Everyone has at some time or another been in a situation where they simply had to stay awake, yet they found themselves slowly slipping away into dreamland. In a business meeting, in class, in a church service – any place that you’re supposed to be paying attention and interested – wherever you are, if you’re bored or sleepy, staying awake and paying attention is often close to impossible.
One thing that can make it even more impossible to stay awake and alert is being comfortable and physically relaxed. As children, we are taught to sit and be silent in places where we should “be seen and not heard.” So as we grow older we become ever more adept at finding ways to sit silently and comfortably so we can pass the time in a dreamlike state, waiting inside for it to be over. Through the years we come to realize that being comfortable makes it easier for our minds to wander away and keep our bodies numb while we sit and do nothing. It seems at times as though we are sleeping with our eyes wide open.
Being comfortable enough to let your mind wander is perfect when you’re in a place or situation where you have to be silent and wait for something to end. But when meditating, you don’t want your mind to wander; you want it focused on the central goal of getting in touch with your inner self. If you allow your body to become so relaxed and comfortable that your mind starts to wander, you lose track of the sensitivity necessary to center your meditation on your true identity, in the present moment.
Most meditation techniques begin with putting your body into a physically relaxed, comfortable position. The thought behind making your body comfortable is that if your hands and feet are free of tension and stress, then your mind and emotions will also be free and open. But unfortunately, being comfortable and relaxed can result in becoming sleepy and drifting away from the point of the meditation. This is where the unnatural positions meditation technique can be of great benefit.
If you are in a boring business meeting and find yourself getting drowsy, you may find that moving your body into a more uncomfortable position will keep you more awake and alert. If you usually have your legs crossed right over left, you could try crossing them left over right. If you normally clasp your fingers together with your left thumb on top of your right thumb, you could lace them the opposite way – right thumb on top of left thumb. If you usually sit forward with your elbows on a table, try sitting back in your chair with your elbows on the arms of the chair. These types of unnatural positions – called “unnatural” because they aren’t the positions you naturally take in a meeting – help to keep you awake and alert.
The unnatural position technique of meditating works exactly the same way. If we are so accustomed to being comfortable and relaxed during meditation that the process begins to be routine and dreamlike, perhaps we need to recognize that the meditation is not as effective as it could be, and then do something different. Make a change to your physical posture or positioning that is just different enough, or just mildly annoying enough, that you are forced to pay attention to clearing your mind and focusing on the present moment. It is only in the present that you will be able to merge with the universe, so if you aren’t in the present, your meditation is meaningless.
A little change in your physical comfort can have a huge impact on your spiritual comfort for eternity. Try adopting an unnatural position the next time you embark on a meditative journey. Annoy your body into waking up, so you can pay attention to receiving the gift of renewal of your spirit now, in the present.