitting in full lotus for more than a minute or two is excruciating and my feet look like this:
I also tried half lotus for a couple of weeks and was able to sit for a full 20 minutes in the pose. But it was painful and it was stressing me out to the point that it seemed counterintuitive.
Ultimately I decided that I was ok with disappointing Thich Nhat Hanh (he has said you should be sitting in half or full lotus, or at least working toward it) and went back to Burmese.
Ah but still the legs fall asleep. Maybe a chair? Sitting in a chair is fine. And if you for some reason sitting on the ground is out of reach for you physically, you should do it! Just make sure your back is away from the chair back, your feet are firmly on the ground, and your pelvis is tilted forward to allow the low back to be elongated. For me, the chair makes me feel a bit wobbly. There’s something about sitting close to the ground that I like. Sitting on the floor allows me to feel grounded and stable. I’m more likely to find stillness in this position.
So sometimes I suffer through legs that fall asleep. It’s not such a terrible thing. There’s no health concern. It’s just mildly annoying. I’ll continue to work on the hip openings but I’m not going to hold my breath. Maybe I’ll invest in a cool new cushion. Maybe at some point I’ll try a meditation bench, to sit in the Seiza position (I’ve heard good things). But all in all, trying not to let the search for the “perfect” position, get in the way of actually coming to meditate.
So here I am. A bit of exploring, a bit of experimenting later sitting in a position that’s good enough.