I have learned to be very cautious when anyone says to do something, and especially with regard to the breathing. My preference is instruction that describes reality and emphasizes self-surrender, not because an intentional approach is wrong (can’t get away from it, really), but just because what I needed to learn myself was how to let it all fall together. Relearn the way I hold myself upright, the way I set mindfulness in front, from the inside out.
When we let go of our minds and cast aside our views and understandings the Way will be actualized. One sage clarified True Mind (Reality) when he saw peach blossoms and another realized the Way when he heard the sound of tile hitting a bamboo. They attained the way through their bodies. Therefore, when we completely cast aside our thoughts and views and practice shikantaza, we will become intimate with the way. This is why I encourage you to practice zazen wholeheartedly.
My back is not straight, especially the lower back, for the most part. Workman’s comp came out to review it at one place I worked (management requested it, they were nervous), and they said fine. I can find absorption in this posture, which to me is like talking to the one who made this shell and letting it take me wherever. So to speak.
Cranial-sacral theory provides an excellent explanation of the importance of the crossed-legged postures, as far as I’m concerned, and that would be: they isolate the motion of the cranial sacral system at the sacrum so that it’s apparent. Activity in meditation is involuntary, but for me it’s important to remember that the fascia and ligaments can generate muscular activity without conscious intention, as they stretch.
Allopathic and cranial-sacral medicine both use dermatones, the areas on the skin where the nerves from the spine end up, as a means for diagnosing spinal dysfunction; standard testing is to run a pin head down the leg or arm, and see where there’s a lack of feeling, and there are charts that will show you between which vertebrae the nerves are pinched if you have a lack of feeling in a particular location. What this says to me is that if you have feeling to the surface of the skin all over the body, your head, neck, and spine are aligned pretty much correctly, regardless of how it looks.
At the same time, it’s my belief that in the lotus, motion of the cranial-sacral system at the sacrum results in activity in the muscles of the legs and pelvis, as feeling is opened or extended throughout the lower body. That activity ultimately returns to the bones on either side of the skull through the extensors, which travel in three sets behind the spine to the temporal bones on each side of the skull behind the jaw. As the temporals move the parietals on either side of the crown of the head, and the nerves that determine the cranial-sacral fluid volume rhythm respond to pressure at the saggital suture, it’s possible that a feedback develops in the cranial sacral rhythm. John Upledger talks about “still points”, when the cranial-sacral rhythm appears to cease momentarily, and the fascial support for the body rearranges subtley; he found that maintaining a slight extension on the bones of the skull was conducive to still points, but the individual’s own psychie and need were the real determining factors.
We all have anxiety around falling down, especially backwards. Look for motion side to side, around, and forward and back wherever consciousness occurs; that’s a sense of a physical place, the “wherever consciousness occurs”, which the zen masters aver we should attend to 24/7. Relax the activity in the three directions. Let it sink, if you feel good with it, remember that the stretch that generates activity doesn’t necessarily feel pleasant, but it doesn’t have to go all the way to painful if you can relax the associated activity and let the mind move.
Single-weighted postures have a built-in activity from the stretch involved as well. & blah blah blah as somebody so eloquently said!