Planted on the Earth, Reaching Toward the Heavens

Whether we are sitting in a chair or on the floor, the first thing we want to do in preparing for meditation is to tilt our pelvis and our hips slightly forward. When we do this we feel a gentle pressure pushing our knees down toward the ground, weight and tension falling into the legs and the lower body, all of which enhances our sense of being rooted in the earth. (This downward pressure will be most apparent to those who sit on the floor, but it can also be achieved in a chair by raising the back legs of the chair an inch or so.) At the same time, this pelvic tilt sends a distinct lift up the center of the upper body. We feel this lift at the sternum and at the crown of the skull as well. Meditation is an active state. This sense of reaching upward toward the sky makes us feel as if we are holding the upper body aloft with energy as well as with the musculature of the back.

As we tilt the pelvis and hips forward, the upper body is balanced, held at an equipoise, erect but supple, relaxed and alert. As weight and tension fall into the lower body and legs, the upper body becomes light and relaxed. The head should be held up, ears aligned with the shoulders and chin tucked very slightly toward the collarbone. This aligns the upper spine with the rest of it. Proper alignment is very important because of the spine’s vital role as a conduit of nerves, nerve endings, and energy. The mouth should be closed, the teeth open and unclenched. The eyes should be half opened, without focusing on the visual field. If we close the eyes we will be tempted to fall into a dream or a trance. If we look at the objects of sight, we will distract ourselves from the inner objects of our concentration.

Body and mind should be held at the same balance point we mentioned above—between relaxation and tension, relaxed but alert, supple but erect. To this end, the hands should be held in a conscious position—either in an oval on the lap (thumbs touching on the top, fingers overlapped on the bottom), or resting palm up on the knees, with the thumb and forefinger of each hand forming a circle. We can then monitor the hands to make sure that they are neither clenched nor slack. The connection between the hands and the mind is very strong. The mind tends to follow the hands, and the body follows the mind. If the hands are held at this balance point, both mind and body will tend to follow.