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Lying Down Meditation

May 26, 2004

By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)

(copyright 2004 all rights reserved)

It is interesting to note that Sidharta Gotama recommended lying down meditation in his discourse (suttas) on meditation (DN 22), however very few Buddhist meditation teachers seem to teach the practice.  This is in part why I have written this short article.

One can meditate lying down at any time of the day.  I typically lie down in meditation several times a day whenever the body reports fatigue.  Since I rise at 4 AM to meditate and I only sleep about 5 or 6 hours each night, then I compensate for less sleep with several lying down sessions each day.

Lying down meditation can be of any length, but often I only lie down for about 15 minutes to a 1/2 hour.  The Buddha recommended a posture he called "lion's pose" which is simply lying on the right side with the right arm cradling the head, the left arm along the side, and the left leg bent at the knee, with the left foot lying in the arch of the right foot.  I have found this posture is best if one has any accumulation of mucus from a diet based upon diary, because it tends to keep the sinuses drained.

In the yogas Shivasana is recommended.  Shivasana is lying flat on the back with legs about shoulder width apart and arms by the sides, with hands about a fist distance from the body, and palms turned up.  I have found I can relax deeper in Shivasana than I can in lion's pose.

The intent of lying down meditation is to relax the body at the deepest level.  It is therefore recommended to practice some kind of progressive relaxation method.  The classic U Ba Khin Vipassana body scanning method can be effectively modified for this purpose.  Simply scan the muscles and tendons for any sign of tension.  When tension is found simply relax it.  If you cannot immediately relax the tension, then simply observe the tense location as if it were a meditation object.  I have found the most tense areas of my body eventually relaxed with enough patience.

Lying down meditation can be practiced anytime.  However, as a dedicated contemplative, then such a one would wish to never become unconscious, not even while the body gains its rest at night.  Therefore the best times to practice lying down meditation is at the beginning of the sleep cycle.

I have found lying down meditation, especially in Shivasana, is ideal for practicing out-of-body (OOB) practices.  So, if you feel that your practice path is sufficiently mature for OOBs, then gaining skillfulness in lying down meditation can only help.

May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)

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