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Former Guiding Teacher Rae Houseman answers some frequently asked questions about Insight Meditation practice.
- Is there a right position?
Sitting upright with an erect spine that is not rigid, either on a cushion(s), a chair or a bench, is recommended.
- Is sitting the only meditation posture?
There are four traditional meditation postures; sitting, lying down, standing and walking. The reason that sitting is generally emphasized as the primary posture is because people have a tendency to fall asleep when practicing meditation while lying down. Lying down is a traditional meditation posture, so if it feels comfortable, and you are able to stay awake and alert, then it can be a great way to practice. It offers a lot of potential for relaxation. The benefit of practicing in a variety of postures is that the mind has more opportunity for training in ways that can easily translate into our everyday life activities. Because we are often engaged in activities that require us to be standing or walking in our daily lives, practicing meditation in these postures helps us bring awareness into these activities.
- Is moving my body while meditating OK?
Practitioners are encouraged to minimize movement while sitting as bodily stillness promotes calm in the mind; however, wise meditating includes knowing when it is necessary to move to avoid hurting oneself and learning how to move with minimal disruption to other meditators.
- How do I know if I am doing it correctly?
The aim of the practice is to develop an awareness that can be with anything we experience. Sometimes this means that we are with a very busy mind. In this case, it’s just great that there is some awareness developing of what is happening in the mind. So, if you are able to see that the mind is lost in thought, even just for a moment, and bring the attention back to some aspect of your present moment experience (like the breath, the feeling of the body sitting, or sound) then you are doing it correctly. We just keep practicing being aware of what’s happening – bringing the mind back to the present moment experience.
- Do I need to be in a quiet environment?
No, we can learn to use sound as part of what we are observing in the practice. We simply open our attention to include an awareness of whatever it is that is being heard, and notice that hearing is happening. With time we can also become aware of the reactivity of the mind. How is the mind reacting to the sound in the environment? This is something to get curious about.
- Should I use guided meditations? We are fortunate that today there are many options for accessing quality guided meditations. If there is interest in using guided sessions some good options are:
- 10% Happier https://www.10percenthappier.com/guided-meditations/
- Headspace https://www.headspace.com/
- Insight Timer https://insighttimer.com/
- Calm https://www.calm.com/
The benefit of using a guided session is that the guidance can support the development of the practice and bring the attention back to the present moment. While guided sessions can be supportive it isn’t necessary to use them; if there is interest in practicing without a guide it’s encouraged to explore this interest and see for yourself what works best for you.
- Can I listen to music while I meditate? Although music can be very relaxing which may make our practice seem easier, we are interested in developing an awareness that is not reliant on external supports or distractions. We are moving toward building confidence in our ability to sit with ourselves regardless of whether or not we are feeling particularly relaxed.