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To Zafu or Not to Zafu? The Chair is the Question

July 18, 2016

Mindful Magazine recently invited me to offer a regular feature to support people who are meditating and getting stuck. We are calling it “Am I Doing This Right” and is an opportunity to have some fun, address some common questions and concerns that people have when they are meditating, and hopefully facilitate more mindfulness and compassion in the world. I will be posting the items here as well, but for the full presentation check out the latest issue of Mindful, or better yet, subscribe and get them all!

My knee hurts a lot when I sit on the floor, but somebody told me that it’s better to sit on a cushion on the floor than in a chair? What should I do?

Well, it really all depends on whether you paid extra for the enchanted cushion infused with the special levitational crystals, or if you just have a run-of-the-mill zafu. If your aim is to marinate in the energy of the crystals long enough to see if you can catch some air between you and the cushion (i.e. float in mid-air) then by all means, endure the pain and see what happens.

Kidding aside: Perhaps your intention in meditating regularly is to release some stress, find your way back into a more purposeful way of being, respond to life’s difficulties in fulfilling ways, and extract yourself from the cycle of suffering every now and then. In that case, for heaven’s sake, get off the cushion and give your knee a break. Who told you that this mindfulness practice thing needed to involve endurance and stoicism of near-biblical proportions? You’re not a candidate for martyrdom (well, at least I assume not), so there’s no need to tough it out to avoid a black mark on your permanent record.

That having been said, before you pop up at the first sign of knee pain, could you actually be with the pain and see where it’s leading? Can you allow your attention to rest lightly on the sensation and explore it, dance with it perhaps, for even a few moments? Maybe the “I’m going to die if I don’t get up” pain might actually slowly morph into “Hey, that was painful but now it’s fading” pain instead. Or it could get more intense, and then your choice is to decide when it’s right to get up.

There are no trophies or medals for meditators who can withstand the most pain. But there is a little alcove in the hallowed halls of the Meditation Hall of Fame for someone who sticks with pain so long that his legs go numb, and when he tries to stand up after meditating for 45 minutes, his legs buckle awkwardly and he topples face first into his wife’s antique end table (one can only hope nobody saw that little tumble I took).

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 1, 2016 12:23 pm

    True, true. Nobody says you have to sit on the floor to meditate! The position of sitting has no effect on your meditation — it is simply there to facilitate your thoughtless awareness. If it starts getting painful, move to a chair, or the couch, or your bed.

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