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MIDL 27/52: Standing Meditation


In MIDL Mindfulness Training 27/52 it is now time to transition from seated meditation to standing in order to learn how to bring mindfulness meditation practice into your daily life. The key to standing meditation is to develop mindfulness of body through sensitivity to balance. Learning how to use the experience of gravity to balance your body. Gravity is predictable and always pulling straight down. If you are not aligned with gravity then your muscles will tighten and you will become tired. If you are aligned with gravity then not only will your muscles relax but also the inside of your body as well. Submit Your Question

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Standing is Difficult?

Your Question: I struggled physically with standing for so long and had to bend forward a few times to relieve my back. I think I will try some shorter sessions of standing meditation, because I do agree that there are benefits to practicing mindfulness everywhere.

Stephen Procter: Be gentle with yourself and start with short periods of time at first. The trick is to learn to fold your body so that it becomes like a spring and then to relax into that spring so that gravity does the balancing for you rather then effort.

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Feeling Resistance

Your Question: I feel lot of resistance that's coming out doing this exercise being unable to find a relaxing point for my body. I'm totally ok with the top part of my body but my legs are always in a sort of "contracted" place that brings a sort of tremor in my legs...which makes my mind restless most of the time that makes me quite uncomfortable. Lots of stuff coming out from here...I never thought this exercise could become so challenging!

Stephen Procter: The tightening of your legs comes from the protection mechanism of your mind, the fear that if it totally gives up control of the body it we become injured. You can see this habitual protection if you hurt your lower back and all the muscles tighten around the injury.

When finding this balance point within our body where we can internally relax while standing it is helpful to understand that we can balance our body in two ways: through strength and through alignment with gravity. During standing meditation we balance through alignment with gravity. Gravity is predictable, it pulls straight down, this is to our advantage for when we align with gravity we can disengage our muscles allowing them to relax.

The key is to align our body like we are folding it, the first fold is at the ankles, the next opposite fold is at the knees and the last at the hips. Our body is now is like folding a sheet in three parts, we align these folds so that the weight goes straight down.

Once you do this you will still have the instinctual protection of tightening, once this relaxes there will be some stretching of muscles and tendons as they adapt to the muscles not being engaged within balancing. There is some body conditioning within this but it is necessary for setting the foundation of mindfulness of body and effortlessness of movement within daily life.

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Width of Feet

Your Question: I had a similar practice but while keeping feet shoulder width apart. In this practice with my feet together there was a big problem with balance. To be able to relax I did have to put an inch between my feet, though. Perhaps with practice my balance will improve.

Stephen Procter: I am not sure if there is a misunderstanding in the instruction, but for this meditation we do not have our feet together but rather have them parallel, shoulder or hip width apart; whichever is widest. We then relax our hips and knees so that our legs become like springs rather than posts. We can then find our central balance and relax the energy into the springs.

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Learning to Stand

Your Question: Apparently I've forgotten how to stand. Also, breathing was more laboured until I began breathing with the entire torso instead of mainly with the belly. But it seems like this would be a very critical skill to master, allowing me to take my practice out into the world, but I am not sure how to do it properly.

Stephen Procter: Learning to stand in an effortless way means being mindful of how your body is aligned over your feet. If the alignment is out then gravity will pull you forward, back, left or right and all the muscles in your body will tense making this practice difficult. When your body is aligned properly you then use gravity (which appears as the experience of heaviness) to pull you straight down.

In this posture you can relax all muscles throughout your body and will not get tired. This alignment is found by making the feet parallel, shoulder width apart. Then bend at the ankles joint forward, knees joint back and hip joint forward so that you are 'folding' your body. Play with this and 'listen' with full awareness, can you align your body so that you are fully balanced, with no tension?

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