Mindfulness Week 7

Mindfulness of posture:

“Several times a day, become aware of your posture.  This has two aspects.  First it means to become aware of what posture you are in and how it feels within the body. . .  Being aware of posture also means to notice and adjust your posture many times a day.  If you are slouching, gently straighten up.
“A very good time to work with mindfulness of posture is at meals.  Sit on the front edge of the chair with your feet planted on the floor, knees a bit apart.  Straighten the spine to maximize room for breathing. Other interesting times to become aware of posture include while standing in line, driving, lying down in bed, in meetings, and while walking.”  How to Train a Wild Elephant, Jan Chozen Bays, p. 42.
To remember:  You might ask friends or family members to notice and comment on your posture.  You might put a bit of colored tape or a note saying “posture” near where you eat meals.

Discoveries

“People are often surprised to discover that they have poor posture.  Their posture looks OK from the front, but whetn they see their reflections from the side, they are shocked to discover that their shoulders are slumped.  We adjust our posture to different situations.  At a job interview or an interesting lecture, we sit up straight; watching, TV we slump on the couch.  It is easy to pick out those people who have ahd certain kinds of training, such as military officers, dancers, or royalty.  They have a noticeably upright posture.  Why is posture important for these people?  There is a Spanish saying, “You can tell a priest even in a bathing suit,” meaning that a religious person is distinguishable just by his or her outward demeanor, because this reflects on internal posture or alignment.

“In Zen practice we put a lot of emphasis on posture, not only in the mediation hall but also sitting at the table, and even walking about.  We walk with the hands held folded together at the waist, maintaining what Catholic nuns call “custody of the hands.”  When we pass each other in the walkways, we stop, put palms together, and bow.  When we are given our work assignment for the day, we bow, grateful for a body that can work. Four times a day during chanting services we do full prostration down to the floor, where we take a posture of humility, head to the ground, putting down our self-obsessed minds and guarded hearts, lifting our palms from the floor to signify we are seeking to raise up our full potential for wisdom and compassion.  Some days we do over a hundred of these full bows.  People who are doing atonement practice for past wrongdoing may do 108 extra full prostrations each day.  One Zen master did so many full bows each day that he developed a callus on his forehead.  He said that he was an obstinate, stubborn fellow and needed to practice humility.

“Japanese people bow many, many times each day.  Often old people there are bent over and cannot straighten up.  They do not mind this, saying that it helps them to keep on bowing to life and to be grateful for whatever it brings them.”

How to Train a Wild Elephant, Jan Chozen Bays, pp. 43-44, © 2011

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