The Art of Standing in Meditation
I learned to sit in Lotus Position, known as Padmasana, to meditate when I was 14. Crossing my legs in upon my thighs, one ankle over the other, folding my fingers into one of several elegant Yoga Mudras, usually Gyan, my favorite, and placing my hands, palms upward on my knees, gave me a sense of physical calm, peace and internal stillness in a world that I experienced as neither calm, nor peaceful, nor still.
My body had become so flexible from eight years of modern dance that sitting in full Lotus Position came easily to me. Yet not so the requisite stilling of the mind that is meant to accompany the physical discipline. For that is the purpose of practicing Yoga after all – to prepare the body for a spiritual practice, only one aspect of which is meditation.
All those thoughts flowing in and out of one another. All those emotions rising and falling like the Sun, the Stars and the Moon. The continual chattering of the internal dialogue, some of it with myself, much of it with others, imagined or real, turning over and over within my mind, sometimes like gentle breezes, other times like cyclones.
Over the years it became easier of course, but all the while my definition of what it means to meditate was shifting, changing and morphing like sand dunes, like the arroyos in Northern New Mexico where I grew up after a Summer’s rainstorms had deepened them, carved out their sides, and often changed the course of their flow.
I let that shift happen, after a while abandoning the traditional Hindu posture for meditating, and experimenting with the Seiza posture for sitting Zazen in Buddhist meditation. Yet I let even that go.
Over the years I began to experiment with still other forms of personal meditation – making art, gardening, writing, cooking, and even flying, all things that require stillness, focus and concentration – forms of practice that may fall outside of what is traditionally accepted as meditation, but which still offer individual benefits that are richly rewarding in ways that, for me at least, traditional meditation does not necessarily offer.
From time-to-time throughout the years I have always gone back to traditional meditation postures, much the way a dancer returns to practice at the ballet bar or a singer vocalizes before performing. There is a reason these postures have been around for so very long.
But when I experienced two serious injuries last summer, I had to confront the reality that I may never again be able to sit as I have done for decades, either in Padmasana or even Seiza. It was a strange and sorrowful letting go of something that has always been like breathing for me. I can only describe it as a dancer might at discovering they are no longer able to plié very well, if at all, or a singer after vocal surgery having to say goodbye forever to notes that had once come so effortlessly.
Once again, as I often do when things roil within me, I turned to nature for guidance and found, not surprisingly, that my life long spirit friends, Praying Mantises, had much to offer in terms of suggested meditative poses.
Why sit in Lotus Position?
Why sit in a chair?
Why fold my legs at all, never mind my ankles?
Why not stand?
Perhaps I am no longer meant to sit.
This morning a Blue Heron demonstrated its version standing in meditation in a pond in Beckley Creek Park.
Perhaps I will look for water in which to stand.
Like a Lotus Blossom reaching for the Sun.
September 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm
Am needing those still moments. Last time was over a year ago so I am way behind. Thanks for this post reminder.
September 9, 2015 at 6:34 pm
Just a word of encouragement from someone who has never been able to do any of the proper meditation poses — I find one can actually still the mind in any pose (and while walking, too)!
September 9, 2015 at 7:35 pm
I have found more benefits and deeper meditation walking for several miles than sitting in one place. I never tried standing in one place but I imagine I would do even worse in that position. It would be good to try though. 🙂
September 9, 2015 at 7:37 pm
Full lotus is distracting for me, so I normally practice in half lotus, which has nearly as much alignment and stability. Walking is a nice variation to standing, because you can easily sync your breath with it, and your mind is less likely to gallop away with you.
September 9, 2015 at 7:56 pm
Hi Lena Levin one of the nicest things about having been at it for so long is that you get to throw out what works for other people and do what works for you! Yes, one can deliciously still the mind in any pose and in any activity. That is the main reason I abandoned traditional meditation and swapped it out for meditating through art.
However, I miss my Lotus Pose and I imagine in some way I always will. That is a personal thing and not something I really expect anyone else to understand.
You know…when I think of meditating through art, I think of Chuck Close, and how he had to learn to paint all over again…with a paintbrush in his mouth. He’s extraordinary.
Cheers to you, Lena.
September 9, 2015 at 8:01 pm
T. Pascal Yes. Walking for several minutes. I saw A Walk in the Woods this weekend. One of my favorite places is the Appalachians. One of my favorite drives is over the Appalachians. While I have never hiked the Appalachian Trail, I have in my past done a lot of hiking/walking, through the mountains in Northern New Mexico (a favorite place I discovered is called Horse Thief Meadows), through the redwood forests in California and on the beaches of Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
There is something about it no question. It is a thing in Buddhism for sure. But walking meditation is a thing anyway, Buddhism, Hinduism, or officially or not officially meditation, it is just a fantastic practice.
There is a place in NY City called the High Line, and it is great for a walking meditation…or whatever you want to call it.
September 9, 2015 at 8:31 pm
Beautiful writing and photo, Giselle Minoli ~ I have always had a hard time with the traditional meditation postures. I’ve finally given them up and now just find a comfortable, supportive place to sit and be. Works for me.
September 10, 2015 at 12:03 am
beautifully written, Giselle Minoli. I meditate sitting, standing, or walking. or any other way that I choose, or that offers itself.
there is grace in the lotus position, but there is also grace in letting it go…
September 10, 2015 at 12:22 am
J. Hancock I was told of this wonderful saying recently: “Let what comes come. Let what goes go, by Shri Ramana Maharaj. I was surprised I didn’t know it, but then one can’t possibly know everything. 🙂
Mary T I find I am willingly giving up more and more things every day, every week. It started in fact last June when I started saying No to things I did not want to do after much time feeling obligated to say Yes. What freedom.
As is standing! To be honest I prefer turning everything into a meditation, even writing this comment. It is more centering than going off and finding a tuffet somewhere. I seem to be able to turn any surface into a tuffet if I want to!
September 10, 2015 at 3:58 pm
Breathtaking. Heart-touching. Beautiful story and advice. Thank you.
September 10, 2015 at 5:42 pm
Happy September April Silva Johnson!
September 15, 2015 at 1:23 pm
I never go in any mudra and I never believed.I was watching your nature’s photo and simple feeling that when a drop of dew will fall from green to white.In my conscience it happened and much relaxed.
I keep myself emptying and that is my Yoga.No asnas.
Thankful for your page but why such a pain when you can love the life without hurting any body.Lord has provided us broad shoulders to carry the loads and let us carry with love,as Jessus or Krishna says.
September 15, 2015 at 1:39 pm
We each ‘believe’ in different things Harish Srivastava. Our lives are different, our lessons are different, our paths are different. That is the oldest lesson there is. If Mudras don’t work for you, then you needn’t use them and it is a blessing that you have discovered something that doesn’t work for you.
September 15, 2015 at 1:44 pm
Our life is different, I agree but our path is different which I don’t agree.Our ways of attainment is different but goal is same since we are humans.
September 15, 2015 at 1:45 pm
Goal and path are two different things Harish Srivastava. Our human goal may be the same, but the path we each take to get there is, in my view, quite different the one person from the other. I am fine to disagree on this. That, too, is the individual path…
September 15, 2015 at 1:54 pm
It is the cosmic flame which has allowed me to follow you.Would you like to deny?
September 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm
Whatever path led you here, if it cosmic Harish Srivastava…how lovely and how lovely to meet you.
September 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm
September 27, 2015 at 1:40 am
Today your post has come again
This opened flower gives a feeling and as soon as smell is spread the man feels immortality.That doesn’t mean that we will not die.Then this body will die but what is inside the body will never die.To obtain the nectar of this fragrance, death is not necessary. Being in the body and keeping silence with our meditation, we get it.