Take a look at this image of meditation…
If you Google “meditation,” you’ll see hundreds of images of meditation just like it. (Take a second and try it, if you want.) The most obvious thing about it is how typical it is: a typical image of ‘someone having an a-typical experience.’ Meditation. You could imagine it, or another just like it, on the cover of any number of magazines. Why is that? As odd as the image is, if you start to think about it, at a basic level isn’t it reminding us of a potential feeling? Some sense of sublime, serene, joyous experience? Something evocative of why we turn to meditation in the first place.
The image of meditation does its work, and then we move on. But if we stay with it a little longer, it reveals an interesting dilemma that plagues even seasoned meditators….
Imagine holding that posture for a few minutes. The model in the photo probably held the pose for the camera for only a moment, projecting blissful eternity for a few glorious seconds. (Did you know that car seats are made to be super-comfortable for six minutes—the average length of time a new car buyer takes to make a decision…?)
But imagine you’ve been sitting like the person in the picture for twenty minutes. Or for an hour. Every day.
What would it feel like? Can you get a sense of how this might not be the most sustainable posture in the long run? How long would it be before your neck started hurting? How long before the gentle smile became strained? Where else would you feel yourself holding? What parts of yourself might start turning painful or numb?
Mistaking the Parts for the Whole
The short answer to the question of what is wrong with this photo is “everything!” Not that there is anything wrong with it, per se. It’s just a photo of some possibility, after all. But it’s the whole posture that poses a challenge to comfort, not just one thing. If you sit like this, you might feel discomfort in any number of different ways. And then we might be tempted to say that’s where the problem is.
Take two common areas of discomfort for meditators: the knees and the lower back.
We even say things like, I have a bad knee, or a bad back. More often than not, though, issues in a particular area are the result of what we are doing with our whole self. Your knees might hurt because they are working hard to compensate for your hips and lower back, and so on…
This is actually a great thing. It means you don’t have to fix your “bad” knees or back. You just have to change everything. ;) I’m kidding, but that is actually much easier. Your knees and lower back are designed to work together. That’s what they do, if we let them!
A Guided Meditation for bringing your knees and lower back (and the rest of you) together…
The truth is, this doesn’t have to be some far off goal. We can improve on this image of meditation that we started with in no time at all.
Think about what it would feel like to be well organized through your whole self. Imagine what it would feel like if you could sit easily and effortlessly, without strain or discomfort. So effortlessly that when you are done you stand up even more gracefully than when you sat down. What do you think that would do to your sense of your meditation practice? What would it feel like?
I’ve put together a short guided meditation, using gentle movement exploration that anyone can do, that will have your knees, hips, and whole self working together comfortably and easily. Download it below, and give it a try…