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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 13 “I CANNOT sit still” is a common pro- testation. And there is truth here. The only time our bodies are completely still is in death. Even in sleep or in the postures of long-time practitioners, the blood pulses, the heart beats, the lungs expand and contract, we twitch, a spasm occurs, our eyes blink, we swallow. There is lots of movement going on. In movement there is health. The body is designed to restore itself to health and bal- ance. This is its innate purpose. When I teach meditation, I start with posture. We begin by lying on the floor and then come into an upright, seated posture after twenty minutes of guided relaxation and awareness practices. As a result, when students sit up, their bod- ies are relaxed and their internal and external sense perceptions are activated. They discover a posture that works for their body; as indi- vidual bodies are different, so too will be their postures of meditation. A relaxed mind, a mind that is spacious and open to whatever comes up, is supported by a relaxed body. If there is tension in the body—if we continuously struggle, holding ourselves a certain way, bracing ourselves against discomfort and pain, letting our limbs fall asleep—this can become the focus of our practice. How can we discern the subtle levels of consciousness we have learned from the great Buddhist practitioners if we are con- stantly resisting and attempting to control or deny what we are physically experiencing? And what about the first noble truth that our chronic state of suffering is based in want- ing things to be different from how they are? What if we don’t have a body that can sit cross-legged in an upright, seated posture on the floor? Can we find another position where we can be still and accepting of ourselves, just as we are, with no self-aggression? This is the practice of maitri, or loving-kindness toward oneself. It is becoming increasingly recognized in the emerging research of neuropsychology that emotions are held in the body, in the muscle memory of our histories of experience. When we acknowledge, explore, and address the difficult things that are happening in the body, they do transform. If we brace against them, if we intend to ignore or just put up with the discomfort/pain, muscling our way through our meditation practice, this becomes the gist of the practice. As a result we may end up injuring ourselves or always dreading sitting on the cushion, assuming that physical discomfort is to be expected. This impacts on our capacity for getting the most out of our efforts toward some semblance of an enlight- ened mind. FROM THE MIDDLE WAY, NOVEMBER 2011, THE JOURNAL OF THE BUDDHIST SOCIETY CAN WE REST IN THE QUESTIONS? Ajahn Khemasiri ponders a meditation practice without methods and asks if we can rest in the open, spacious mind of not knowing or doing. IF WE ARE TOO fixated on methods of med- itation—including the observation of mental objects which arise during meditation—we can easily miss the fact that all states are by their very nature conditioned, limited, and unreliable. We overlook the fact that the fas- cination with states only leads us more and more into dependence and neediness. How would it be for a change if we were to loosen our grip of attention on the world of objects? How would it be if we could disengage from the habit of mind to lean on external objects and get completely absorbed by them in a contracted way, and if we could instead relate to ourselves with an attitude of inner