Do I Need to Sit to Meditate?
When almost all the images we see of meditation are of people sitting like statues of Buddha, surely we must sit in lotus position in order to reach the higher states…?
I get asked this a lot and I think it's worth peeling away where this question of sitting in order to meditate comes from.
There is some truth in the idea that sitting helps us meditate. But it depends on the style of meditation, our personal flexibility and where we are on our meditation path.
When referring to Mindfulness practice, The Buddha is recorded as saying you can meditate sitting, standing or lying down. Conversely, in the more esoteric tradition of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita explicitly describes finding a patch of soft grass in a sacred clearing, covering it with a deerskin and sitting in the lotus position.
So, you can see, even when we delve into the most ancient teachings there are different views.
For the modern practitioner who's lived a Western life of sitting in chairs as opposed to squatting or kneeling then the more important factor when we are developing a meditation practice is to be comfortable. For some, sitting cross legged is impossible, let alone the lotus position. So, finding a position you can maintain is helpful.
With meditation styles such as Mindfulness, where the aim is to remain alert, the caveat is to not be too comfortable. Why? Because there's a likelihood we'll fall asleep. In other meditation styles such as Creative Visualisation or general healing meditations, then falling asleep is perfectly OK. I'll write about falling asleep while meditating in another post. For now though, the question is: "Should I sit when I meditate?"
The short answer is: it depends on the style of meditation and what you're hoping to get out of it.
Lying down to meditate is not illegal and there will be times when it is by far the best position. The main thing to remember is that in order to still the mind we need to be physically comfortable. How you do that will depend on your flexibility and general biodynamics.
If you prefer guided meditations that take you on a journey then I recommend lying down so you can fully surrender. If you're practicing Mindfulness then I recommend sitting.
If you choose to sit for meditation then it might take some time before your core muscles are strong enough to hold you up for the 20 or so minutes that you want to meditate. So, use a wall, sit in a chair, or rest your back against a pillow. Every now and then try and move away from using a back rest until you feel comfortable without.
And most of all, let your meditation be yours.
There is no one way to meditate, so allow your body's natural intelligence to guide you. what does your body tell you? Are you feeling really tired and need to lie down? Are you in pain and need to sit in a chair rather than on the floor? And can you be kind enough to release any judgement of not being a good enough meditator or wanting to rush ahead just because your posture doesn't match what you see on social media.
Meditation reveals itself over time not overnight. Sitting or lying down to meditate is your choice. As you cultivate a home practice, experiment with different postures. See what works for you. Let your focus be on where your mind goes when you think you're not doing it right.
There is no 'right' way to meditate. Just your way.
So be patient and kind to yourself as you witness your own beautiful journey.