[Thomas McConkie, Mindfulness Teacher]
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Mindfulness+. I'm your host, Thomas McConkie. Thanks so much for listening today. The teaching today, the practice is simple, but I think profound, not for any profundity of my own, but when we pay attention, life itself is profound. And I think that's a lot of what this practice is, on Mindfulness+, we pay close attention to ourselves, to our lives, and we realize that life is revealing profound lessons to us all the time, something like that. So I thought it'd be a good episode to talk about the body, talk about posture, because when we practice mindfulness, when we practice meditation, we're always doing it in the body. Even when we're having an out of body experience, for those of you who have experience with that. There's still a body somewhere on the Earth with breathing lungs and a beating heart. So if we're gonna go far in this practice, we do well to set up a posture that supports the practice. I thought we would spend a little time on posture today. And I wanted to talk about, there's a teaching that I hear in Zen. I hear in many traditions, but I'm thinking of Zen when I say it that there's this saying of sit like a mountain. So how do you sit like a mountain? Well, first, I have a story. You can see what you think about this. I was somewhere outside of Seattle. This was sometime in the last 10 years. I was just meditating in a quiet, cozy little room with a few colleagues of mine, and the breakfast bell rang, or it was about to ring, something like that. And it was time to get up. And I had this thought in my mind, time to get up. And the moment I had this thought, time to get up, it was as if I could feel the mass of the entire universe. This could sound trippy. Look, you don't need to have this experience, and you don't have to even believe that I had this experience to be a good meditator and a happy human being, but I'm just giving it to you straight. This is what happened. So I kind of think to get up like, oh, breakfast, I love breakfast, I'm gonna get up. And the moment I had this thought of getting up, it was as if I was, my body was all the rock, and all the mineral of the entire cosmos, like to say that I felt heavy would be a supreme understatement. I was so utterly massive that the thought of moving was like madness. Like, why would I move? There's no moving to do, I just am. That was the experience. It was quite pleasant, actually. There's this period of I don't know how long, how much time, where I was just all the rock and mineral of all the created universe. And it just felt good to be heavy, not heavy in the emotional human sense of the word. I feel down, I feel heavy. It was like, I feel weighty. I feel massive. I feel ponderous. I feel infinite in a sense, and it's not wasted on me that I've been told by physicists, astrophysicists, that the same carbon, the same elements that were cooked up in the crucible of the stars eons ago, it's the same stuff that's in our cells. It's the same stuff, and matrix, and underlying support that allows us to live, and breathe, and move, and have our being. So, in that moment, was I tapping into my inner mineral nature? Maybe, I don't know. I don't make too much story of it, but what I want to say is that it was, it gave me an insight of how profoundly settled I could feel as a human being. I think that's what I want to say. This instruction, sit like a mountain, it's not just a nice metaphor. It is a nice metaphor, I think, but there's something more going on here that sit like a mountain, it's like, there's a mountain in you. There's your inner mountain, you are a mountain. And in a given moment, you can actually deeply channel that, experience that, embody it, express it. And it comes with a feeling of stability, and strength, and steadiness. It's part of our human makeup and heritage, and what we have access to, and the human experience. A Zen teacher of mine, I've had her on the show, brilliant woman, Diane Hamilton, Musho Roshi in the Zen tradition. I remember sitting with her years ago in Southern Utah where she has a gorgeous temple, and Songa that practices there. And I was struck that one day, she just invited us to go out into the red rock. She just said, go find a place where you can sit on the rock, in the rock, among the rocks. And she said something to the effect of like nobody, no teacher will ever teach you Samadhi, which is meditation, which is deep, stable concentration. Nobody will ever teach you Samadhi like the red rock. What a beautiful teaching. That's what I want to do today. I want to just invite you to channel, to access your inner rockdom. And see what that does for you. Set up a posture. Oftentimes on Mindfulness+, I'll say you're walking, sitting, standing, lying, whatever. Today, if you can, maybe hit pause if you're not somewhere where you can settle, and really allow yourself to settle here. Take a moment to set up a posture. If you're sitting on a cushion on the ground, presumably you know how to do that. So you can just really make contact in relationship with the ground, and start to trust your weight to it, start to settle in. And if you're on a chair or a stool, or something like that, I wanna invite you to sit with your feet in front of you, flat on the floor, your hips elevated, so that your hips are above the knees, which allows your spine to really release, really relax. And for the spine to just float upright with its natural curve. There are a lot of postural points we could focus on. Posture can become extremely detailed, but the quality I want you to pay attention to in this period is really the spine. The strength of the spine, the structure, the integrity of the spine, and the vertebrae like a stack of coins. So notice this metaphor, and a stack of coins. If the coins are stacked perfectly upright, and gravity is neutralized through the center of that stack. But if the stack is leaning in any one direction, gravity will eventually topple the stack. So the invitation is to just allow the spine to be upright. So really helpful tips for sitting with an upright spine. I mentioned elevating the hips, so that the hips are above the knees. That releases the lower back muscles. And then towards the midriff, the diaphragm, the solar plexus, this area, there's a tendency to kind of collapse. The spine folds. And I think of this, it's this image like a garden hose kinking, stops up the flow of water. It stops up the flow of vital energy in the body. Actually makes us drowsy and uncomfortable. So to counteract this habit, this tendency of the spine kind of folding in the middle of the body, you can think about, just imagine the heart, the heart like a helium balloon in the ribcage, just lifting up slightly, just bringing a little buoyancy to the ribcage, which naturally lifts the spine up, keeping it straight. And the next little tip, in the neck area, the cervical vertebrae, there's a tendency for this area to become pinched if our chin is too far forward, if we're kind of sitting with an eager quality, almost looking up at the sky when we sit. So to correct this, you can just look straight forward in front of you, and then tuck the chin ever so slightly towards the sternum. Just enough so you feel the elongation, just a little stretch in the neck, the cervical vertebrae. And energy just flows in this way. Sit like a mountain, flow like a river. When we unkink the spine, it's like unkinking a garden hose in the water. It can just flow freely to everything we want to nourish with the water. Unkink that hose. Just let the spine be naturally straight and upright. Everything's flowing. But the structure of the spine, the skeleton, the integrity of your own structure, like this stack of coins, this scaffold, holds you up with minimal effort. Let this be dynamic. You're listening from awareness, from the inside of the spine. Don't think about your posture. Don't worry what you look like, really feel from the inside, this natural equipoise, this dynamic equilibrium. Stability, a calm. A straight spine naturally brings alertness to the mind, to the nervous system. Alertness supports mindfulness. When we're clear and alert, we can notice the places where we're struggling, where we're fighting in the body, in life. Bringing to awareness where we're struggling, where we're fighting, we can invoke a deep quality of equanimity, this quality of nonstruggle, or just present and willing to experience what we're experiencing. So like a mountain, as you sit upright, stately, grand, alert with equanimity, you feel resourced to weather the seasons, so to speak. The tallest peaks are battered by the rains, and the wind, and the snow, and the sun. Whatever the conditions, when you take this posture, when you sit like a mountain, and take refuge in the strength, the integrity of your own backbone, you start to realize how resourced you are. There's something in you that can meet this moment fully. Makes no difference if at the personality level you like it, you don't, you wished for this moment, you didn't. As the mountain, you just are. As the mountain, you sit with the patience of centuries. You're mighty, you're massive. There's also a softness to your willingness. Stay with it. The longer you practice, the deeper you practice. Set up this posture, and let the posture do the work. Let the posture meditate you. You don't have to do anything. The intelligence of eons of the very substance of the stars is in your cells. You are the rocks and the minerals, their strength, their stability, their calmness, their patience. It's all right here. Continue to listen from the inside of sensation. If there's any micro adjustment you need to make, a micro kink you feel come up from the force of habit, just listen from the inside, readjust dynamically moment to moment. You're sitting still like a mountain, but the mountain dances. At the microscopic level that mountain is dancing, this blooming, buzzing, teaming activity at the subatomic level. So paradoxically sitting as the mountain in stillness reveals to us all of the activity of creation. It's all right here. If it helps, you can call up the image of one of your favorite mountains. The red rocks of Zion, Mount Rainier, the Appalachians, the Matterhorn, Kilimanjaro, wherever you are in the world, whatever mountain speaks to you, whatever rocks, these rocks are your bones, they're your cells. It's a part of you that knows this experience from the inside. Oh yeah. Man, I didn't have enough rock in my day. That's how I'm feeling right now. More rock, more rock. Okay, so sit like a mountain. This is your own spine. It's your own backbone. It's your own body, it's your own life. These are positive qualities you can activate in the field of your own humanity, your awareness, they're gifts we have to draw from. I hope in today's practice, you felt the strength of these gifts, and that you have a little more access to them. I appreciate you listening. If you enjoy this show, it helps us out to share it with a friend. Leave us a rating wherever you rate your podcasts, and come back again. We'll be back next week with more on Mindfulness+.