There are many approaches to meditation. I would like to outline mine.
Here is a summary of the main points:
- For the most part, I practice lying meditation
- I remain immobile
- I think through the spine and let my muscles relax off that
- I refocus a wandering mind with soft belly breathing
- Occasionally I notice myself in the middle of an un-breath and, in that moment, I sink into the feeling
- I listen to Holosync technology
Most people scoff at lying meditation. Or at least don’t consider it to be ‘real’ meditation.
Up until recently though I have had relatively tight hips from playing so much squash as a youngster. Sitting cross-legged for any length of time was really uncomfortable.
I discovered the extreme of this discomfort during my first 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in 2008.
Following that while living in Hong Kong training Wing Chun I made the decision just to lie down.
At first I had to place a pillow under my knees to ease pressure off my lower back. After a couple of months my lower back had released enough tension where I was able to stop using the pillow.
Then I moved my attention to the placement of my hands.
I had to keep my elbows bent with my hands resting on my chest.
After a while I was able to extend my elbows to rest my hands on my belly, then hips.
Eventually it felt quite comfortable to just rest my hands by my side.
During both of the 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats I attended my body learned the value of remaining immobile.
Each day on the retreat there are 3 group meditation sessions – morning, afternoon & evening – which each last 1 hour.
In those sessions practitioners are asked to remain still.
In other times we can make adjustments to our position, whether it’s changing our leg-position or just stretching our necks/spines/whatever momentarily.
During the first group session my hips were aching sitting cross-legged. I was just waiting for the chanting that signifies the end of the session to start.
Any moment I was going to move my legs to relieve the pressure.
At a certain point that discomfort turned to a mild burning sensation that was actually quite pleasant.
The pain had subsided or transformed. An instance of annica, or impermanence. The idea that everything passes.
Then suddenly, the chanting started and I had made it to the end of the session.
This meant that each group session after this, mentally, I knew my body could do it. Even discomfort could transform. So I persisted.
There I learned the value of remaining immobile to let the unconscious controls in the body emerge.
Thinking Through The Spine
Lying as I just described, without moving, allowed my body to settle.
This allowed me to practice the same concept I was nurturing during my Wing Chun training. That is, thinking through the spine.
Most of my Wing Chun brothers & sisters would describe the intention as thinking up the spine.
For me, through the spine is more suitable. It better allows me to maintain awareness of the entire spine together.
With gravity essentially out of the equation (because I’m not sitting or standing), the fact I’m not moving, and with the intention to think through the spine, the 1st hour of lying is usually letting micro adjustments of the body and surface tension to subside.
Some time after that is when deeper chronic-tension slowly starts to melt away.
In this way, while living in Hong Kong, I went through quite a long period of lying, immobile, for 2-4 hours every day.
I have expanded on this unique meditation technique.
With work & family, I’m now meditating 30-60 minutes a day.
Breathing With A Soft Belly
During these long sessions the mind can wander.
This can either just be about things going on in life (any person who meditates even briefly soon realizes the lack of control we have with our thoughts) or, in the case of my approach to meditation, it is often getting caught up trying to relax certain muscles, or trying/waiting to feel something I have felt in a previous session.
In these instances my breathing has usually become shallow.
So I just consciously start breathing with a soft belly and become aware of thinking through the spine again.
It’s a good reset.
Sometimes when my focus is on thinking through the spine and I become aware of my whole body simultaneously, the opposite of shallow breathing emerges.
That is, my body has fully exhaled and relaxed itself.
I find myself in a state of un-breath.
In these moments I sink into the feeling.
I resist the urge to take a breath.
And this creates a condition which allows the unconscious systems of the body to release energy.
Apart from saying this seems to relax my body beyond my conscious controls, I don’t have the capacity to describe what is actually happening… yet.
My decision to practice lying meditation which, in turn, allowed me to go deeper into the practice, was initiated with a trial of Holosync technology.
It was created by Bill Harris (RIP) of Centerpointe Research Institute. It essentially sends differing levels of audio frequencies into each ear which creates a dissonant effect and produces brainwave patterns conducive to increasing awareness.
Bill would often mention the quote:
Awareness, in and of itself, is transformative.
Awareness is a broad term and can come in many forms.
At any rate, I was pretty skeptical before trying the audio technology. I had no expectation. It’s always important to have a little distance from our subjective experience. The placebo effect is real.
To my delight, the physical effect I felt from listening to it was repeatable and undeniable for me.
The 1st week of using the technology was a real buzz. Exciting.
However, I don’t think I would have persisted had it not been for Bill’s descriptions of what is going on with us while meditating listening to Holosync.
The concept of dissipative structures was mirroring my own experience both during my lying meditation and with my Wing Chun training.
I’m about a third of the way through the whole Holosync program. It would take someone at least a little over 7 years to get through the whole program.
I’m taking my time.
Obviously these are just my thoughts & approach to meditation.
They might change in the future.
All in all I try to keep my practice as simple as possible.