I am re reading Pema Chodron's book "When Things Fall Apart - heart advice for difficult times". In the book she explains how difficult and painful situations can be an opportunity to find the love and truth that are indestructible. I recommend this book as it has wonderful insights and is full of helpful ways to let go of struggle and open up to compassion for ourselves and for others.
Many methods of meditation focus on objects and have strict instructions on what should or shouldn't be done. I remember a very strict meditation Master who was very prescriptive in how to sit, how to breathe, where to place the tongue, how focus the eyes on the end of the nose. He made much of himself and I was in awe of him and I was scared of doing anything wrong. We sat crossed legged and my back and legs would ache, I wanted to move, just a little bit but daren’t, then my eyes would shift from the focus point, and my mind would chatter, I wasn't focusing on my breath. My thought ran rather like this:
"Oh dear ....I am bad, couldn’t do it right, I am stupid, useless!”
I felt exhausted at the end of the session and this man only taught I could never learn to meditate.
Fortunately for me I found others like Pema Chodron who taught me to relax into meditation, to sit comfortable , to shift my position quietly if my body ache. I learnt not to be to beat myself up when I lost attention.
This is what I was taught
Whether sitting on a cushion on the floor or a in a chair it should be flat and, if sitting in a chair, the feet are flat and the knees inches apart.
The body from head to seat should be upright witha strong back and open front - lean back if sitting in a chair. If you feel yourself slumping forward just settle back again.
The hands are open palm down resting on your thighs.
The eyes are open awake and relaxed with all that occurs. Let your eyes soft focus on a point four or six feet in front of you.
Let you jaw relax and the mouth can be slightly open. The tongue can be placed on the roof of the mouth.
Start by listening to the sounds around you - remember "If your mind does not go out to disturb the noise; the noise won't disturb you." (Ajahn Chan)
Any time you sit down to meditate run through the points and when distracted during the meditation you can bring your attention to posture and settle once more with your body upright and open, and begin again.
Sometimes thoughts may engulf you but do not worry say "thinking" to yourself, let go of the thoughts and return your attention to the out breath and the present moment. .
The delightful thing about Pema Chodron she admits to becoming lost in thought or drifting off and being unaware of the present moment during some meditation sessions, but she just relaxes and comes back to the now and to the out breath.
She is open, funny and very wise.
I am placinga list of Pema Chodron's meditation books here