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meditation posture

Khemadhammo
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meditation posture
Dear Esther, I'd like to express my sincere appreciation for your book and your method. I am a Buddhist monk, born and raised in Holland, but ordained in the Thai tradition, living in a Thai monastery. When someone recommended your book, I recognized much of it, living in quite a traditional (sub-) culture myself. There's also an accupuncturist who often teaches at our temple, who does some sort of posture therapy, quite similar in many ways to what you teach (http://www.readypremium.com/ecommerce/Kasomson/ArticleDisplay.asp?urlID=30). However, your approach seems more clear to me. It has helped me a lot in sitting better in meditation and chanting postures, generally quite challenging postures for westerners. I'd like to ask if you have any suggestions on how to sit in meditation posture properly, following the principles of your method. For example, how should you allign the legs properly, so they don't get twisted? Do you use your arches in any way? I really believe you have found some very valuable keys to good health by your method! Regards, Phra Sander Khemadhammo
Esther Gokhales Bild
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Hi there, How nice to hear from you. My mother is Dutch and I was born in Amstelveen. Also, I have traveled in Thailand twice with my family and love the country. I know what you mean by seeing what I describe around you. For meditation postures, a lot depends on your flexibility. I am going to assume you have a typical Western body. In this case it is essential to have a support to sit on if you are going to sit crosslegged on the floor. A Japanese stype Zafu works well, though some people need something higher yet. The criteria for whether your arrangement is healthy is that you be upright and relaxed. It's no good to slump and also no good to tense to be upright. Sometimes we get so used to tensing we are not aware that that is what we are doing. Feel the groove on the midline of your spine to check this. Also feel whether the erector spinae (longitudinal) muscles on either side of your spine are taut. They should be relaxed. Other postures that work well are seiza (the pose Japanese use to eat) if your knees are healthy. I particularly like placing a Zafu edgewise under me with my lower legs pointing backwards on either side of the Zafu - it feels somewhat like riding a horse. A meditation bench can also be good. And then there is sitting in a chair - a good adaptation for Westerners and not to be looked down upon! I don't think the feet should play an active role in sitting, but please let me know if you see people around you doing otherwise. I will check out the resource you mention - so few people even recognize that posture is important, we need to band together!
katejj
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Dear Esther

I use your cushions and they've made such a difference to my long hours of desk work - as has my focusing on glide-walking (I call it being 'regal' :-). Thank you for the beautiful clarity with which you communicate how to go about these changes - you're very inspirational and 'ok-ok' in how you describe the unhelpful behaviours/positions.

My question is a continuation of the above. I can comfortably sit cross-legged, 1/2 lotus, burmese, and 'polite posture' for 40 minutes. These days, as the hours go by I become very stiff and am unable to immediately walk when I stand up. I also get sore 'sit bones' . I'm 63/ 5'2" and have had tremendous flexibility in my hips (I sat cross legged as a child) but aging/inflammation/too much desk work has stiffened them up - particularly in the last year. I wanted to get a cushion to help me with my first week-long meditation retreat. I was thinking of the moonleap rather than a zafu.

https://www.meditationcushions.moonleap.com/index.php?route=common/home

Does it sound technically sensible to you? The alternative that I'm considering is a simpler solution of a meditation bench like this one (either with straigh feet or curved feet base)  https://www.blackdragonseats.com.au/products/meditation-seat?variant=1787105731

However I'm unsure what might work best. I'd be very interested in your opinion.

Thank you very much!

Khemadhammo
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Dear Esther, Thank you very much for your valuable comments. It is a very valuable reminder for myself. It helps me to be reminded of maintaining the balance between awareness and ease, in both body and mind. Also, I am quite sure I will be able to use much of your principles in advicing people on their meditation posture, as a way of "stacksitting". On a similar note, in the Thai tradition, in ceremonies and when giving or listening to teachings we usually sit in a posture which in Thai is called phab phiab. (See pictures.) The feet of the backwards pointing leg is sometimes also tucked inwards by some people, with the toes touching the buttocks. It is often a great challenge for many non-Thai to sit in this position for a long time. Having ordained as a monk now for five years, I have gotten more used to the position by now, but still not quite as comfortable as I would like to be. Would you have any recommendations how to work or exercise to be able to sit in this position comfortably? And do you have any cautions or tips on actually sitting in this position? The accupuncturist I mentioned doesn't recommend the posture at all. He says it twists the back. Nevertheless, it is a traditional ceremonial posture that has been used by Thai for many hundreds of years, and is now part of Buddhist tradition that is taught to westerners as well. I'd like to hear your comments on this. I have read in your book that you are from the Netherlands. I myself was born in Amsterdam, and I return to the Netherlands every now and then. It's a very nice culture to grow up, though I must say that these days I have slightly lost touch of my "dutchness", living in Thailand! Phra Sander Khemadhammo
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Thanks for your post with excellent pictures. This is one of the positions I teach for sitting on the ground, beach, etc. I teach it the way the woman is doing it, with a little support from one hand/arm to ensure that the back is not too curved. I think how well you can do this depends on your hip flexibility going side to side. I teach people Samba to gain more of this flexibility. Hip mobility correlates with back health and is lacking in modern societies. Even very active people mostly move front to back, not side to side. Dance is where people get this naturally and unfortunately most modern cultures have dropped dance from their pallette of experience. Hip mobility os one of many reasons I want to see dance come back into modern culture... In the mean time, until you have enough hip flexibility to sit the way the men are sitting in your pictures, use your arm so that you aren't going to end of the range of motion of your spine at any point.
Khemadhammo
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Dear Esther, Thanks very much for all your advice! I'm sure I can make quite some improvement now. Just a final question on this topic: my knees are pointing outwards quite a lot (almost 45 degrees), especially when I am sitting on a chair. Do you think this could be related to sitting in meditation posture? In the past, before I learned about the importance of posture, I sat for meditation a lot in bad form or bad posture. Also, I often sat in normal cross-legged position (with both ankles on the floor) instead of the half-lotus position as I do now. Do you think my knees are a big problem? I feel quite comfortable sitting in any posture now, including sitting on the floor in half-lotus, but I am concerned my turned-outward knees might become a problem later onwards. How do you think I should proceed to work on my knees? Phra Sander.
Esther Gokhales Bild
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I don't think somewhat outward facing knees are a problem (assuming your feet point the same way) except if you are a woman sitting down and wearing a skirt (!) I have the same tendency in my knees from having done years of Bharata Natyam (a South Indian dance form) as a child. A lot of people in India have this from sitting crosslegged on the floor for hours. It's the internally rotated knees that seem to cause problems.
Khemadhammo
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I see. That is good news. Thank you for the quick response! Just out of curiosity, where abouts are you going to teach in the Netherlands? Is the program held in English, Dutch or both?
Esther Gokhales Bild
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In Driebergen. It has just been posted on the website. It will be in English with Dutch thrown in to the best of my ability for people who need that. My Dutch is that of a five-year old's. It works but isn't sophisticated.
Khemadhammo
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Oh, I see, thank you. Anyway, most Dutch people do understand some English. I think  a lot of Dutch will be surprised and curious to hear about your life story and also how you developed the method. I am now trying to do every step you recommend in the book. I find that glidewalking is the most difficult, but I am getting it bit by bit. It always has surprised me how flexible the Thai people here are, but with your book I understand that quite a bit better now! Phra Sander.
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