A Day Long Retreat
Are you a meditator who would love to sit with more comfort and natural alignment and less struggle and strain?
Are you someone who’s drawn to begin or deepen an existing meditation practice?
Are you someone who would love to experience your body as an ally to your mindfulness practice, rather than an obstacle?
Have we got something good for you!
For many of us who take up the practice of meditation, the physical aspect of the sitting posture can be one of the most challenging elements of the practice. The sore knees, the aching shoulders, the feet falling asleep, the aching back– most often these are just taken as a “given” of sitting practice. For those of us who stick with a practice over a longer period of time, we often just get used to those pains and learn to find as much peace as we can with our discomfort.
We are rarely taught that our sitting can become more and more comfortable, easy, natural, aligned, and free.
Whatever the tradition, when people take up a sitting practice, there is often some basic instruction on posture. These instructions vary in details, but essentially we are invited to sit upright with the spine relaxed and long and the breath free, but what is often missing is the how.
How do I have a long, relaxed spine without clenching to hold myself upright?
How do I allow my breath to move when I have so much tension in my back and hips and neck?
How do I prevent my head from coming forward or my shoulders from becoming rigid?
When we sit, whether meditating or just sitting at the desk, many of us try to accomplish the posture though our will. We force ourselves to uprightness and we maintain stillness through a heroic endurance of discomfort and pain. When that gets tiring (as it inevitably will) we might collapse into a slouch. When that gets uncomfortable (as it inevitably will) we push ourselves back to forced uprightness. When we are willing ourselves into stillness and uprightness it is very challenging to relax into the posture, rest our minds, ease our breath, and settle naturally into our practice.
Often, when we teach this somatic work at meditation retreats, long-time meditators will come up to us, surprised and delighted by how much their sitting has changed and ask,
“Why didn’t I hear this 30 years ago when I started sitting?!“
The Feldenkrais and Embodied Life based movement lessons we work with in the Art of Sitting help to re-awaken the capacity that we had to sit with uncontrived ease as children. Young children are never trying hard to be aligned or upright. They have not disconnected from their embodied intelligence, and so they naturally, spontaneously organize themselves with the support of their bones, free to move, free to breathe. We still have this capacity as adults, but it takes some intentional somatic reeducation.
We won’t pretend that after doing these lessons you’ll never have aches and pains on the cushion again. As any long-time meditator knows, your body, your state, and your experience are always changing. However, we do know without a doubt that these lessons can make sitting much easier. We know that these lessons can help you develop a new relationship with your body as an ally to your practice, rather than an obstacle. This kind of learning can give you a well-stocked toolbox of somatic resources which you can turn to anytime you want to refresh your uncontrived, upright posture.
Many meditative traditions refer to your “natural mind” or the “natural state.”
What if the posture of meditation could feel have the feeling of you sitting in your most natural, uncontrived body?
We share the view of other teachers of embodied mediation like Russell Delman, Tara Brach, Reggie Ray, Will Johnson, and Suzuki Roshi, that the posture is not something that just supports the practice of meditation, but the posture is none other than the practice itself.
When we are fully inhabiting the posture, we are fully inhabiting our mediation and the expanse of being.
The lessons we will explore help to bring alignment and ease to sitting, but they also support a larger shift, both on and off the cushion; that of learning to more fully inhabit our bodies.
We find ourselves living in a modern culture that is extraordinarily disembodied. We tend to be centered in our head and for the most part, pretty disconnected from much of what is happening below our neck – unless, of course, it hurts. We are often, as Thich Nhat Hanh described, “lost in thought.” When we shift our relationship with our bodies and our movement, we change our relationship to thought and to life itself. We arrive here, in this body, in this moment, on this spot, available to life. The power of this shift cannot be overestimated. We return to our embodied wholeness.
Saturday, September 29th, 10-5:30pm (lunch break from 1-2:30)
At Two Arrows Zen Center
230 S 500 W #155, Salt Lake City, UT 84101