The natural postures for meditation and for worship are different. In worship there is often a natural raising of the hands, or arms, upwards and the body may be kneeling, sitting on the legs in the Japanese fashion, or standing. Of course in a formal group worship, definite movements may be prescribed. But in general one can say that the limbs are not withdrawn; there is some extension, even if it is just holding a rosary over the heart. The attitude is of an aspiration to a God outside, generally conceived as somehow mainly above, though theoretically asserted to be all-pervasive. In practice, he is thought of as everywhere but here.
The characteristic meditation posture on the other hand, symbolizes withdrawal from the sense entanglements, by physical withdrawal of the limbs towards the centre conceived of as round about the navel. The traditional posture of yoga is to sit on the ground on a substantial cushion, with legs crossed and at least one foot on the opposing thigh. The hands are linked in front of the abdomen. The spine, neck and head are roughly in line. Children can attain the externals of this posture with ease; young people can attain it in six weeks of daily practice for half an hour; older people can in most cases attain it in some months. When attained it is extraordinarily comfortable.
Experience in the monasteries tells of some weeks of discomfort, some weeks of self-conscious adaptation, but a final stage when the big obstacle to meditation is not discomfort but sleep in this most comfortable of positions, which now maintains itself naturally.
A horse can sleep standing up, and a practised monk can fall asleep sitting bolt upright. The monitor in the meditation hall who goes round to prevent any such aberrations, looks at the mouth and jaw for any slackening of the tone, a sure give-away.
The yoga posture symbolizes, and in a sense actualizes, consciousness of the God within, not only all-pervasive of other regions.
It is also a fact that the rest in meditation is greater than the rest experienced even in deep sleep in other positions such as the familiar one in bed. Studies on experienced monks show that the metabolic rate is less then in any other state.
If neurotics can be persuaded to practise the posture, even without any metaphysical background, it can of itself lead to a big reduction in their inner stresses. When they begin to experience this effect they themselves take to it, sometimes for more than an hour a day, in order to experience the relief it gives.
© Trevor Leggett