January 11th, 2009

Generic Meditation Issues: Do not lie down while meditating.

Two monks pray and smoke until the younger monk (Y) gets a pang of conscience and wonders about the appropriateness of this.  "Should we pray and smoke at the same time."  So the older monk (O) says: "Well, lets ask the abbot."  The next day Y finds O smoking and praying, as usual.
    Y: Didn't you talk to the abbot about this.
    O: Yes, he told me it was all right.
    Y:  But he did not give me permission!
    O: What did you ask?
    Y:  I asked if it was alright to smoke while praying.
    O:  Oh, I see the problem.  I asked if it was alright to pray while smoking.

Some meditation experts insist that a person cannot properly meditate without a proper meditative posture.  Shunsyu Suzuki (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind) insists that one cannot meditate at all without proper posture, thereby. in my opinion, eliminating the possibility of meditation from the lives of the elderly or disabled.

Joan Tollifson ("Imperfection is a beautiful thing") is a one-armed Buddhist activist.  She writes as follows:

        "The existence of disability in the human population raises some important questions,  What is
     this Zen work really all about?  Is it about sitting in a particular position, in a particular posture, 
     eating soundlessly with chopsticks, out of Japanese bowls?  I don't think so.
         Such a vision excludes a lot of people,  My mother, for example.  Her hands shake.  They always
     have.  She could never eat an oryoki meal    http://www.zenriver.nl/Oryoki.htm   
     without experiencing humiliation and failure.                                        
          I'm not opposed to rigorous, formal Zen practice,,,,,but what I am questioning is a certain mentality
     that actually mistakes these rituals for the truth itself,
           Disabled people are a great corrective for a certain strain of Japanese Zen which emphasizes                              the details of form in such a way that correct technique becomes more important than the heart of      
    the practice.  What would be better than having a few visibly imperfect people around who twitch and
    drool and stumble and make noise and go  the wrong way?  Imperfection is a beautiful thing.  Its
    the essence of being organic and alive."

I also am aware of approaching the sacred in a respectful posture.  Certain techniques do help.  I find that holding my hands in the prescribed Buddhist manner during prayer or meditation is really helpful for maintaining mindfulness.  But I am often overly concerned about undisciplined actions of my body.  I'll bet I could gently push away a pornographic or violent thought during meditation and go right on being mindful.  If I cough, however, I feel that I have spoiled the "mood" for me and everybody else and it takes entirely too long to get back into the meditative state.

Often, I go all day without meditating.  After lying down, in the dark, in our comfortable bed, warm and cozy, beside my sleeping spouse, relieved of all responsibility for as long as she lies safely in the arms of Orpheus, knowing I will be awake for another twenty minutes minimum,  I will use that time to meditate, or even pray.  No, I do not lie down while meditating; but I do sometimes meditate while lying down.

"Meditate any way you wish, Just don't talk. " Soen Nakagawa