A week ago (September 12) I posted instructions for meditating in the Burmese positions. That’s the closest I get to sitting in lotus, since my groin and calve muscles are just too tight. My next-favourite position – the one I’m able to maintain for several 30-minute periods with only occasional foot cramps — is called seiza.
To sit in seiza, turn the zafu on its side so that it’s taller than wide, and lower your buttocks onto it, while placing your knees on either side. This gives you the three-point foundation so necessary to sit upright for any length. Place your hands before you. Some people put a small cushion on their thighs just below the waist and rest their hands on it. Keep in mind that these are general instructions: each meditation centre has its own ways. If you’re unsure of how to sit, arrive early and ask for beginning instructions, or watch an experienced sitter next to you or across the room. Just don’t be intimidated by all the bowing, the garments, and people’s serious expressions. In my experience, meditators are always glad to assist each other.
Seiza is the traditional way for Japanese people to sit for meals and tea ceremony. In the West you’ll see martial arts students sit in seiza before and after mat exercises, arranged according to rank, ready to bow to their teacher. Such seiza is done without a cushion: feet are flat on the floor, big toes overlap, and buttocks lowered all the way down. Ouch!
photo credit (top) and inspiration for this post: Still Sitting Meditation Supply, Vachon Island, WA.