May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free of danger. May you be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. May you be peaceful, kind, wise, and skillful. May you be at ease.
Come Sunday Dharma Talk : Sit Down
Stay Woke . Stay Woke : a meditation guide for the rest of us by Michael Justin Williams
After my parents divorced, we would go to my dad's house on Monday, Wednesday, and every other weekend. My dad's house was the one place all of my siblings, half siblings, and step-siblings could be together—so, as you can imagine with five plus kids running around things got a little crazy. Whenever we push playtime boundaries too far my dad would yell a magic phrase that would get us in check instantly.
My dad's magic words, "Sit yo' ass down".
As soon as my siblings and I heard that one line. We somehow went from wild frenzy. To complete stillness in a split second.
Do you remember something like this from your childhood? If so, hear me now. I am not your dad, your mom, your babysitter, or your seventh grade homeroom teacher. Meditation should feel like the opposite of getting in trouble when you were a kid. It should feel like the opposite of being restrained, the opposite of being on time-out, and the opposite of sitting in church. Most of us have been trained to sit in rigid discomfort—at school, at work, and at church. We must undo that pattern.
So step one is simple. Sit yo' ass down…but comfortably. Most people think that you must sit still on the ground with your legs crossed to meditate. And I can understand why: if you Google the word "meditation", the first hundred images you'll see are pictures of white folks on mountaintops in stretchy yoga pants sitting with their legs crossed and their hands on their knees. I've been doing yoga for more than 12 years now, and sitting on the floor cross-legged is still one of the most uncomfortable positions I've ever been in. It hurts my back, and my legs go numb. It —sucks. Even if you're in great physical shape sitting cross lake for extended periods of time is likely to be uncomfortable. And, if that's true for you JUST DON'T DO IT. The idea that you need to be sitting still and cross leg while meditating. Is simply not true. The most important thing about your position during meditation is that your body be totally at ease.
Sit, however, and wherever you want. Just get comfortable so that your body can come to a place of rest.
Now, this might seem obvious, but if your body is uncomfortable, your brain cannot relax. Just think about it. One of your brain's primary functions is to keep the body in a state of balance, so if your leg is falling asleep from sitting in some weird position, your brain will fire off insistent signals to make the body move. If you're sitting in meditation thinking "Even though my leg is tingling I must sit totally still right now because I'm meditating", then your brain is going to go into overdrive. It will call upon all of its resources to make you move. If you don't move, your brain will make you itch, or sneeze, or cough, or go to the bathroom—it will do whatever it takes until you get out of your uncomfortable position. Your brain is powerful. And it will always win, that is at least until you develop a certain somatic discipline. So for right now, get cozy. Because if the body is not comfortable, the mind cannot relax.
Take a second and practice right now. Get comfortable. I mean really comfortable. Let it feel luxurious. Even if that means you need to get up and move to another spot. It doesn't matter if you're in a chair, on the floor, in your car, on the couch, sitting cross-legged, kneeling on your knees, or if you just grab some pillows and prop your back up against the wall. Anything goes.
And remember, anytime your body gets uncomfortable, you have permission to move.
So we're going to practice. Right Now. Sit Down. Just Sit.