Meditation should be easy. After all, most techniques ask you balance meditation in two simple ways—by sitting still and paying attention. We all do those things to one degree or another in our daily lives. In theory, meditation shouldn’t be a big deal. But, of course, when we actually try sitting meditation, we discover two things: our minds wander and our bodies ache.
If we want to make meditation a regular part of our life, we will need to tame our busy minds and strengthen our bodies. In meditation texts, there is a great deal said about how to develop mindfulness and awareness. But not as much is said about working with the body. We are encouraged to take a balanced seat on our meditation cushion, returning to an upright posture when we find ourselves slouching. We are told our muscles will strengthen over time as we practice. And yoga and tai chi might help us limber up.
Erika Berland has a lot more to say about the physical experience of sitting meditation. In her book Sitting: the Physical Art of Meditation, she provides us with an in-depth look at the interaction between meditation and the body. Her thinking combines meditative awareness with what she calls the somatic approach. Berland's view is that health in mind and body can be fostered through emphasis on internal physical perception and experience.
Meditation Balance: The Breath
In Berland's approach, it is the breath that creates the vital pathway to relating to our bodies and our lives:
About the Author: Ericka Berland
Berland, a pioneer in somatic movement education, encourages us to make friends with gravity. Arranging our hips, spine, and shoulders with the support of our internal organs, we achieve balance in our meditation sitting posture. We can cultivate a balanced nervous system by attending to our bodily sensations and the surrounding environment. Berland also believes we can support our meditation by bringing awareness to the endocrine system. (This system circulates the hormones regulating our internal organs.) Berland encourages visualization and imagery to connect with internal bodily systems.