How Meditation Posture and Intention Manifest Your Goals

Align your meditation posture and intention to manifest your goals? It’s all about alignment and connection. Get synched and manifest your desires.

Meditation posture manifests goals

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ANOTHER YEAR is ending.  When it began, it held such promise.  On the eve of its beginning, we paused and wondered where the last year went. How much of what we did aligned with our intentions, or goals for that year?  Many of us sighed in recognition that — once again — the year sped by absent of the accomplishments we wanted to materialize.  Now, here it is again. Another year to begin, the pause once again, the hope to be poured into the next 12 months… and we wonder,

“Will this year be any different?”

For all but the very few, we tend not to do everything we plan.  Not even close! I write about making habits, of being consistent, of progressively climbing whatever your ladder is to successful accomplishment of your desires.  And yet, come the end of the year, always poignant are those things that were not done.  I guess most of us are “shoemakers without shoes” to some extent.

I have a solution, the one thing that will help you achieve what you set out to do — meditation!

Think about it.  Even a ten-minute daily meditation practice reserves time to consistently reaffirm what you aim to achieve this year, month, week.

In this context, when meditating in support of achieving your goals, there are at least two thing that you’re doing:

  1. Monitoring your progress, and
  2. Adjusting your path.

 

Goal Construction

Say your goal this coming year is to build more flexibility and mobility in your body.  Presumably, you’ve selected a “road map”, sorta speak.  Like all good road maps, it has a:

  • Departure point (your current physical state of being),
  • Pathway or “road” (the process that will create flexibility and mobility),
  • Destination point (the specifics of what you intend to accomplish), and
  • Vehicle of conveyance (how you’re going to to it).

You write all of this down.

Say, for instance, that right now you can’t properly squat below parallel (thighs parallel to the floor), or touch your toes with knees unbent, or do more than a five degree back bend.  Write this down as your current status — your departure point.  Then write down what specifically achieves your goal.  In this case it could be to squat so your butt touches your heels, to touch your toes with knees locked, and to bend backwards 20 degrees (the center picture below).

Standing back bend goal

Next is to choose the path (road map) that connects where you are to “where u wanna be”, and the vehicle to get you there.  Maybe the map is progressive stretching for an hour three times each week, and the vehicle is yoga taught by some teacher. Or it may be doing a series of mobility exercises for 15 minutes every morning.  You must choose a map and vehicle of conveyance that will get you to where you plan to go.

Notice, I wrote “plan to go”, not “wish to go”, because a “wish” is an ephemeral notion cast to the wind; whereas a “plan” is rooted in progressive process.

You have a plan, map and method. It’s been written down.

Now what?

For too many of us, that manuscript collects dust, so seldom is it referred to, so few of the intermediate check points leading to the final destination are checked off.  Before you know it, the year is over, and what you were so eager to do at its beginning died in the crib.

This is unlikely to happen if you had a meditation practice.  Why?  Because if you have a goal, it’s likely that it will become part of your meditation.  You’ll get to that peaceful state of mind, where your brainwaves are predominately alpha or theta, and then you’ll focus on your goal.

Perhaps they’ll be encapsulated in one image, a symbol for your goal’s achievement.  Or you may choose to observe a “video” of moving imagery in your mind’s eye of you accomplishing and then benefiting from the goal.

If you’re not following your designated road map, you’ll experience cognitive dissonance, and that will prompt you do either abandon the goal, get back on track, or stop meditating altogether.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. If you’re mediating on your goals, but it’s obvious to you that you’re really doing nothing to accomplish them, your experience of cognitive dissonance will quickly disturb the tranquility of your meditation.  Think of it as a litmus test — you’ll quickly know if you’re on track to accomplish your desire.

Consider your level of cognitive dissonance to be the witness that monitors your progress.  When the witness calls “foul” you have a choice to make: a) get back on track, b) reject the goal, or c) stop the meditation that is making you accountable.  Only one of these choices will satisfy you at year-end.

The overriding point is that your meditation practice keeps you connected with your intention.  You are far less likely to let the events of your days, weeks and months sweep you away from what you proclaimed were your goals for the new year. Convinced? OK, then, just how does one meditate?

 

How To Meditate

In my view, the most important thing to know about your meditation practice is that there’s no single way to meditate.  If you could still your mind, be focused and produce alpha or theta brainwaves while standing on your head, then that’s your meditation.  That said, for most of us there are certain techniques that are useful, none of which encourage a head rush.

Position and Alignment

The first thing is to choose a position that both allows you to be comfortable during your meditation, but still encourage proper meditation posture and alignment.  It’s unlikely that you can comfortably sit in full lotus as would a Yogi or very adept acolyte.

 

Full lotus meditation position

Impressive, but this “full lotus” taxes the hips, knees and ankles.

 

click cushion for more info

 

The alternatives to sitting up with legs crossed in some fashion are to mediate lying down, sitting in a chair or on a Zen bench, which tends to be my preferred method.

Zen Meditation Stool

A meditation stool enables proper alignment without taxing hips

 

click Zen Bench for more info

Some Quick Pointers for Proper Meditation Posture and Alignment:

  • Sit upright in a dignified fashion, spine unbent and, head centered such as your ears are in line with your shoulders
  • Relax your hands in your in lap, beside you, or on your knees
  • If in a chair, position legs and feet so they do not require muscular control to maintain the position
  • If crossing your legs, unless you can maintain the posture comfortably for the length of your meditation, put a cushion under your butt so that it’s angled… knees should be lower than your hips to reduce lower back stress
  • Eyes can be shut with eyes looking up slightly, or partially open staring at one point on the floor in front of you
  • Focus on your breath coming in and out until relaxed, then turn your attention to your goal(s)

Before you buy a meditation cushion or Zen bench, you may want to experience meditation simply by sitting in a chair.  For that reason, I have some extensive comments triggered by the work of briligig.com.  The illustrations and instructions below are apt for any upright sitting posture and alignment.

Proper and Improper Alignment for Chair Meditation
Seated Meditation Alignment

how to sit in a tilted chair

You do not want your alignment to look like the figure above on the left, as described in the red box below. You do want your alignment to look like the figure above on the right, as described in the green box below.

Improper Seated Meditation Posture and Alignment

  1. Low back – Flat seats round our low backs, leading to pain and weakness.
  1. Mid back – Long-term poor posture can cause a sore hump in the mid back. The trapezius muscles, the largest muscles in our upper back, connect the spine here. A head too far forward overload the trapezius with work and tension in order to keep the head up, an issue made worse if the shoulders are also rounded.
  1. Neck – A slumped back makes our heads come forward. Chairs with tilted backs compound this misalignment, despite helping to relax the lower back. When neck vertabrae are tilted forward, the muscles at the base of the skull must contract and work hard to keep the head as level as possible.
  1. Jaw – When our head is forward, the muscles going from the inside of the jaw to the neck vertebra pull the jawbone back. Then the muscles running between the corners of the jaw and cheekbones have to work to keep our mouths closed.
  1. Shoulders – Slumping causes our shoulders to roll forwards, tightening the chest, which is aggravated more when we use our arms while seated this way to read, eat, type or drive.
  1. Chest and Belly – Having a slumped torso compresses all the vital organs located there; a slight but significant compression over the long term. This compression habituates us to primarily abdominal breathing, rather than , as opposed to using the more efficient diaphragm.

 

Proper Seated Meditation Posture and Alignment

  1. Low back – Our low backs are designed to curve, which puts the pelvis at the correct angle. When standing tall and straight, our weight is properly distributed from the head down through the heels (not toes), gluteus relaxed, head centered over the shoulders. A tilted chair preserves this angle, enabling a more relaxed posture. Any tension in this position may result from having rolled the pelvis too far forward, making muscles reflexively tense.
  1. Mid back – Bringing the low back forward takes the mid back with it as well. With practice, the shoulders become relaxed and fall back, enabling the ribcage to tilt up and cause breathing to be easier. Try rolling the shoulders to find the right position for them.
  1. Neck – Aligning the neck vertebrae so that they are squarely over the shoulders allows the neck muscles to relax. When they do, the chin drops down and in. This may take some fiddling. If the muscles in this area remain tense, your head may need to be pulled back more, may not be level, or tilted.
  1. Jaw – If the head is properly balanced, the tucked chin tucks moves the jaw forward, relaxing the jaw muscles. The tongue will be pushed forward by the tucked position and rest against the roof of our mouth.
  1. Shoulders – When the spine is properly aligned, the shoulders can move back, which stretches out and lowers the chest.
  1. Chest and Belly – Good meditation posture lengthens the spine, lifts the ribcage and opens space in the abdomen. Everything moves more freely, and breathing is efficient and effective.

If you can’t get comfortable enough to sustain your meditation for the desired time period sitting cross-legged, on a Zen chair or regular chair, then it’s time to lie down. (You’ll certainly be relaxed in this position, but don’t go to sleep!)  Even when lying down, there is a recommended alignment:

  • Lift your head, point your chin to your chest, then lengthen and set your head on the floor
  • Rotate your arms out so that your palms face the ceiling and extend your hands to your side about 18 inches (46 cm) from your sides
  • Flatten the small of your back against the floor, hold for a few seconds and then let it rise as it will
  • Place your feet about 18 inches (46 cm) apart, and let them turn out if they’re so inclined
Breathing

Most meditation techniques focus on the breath, at least initially, because focused breathing relaxes the body and tunes the mind. There’s no one way to breathe when meditating, but I favor the diaphragmatic breath work referred to as Yogic or Taoist ujjayi breath.  If you do it properly, you’ll quickly see how it fills up your entire cavity, from belly to chest, front and back.

Here’s how to do the Ujjayi Breath:

  • Inhale through your nose and let your tongue rise inside your mouth to your upper palate
  • Breathe out through your nose as if you’re trying to fog a mirror (you will make a slight raspy sound that initially emanates from your chest and throat)
  • Inhale through your nose making the same raspy sound.
  • Making this sound slows down your breathing; help it along by taking four second inhales, hold for four, four out, hold and repeat
  • Once you feel you’ve got the pace and sound figured out, focus on letting each inhale expand your entire cavity, belly to chest, front to back, so that you notice movement in parts of your rib cage of which you’re typically unaware
  • Make sure your diaphragm is filling up and emptying as you breathe

There’s nothing like a demonstration, so check out this video by SarahBethYoga (the ujjayi starts at 1:03):

 

 

Focus

Once your breathing is on autopilot, it’s time to focus on whatever is your intention for your meditation session. It could be a symbol, an image, a prescribed sequence of images, or events.  If you’d like to remain focused on your breath, you can direct it to various parts of your body that need healing.  Although it’s not actually happening, breathing into your sore foot is an effective way to focus on it during meditation and may accelerate healing.

The main thing is that you keep your focus on whatever was your intention, and not let stray thoughts or the “monkey mind” take you on a journey away from your practice.  In Be Here Now: Gerry’s Dharma Lesson, I describe a technique for reducing or eliminating any particular thing that keeps popping up during meditation to distract you.

But there is an exception to the “no distraction” rule.  If your meditation is designed to place you in a space of receptivity, then you want bursts of intuition or ideas to appear so you can explore them.  Ensure, however, that they truly are what you seek, not some random thought about where you put your keys, or what Sally or John really thinks of you — of course, unless that was your intent to begin with.

 

Your Takeaway

You now are prepared to make manifest your new year goals.

Just remember these four things:

  1. A goal is dust in the wind unless there’s a plan to make it happen
  2. Write your goals down in a proper notebook
  3. Review and strengthen your intention during meditation
  4. Put that strengthened intention into action by sticking to the plan

 

P.S.  Need help with habit making?  Check out these articles I’ve written on the topic.

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Joe Garma
 

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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