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Sitting still or not

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Sitting still or not
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5/26/18 9:47 AM
I am curious to know if others have opinions on this issue.

Suppose I am going to sit and focus on the sensations of the breath. I am torn between two approaches:

Approach 1: Try to sit as still as possible. The mindset is: "I am going to avoid moving, and sit with whatever happens as a result."

Pros:
  • More immediate experience of unpleasant sensations, which can lead to equanimity towards them.
  • Less movement means more stillness, and thus more possibility of reaching more fine-grained awareness.
  • Training oneself to sit still for longer periods of time.

Cons:

  • Unpleasant experiences can be intense and discouraging if equanimity is not found.
  • Harder to focus on breath.
  • Mental effort spent on holding still could be spent on observation instead.
  • Lack of freedom in movement can make it difficult to discover better posture.
  • Over-identification with movement, as the attitude is that all movements are a property of self.
Approach 2: Allow myself to move whenever the urge strikes me, returning attention to the breath whenever possible. The mindset is: "my attention is on the breath, whatever my body does is none of my concern."

Pros:
  • Less discomfort.
  • Easier to view movements as lacking self.
  • Easier to develop equanimity with respect to the movements themselves.
  • Training oneself to concentrate on the breath for longer periods of time.
  • Meditation is more pleasant, and thus harder to get discouraged.
  • Easier develop insight into what causes the urges to move, and what makes them disappear.

Cons:

  • Large movements mean it is harder to notice subtle sensations.
  • Avoidance of uncomfortable sensations leads to lack of equanimity.
  • Will this ever lead to sitting still?
  • This might freak out some teachers.

This debate in my head is the result of realizations such as these:

  • The breath itself creates movement, so "sitting still" is not truly possible. So, where do you draw the line between subtle movements that could be understood as part of breathing, and larger movements (trembling, swaying, getting up and looking in the refrigerator)? It seems to be only a matter of your perspective and level of awareness and insight into causes.
  • Aversion to movement is as much of a real thing as is aversion to pain.
  • All movement is the result of poorly understood internal factors, and once those factors are better understood, the movement can be controlled better (but until then, what is the sense in trying to control it?)
  • I have felt personal gains from doing each of these approaches.
Has anyone else gone through this line of thinking? Are there other ways to look at it that I haven't considered?

RE: Sitting still or not
Answer
5/26/18 9:57 AM as a reply to spatial.
Instructions from Mr Mahasi: http://www.tathagata.org/DhammaTalks/Instructions/Mahasi_Instruction.html - CTRL+F "moving".

I personally relax tensions when I notice them. If there's persistent pain I try to figure out a posture that diminishes it, but I do this outside of a "formal" sit. 

RE: Sitting still or not
Answer
5/26/18 10:01 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Paul Smith:
Instructions from Mr Mahasi: http://www.tathagata.org/DhammaTalks/Instructions/Mahasi_Instruction.html - CTRL+F "moving".

I personally relax tensions when I notice them. If there's persistent pain I try to figure out a posture that diminishes it, but I do this outside of a "formal" sit. 


Thanks for that link! It looks like there is some very practical advice in there. I'll have to read through it more carefully.

RE: Sitting still or not
Answer
5/27/18 4:17 PM as a reply to spatial.
spatial:
 I am torn between two approaches:

Start out by looking at the feeling of being torn itself. Let the story unfold and be equanimous about it.