Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of Posture

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 201-206)

Mindfulness of the Body is the First Foundation of Mindfulness.  There are several parts.  Three are:

 Mindfulness of Posture

The four postures to use for mindfulness are:

  1. Standing
  2. Sitting
  3. Walking
  4. Lying down

These postures can be used to develop mindfulness and gain insights.

As with the breath, applying mindfulness to these postures can yield insights about:

  • Impermanence
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Selfless Nature

Impermanence

With all of the postures, you can notice that the movements of the body are always changing.  This not only includes the muscles and joints but also other factors such as the heart rate, breathe rate, and temperature (e.g. perspiring).  Mental factors also arise while you are paying mindful attention to the body.  As these arise and fall, you can note their impermanence as well.

Dissatisfaction

Because of the ever changing nature of the postures as noted above, the mind cannot achieve what it wants the most:  certainty or a permanent desired outcome.  For example, consider when you are lying down and unable to find a comfortable position.

Selfless Nature

As you pay mindful attention to your posture, you will note that there is no permanent entity controlling your movements.  There may be an intention for a particular movement such as raising the right foot.  Once that movement is made, the intention is gone.  Any “I” is just “a concept we use for the sake of convenience to refer to an ever changing flow of experiences.”

Practicing Mindfulness of Posture

Each posture can be used to practice mindfulness.  Sitting is most often used for meditation.  Lying down can be challenging because of the tendency to fall asleep!  Standing can be very beneficial to practice mindfulness when you are waiting in line, etc.

Walking mindfully (walking meditation) is a beneficial way of practicing in addition to sitting meditation.

Walking Meditation

Adapted from Bhante G. Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness, p.203 :

“Stand up slowly, continuing to pay attention to the breathing process. While you are standing up, be aware of the changes in your physical sensations and perceptions.  Notice that every part of the body has to cooperate in order for you to stand up. While standing, continue to pay attention to your breathing.

Now, while breathing in, lift the heel of one foot, and while breathing out, rest that foot on its toes. Next, while breathing in, lift the entire foot and move it forward and while breathing out, slowly lower it and press it against the floor.  Again while breathing in, lift the heel of the other foot, and while breathing out, rest it on its toes.  While breathing in, lift that entire foot and carry it forward, and while breathing out, lower it and press it against the floor.  Continue walking in this manner for about 10-15 feet.  Then turn around and walk back.

When you walk in this mindful way, paying attention to your breathing, you begin to see how every part of the body from the head to the toes is changing, cooperating, functioning together in the process of walking. For instance, you see that the physical actions that make up walking begin with mental intentions.  You see the intention to lift the foot, the intention, to move it forward, and the intention to lower it and touch the floor.  Simultaneous with these intentions, actions are taking place:  Intention and action happen together so quickly that there is no time to see the interval between and act and the thinking behind it.”

Reflection

  • Each day, re-read this talk and reflect on it.
  • Practice mindfulness in each of the postures.  Try walking meditation.
  • What do you observe?

Meditation

  • Take time to meditate each day if only for a little while.

Next: Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of the Parts of the Body
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