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Sunday, March 11, 2012
One of the most basic instructions for meditating in a sitting position is keeping still, not moving for a period of time. Ordinarily we sit for long periods of time, and we assume that we are not moving. Actually, if you sit in a chair at work or at home watching TV, your body is constantly in motion, although the movements are very slight and usually pass without explicit awareness. Your body is in constant motion to avoid any discomfort. Being asked to sit still and not move while meditating goes against the grain. It seems unnatural. Within a short time, you may feel the urge to move, you may experience pains in familiar and unfamiliar places, or you may have itches that cry out for a scratch. If you resist the body’s demands to move, these feelings may increase for a time. However, if you stay still for long enough, you may notice that these demands subside. This can be a powerful lesson in impermanence, that things arise and pass away.
This is an analogue for what happens with the mind too. If we resist reacting to what happens in our mind, we will see impermanence there too. Sensations, thoughts, emotions, feelings all come and go, and we don’t have to do anything about them. This is how real stillness happens.
Of course, if you are really uncomfortable as you sit there, if the pain becomes unbearable, the itch too irritating, then by all means adjust your position or have a good scratch. But do so slowly and mindfully, observing each movement you make so as to minimize the disruption to your mindfulness (still-fulness).