Meditation Q&A

Q: Can I meditate while lying down or do I have to be sitting? Why do people sit cross legged while meditating. What is the best time to meditate? For how long when I start? What if I can’t get my mind to shut up? For years I’ve started & stopped practicing because I usually end up just thinking about stuff I need to do & it becomes a time I make lists. It’s also why I have insomnia but that’s a whole other ball field. Anyways I was going to google these & then I realized I know a guy who’s pretty smart about this stuff. And then when he was busy I thought I’d ask you.   - Carrie D.

Thanks for asking. I will do my best.. I’m not sure who this guy is you’re talking about but he must be the most wise, handsome, and interesting man you know. ;-P

Q: Can I meditate while lying down or do I have to be sitting?
I meditate lying down all the time. That’s how I started. I came across some guided meditations, listened to them after work, and they helped me sleep. I didn’t care if I was doing it right or if I was lying down when they said to sit up. I just knew it was relaxing and a healthier coping skill than the pot i used to smoke.

Now, if you can sit up, that has all sorts of benefits. Your body and mind are inseparable, so a focused, calm posture in your body cultivates those same qualities in your mind. At first, your body may be restless and need to move. Acknowledge it and let it go for now. You can use the Buddhist phrase “this too will pass.” as a reminder that everything changes.

Lying down is great too. . If you lie down to meditate but you fall asleep every time, you’re likely not getting enough sleep. This is a great barometer of your sleep quality, so if you end up taking a nap, a nap is exactly what you need. Most research says to keep naps short, though. 10 to 30 minutes, to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythms.

So, sitting up or lying down, which is better? The one you that you are willing to do!

Q: Why do people sit cross legged while meditating
This is “lotus pose.” Old texts say it “destroys all disease and awakens kundalini.” Most people can’t sit like that though, so sitting on a blanket is fine. The most important thing is you want your hips higher than your knees. This helps relax the hip flexors. The point of the pose is to get a lot of surface area on the ground. You want a firm, stable base for the spine to lengthen, stimulating all the nerves along the spine. Once you’re set into the pose, it becomes more difficult to tip over or slouch. Which is important when your entire finite being dissolves into oneness and merges with the infinite. :-)

Q: What is the best time to meditate?
The time that works for you! Starting out, any time is good. Consistency is even better. Morning is ideal. Everything in nature works in cycles, so the more routine you can make it, the easier it will be to sustain and notice benefits. One of my teachers would put a card on his pillow that says “meditate,” and he wouldn’t move it until he did his daily meditation. 

Q: For how long when I start?
Traditional texts say 2 and 1/2 hours of yoga and/or meditation before sunrise. And i’m just saying that so the next numbers sound a lot smaller and doable; start with 5 minutes. It'll seem like an eternity at first, (that’s how you know your mind needs it!) Work up to 15 minutes. Go higher if you want, but 15 minutes a day is plenty and will have profound benefits. There have been some fascinating studies that if you meditate 15 minutes a day for 6 weeks, you recode your DNA (!) for more positive expression of your genes. 

In short, turn off distractions, set a timer for 5 minutes, sit and focus on the meditation until the timer goes off.

Q: What if I can’t get my mind to shut up?
Keep breathing. Be patient. The mind is just trying to do what it does best; generate thoughts. How do you get a baby to stop crying? If you ignore her, it often just gets worse. If you give her all your attention, you begin to reinforce a habit of crying to get attention. There’s a fine line in the middle. You can be present and accepting of the crying child without trying to ‘fix’ her. Love her and see her. Be curious. If you sit with anything in that way, what happens? It changes. The mind is the same way.

The mind just wants a task. Put it to work. Give it a job. In meditation, the task is often ‘focus on the breath.’ or chanting a mantra. This helps the mind relax. It's doing something. 

Outside of meditation, put it to work on your tasks and to do lists. One. Thing. At. A. Time. And it’ll be much more focused and effective thanks to the work done in meditation.

Also, it sounds like your mind likes to make lists. That’s nice. Thoughtful even. It’s like a cat bringing you a dead bird. It thinks it’s doing something helpful, but you’re trying to focus! So use your mind’s gifts and make those lists. BEFORE you meditate.

If the list is already written out before you meditate, it’s off your mind. If it comes up in meditation, just remember you can write it down later after the timer goes off. 

Q: What about insomnia?
What I often do is practice a "digital sunset." All artificial lighting goes off when the sun goes down. Same with food. Consider eating only when the sun is out. Think about how our ancestors lived and evolved.

In short…
Meditation reconnects you to the infinite, loving source of all creation that we all came from and all return to. Our modern lives keep us out of touch with this inner truth, believing that love is somewhere outside of ourselves. This is why meditation is hard. We're turning the whole system we were born into inside out. 

Marketers and advertisers know this. They invest billions of dollars to study the mind. Their job is to  get their ideas into your head 24/7. Especially when life gets hard. Success for them is when you unconsciously associate them with being able solve your problems. 

The truth is it’s all made up. Some people in the past figured out some things and made some decisions and now this is the world we live in. We can choose to take part or not. 

We’re lead to believe that if we slow down for a second we might miss something. We might lose our spot in the race towards fame, success and happiness if we don’t know about the next gadget or celebrity. The truth is, if we slowed down, we would realize we don’t have to take part in any of that. We can wake up. 

All that noise is drowning out our deepest truth. Everything we are seeking outside of ourselves can only be found within ourselves. 

Life is the game of forgetting this.

Meditation is the practice of remembering this.

And you can practice anytime, anywhere. Sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed is just one practice. It gets most interesting when you bring into every day interactions. That's the real practice. And for that, no amount of teaching or preparation can prepare you. It's all about you being present. And being present is the greatest gift you can give yourself, and others.