In previous blog posts about meditation I have discussed the benefits I have experienced by committing to a regular meditation practice, an introduction to mantras, and the fundamentals of compassion meditation and breathing meditation. You may have noticed from previous posts covering meditation that it is important to spend some time getting into a comfortable position before each meditation session. In this blog post I will introduce the concept of the seven-point meditation posture and explore some simple ways to incorporate it into your own meditation practice.
What is the Seven-Point Meditation Posture?
If you've ever seen a Buddha statue (and let's be honest—if you read Think Wilder regularly, then you've definitely seen a Buddha statue or two!), then you've most likely already seen this meditation posture in practice. The definition of the seven-point meditation posture is fairly self-explanatory.—it consists of seven distinct points, each of which corresponds with a separate area of the body. The posture has been used by meditators for thousands of years and serves as a solid foundation for a successful meditation practice. Before each meditation session it is helpful to check in with each of the seven points to make sure that the body is positioned as comfortably as possible. This will greatly impact the overall quality of the meditation session.
For someone who is new to meditating, this particular posture can be quite difficult to achieve. In fact, I am still working on improving my posture during meditation! Making even a small effort to practice the seven-point meditation posture can result in a more productive meditation practice, so it's worth giving a shot.
The Seven Points
Some meditation traditions present the following points in a different order than others, however the sorting order isn't all that important because all of the individual points add up to a complete picture of ideal posture, regardless of which ones come first. I am going to present them in the order that I first learned them, when I attended classes in the Tibetan tradition of Mahayana Buddhism.
The first point in this meditation posture focuses on the legs. Those who are capable of sitting in Full Lotus Pose (also known as Padmasana) should do so. If you are unable to get into that position, perhaps you could try the Half Lotus Pose (Ardha Padmasana).
If neither of those positions are comfortable enough for you to relax during your meditation session, then you could try sitting in a cross-legged position instead. Many people (especially in Western society) are unable to sit on the floor at all, and it is completely possible to modify the seven-point meditation posture so that someone sitting in a chair or on props can practice it.
Make sure that you choose a sitting position that you can sit comfortably in for a long period of time, and do not feel like you have to choose the most impressive option—being comfortable and relaxed is more important than showing off.
Next up are the arms. Your hands should be held loosely in your lap, with the right hand resting in the palm of the left, palms upward, thumbs lightly touching, forming the shape of a teardrop or flame. They should be positioned roughly 2-3 inches below the navel. Make sure to relax your shoulders and your arms. It can help to keep your arms slightly away from your body so that air can circulate. This will help prevent sleepiness during meditation.
The most important point in this series is the back, which should be straight, relaxed, and fully upright, as if the vertebrae were a stack of rocks effortlessly balanced in a pile. The position of the legs contributes greatly to how easy it is to keep a straight back. The higher your butt is and the lower your knees, the easier it is to maintain. Experiment with various sitting positions to see what works best for you.
In the beginning, it is typically best to keep your eyes fully closed because it helps facilitate concentration. This is completely fine. However, after you gain some experience with meditation it will become possible to leave your eyes slightly open in order to admit a little light, and to direct your gaze downwards, not focusing on anything in particular. This is optimal because closing the eyes can result in sluggishness, sleep, or daydreaming, all of which are obstacles to a clear meditation session.
- Jaw and Mouth
Keep your jaw and mouth relaxed, with your teeth slightly apart, relaxed, and with lips slightly touching.
It can be helpful to rest your tongue against the upper palate, with the tip gently touching the back of the teeth. This prevents the production of saliva, which reduces the need to swallow and can also eliminate the undesired side effect that many monks and nuns experience during extremely long meditation sessions—drooling.
Finally, slightly incline your head so that your gaze is directed naturally toward the floor in front of you. This is all about finding a proper balance—if your chin is held too high you may have problems with mental wandering and distraction, whereas if you drop your head too forward you may experience mental dullness or sleepiness.
Although it may be challenging at first, this meditation posture can really help cultivate concentration and mindfulness. Now that you have an idea of how to get into the seven-point meditation posture, I encourage you to begin to incorporate it into your own meditation sessions. Hopefully it will help deepen your practice and eventually lead to enlightenment.