The Buddha referred to the importance of mindfulness of the four primary postures, sitting, walking, standing and reclining (full length of the body on the floor or bed).
In the Vipassana (Insight Meditation) monastery of Wat Thao Kot in the south of Thailand, we engaged daily in standing meditation outdoors under the trees. Every afternoon, monks and nuns stood for 60 minutes experiencing the whole body from the top of the head to the contact of the feet with the ground.
We would also shift from the sitting posture to the standing posture at times during the day and then back to the sitting. Standing tall and upright with extended spine, the posture provided an embodied presence, a clarity of mind and alertness to the physical vitality.
Teachings and practices included seeing ‘body as body’ to quote the Buddha. That means to witness the body closely as elements, as organic life, as an expression of becoming, as an area of subtle change constantly occurring in sensations, balance, energy etc.
Science and specialists in area of body/mind encourage citizens to spend more time in the standing posture. Surveys show that the time we spend sitting on sofas, armchairs, at desks, tables and while travelling in cars, planes and public transport has doubled in the space of two to three generation. Around 70-80% of the day sitting or more, often with a bent back and one leg over the other impact strains parts of the body affecting fitness, health and well-being.
Citizens need to make a shift from this sedentary lifestyle as well as improve our posture when sitting. Current advice seems to recommend standing for two or three minutes every hour to break up the time sitting. That would seem a modest undertaking. We could develop mindfulness of standing meditation for longer periods with the variety of benefits including seeing body as body rather than as self, as I and my.
Here are some of the health benefits of Mindfulness of Standing
- Burns off calories
- Contributes to clarity of mind
- Dissolves tensions
- Enables free circulation of blood
- Enables oxygen to flow into lungs and cells
- Energises brain cells
- Improves upright posture
- Increases heartrate
- Lowers blood sugar
- Reduces anxiety and fatigue
- Reduces blood pressure and vulnerability to diabetes
- Reduces irritation and impatience
- Reveals an embodied presence
- Strengthens bones, knees, lower back and joints
- Strengthens the heart.
You could make the decision to stand tall and upright every time you make or receive a telephone call. You can practice every hour in the office.
Mindfulness of standing may begin with two or three minutes in the posture. Regard such a time as humble beginning. You can extend the time to 60 minutes with regular practice. It can happen anyway – standing for extended periods on the platform waiting for a train, the crowded underground train or waiting in a queue.
If necessary, bend the back, let the trunk of the body hang down, take a few steps, sit down for a few minutes and return to standing.
Leave your mobile phone and earplugs in your pocket or handbag.
Stand tall for presence, for health, self-respect. You can have eyes open, half-open or closed.
You might even consider using a standing desk if you spend much time at the computer.
Remember the words of Bob Marley, the Reggae singer. We need to remember to stand up for our rights, too.
“Most people think
Great god will come from the skies
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high
But if you know what life is worth
You will look for yours on earth
And now you see the light
You stand up for your rights.”