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I am not able to sit in the lotus position. I'm only 24 years old but quite tall (189 cm). Usually I sit in this position:

enter image description here

(I googled the picture, it's from EMPFOHLENE MEDITATIONS-POSITIONEN UND SITZHALTUNGEN)

  1. If I want to enter a monastery in Thailand and become a monk, is it a problem if I can't sit in the lotus position for meditation but in the position I posted above? I'm asking this, because I have never seen a monk meditating in a position different from the lotus position.

  2. I suffer from back problems and need to workout regularly in order to reduce the pain in my back. My back muscles need regular workout because they are weak. Is it possible to perform basic exercises in my own room or is it against the vinaya?

  3. While being in a monastery in Thailand, is it possible to improve my skills in english in order to understand the instructions perfectly? I understand english pretty well but I have difficulties in speaking sometimes. I have learned english at school for 3 years only (I've had some help when writing these questions). So my skills are pretty basic. Or is it possible to learn thai?

Thanks in advance for taking your time to answer my questions.

  • 2
    I understand why you asked this as one question... sometimes I think it would be easier to get good answers if we did not mix multiple questions together... – Andrei Volkov Oct 17 '15 at 13:05
2

Answering from the Ajahn Tong (Mahasi-like) vipassana lineage I am somewhat familiar with:

  1. Sitting posture is not a problem. Most people in Thailad, as far as I have seen, practice in the "burmese" posture, having legs flat on the floor (one in front of the other one), but some were sitting in the chair (without leaning) for health reasons.

  2. You will be likely a lay practitioner (on 8 precepts) for some time, before you ordain, but the practice is the same anyway. The most important is that you practice and learn to deal with the situation you have, including back pain, skillfully. That might include some exercise, but also facing the pain in meditation. In fact many people think they have back pain because they have weak muscles (exactly as you say), but it is in fact meditation pain, which is very useful (which does not mean you like it) training for you; it goes away after some time. Your teacher will guide you through that territory while on retreat.

  3. Out of the thousands temples in Thailand, only a minority does meditation, and only a few of them has English-speaking sections (I can recommend, from this lineage, the Chom Tong temple, http://www.northernvipassana.org/about.html; the other ones I know of are Wat Rampoeng and Wat Doi Suthep). You don't need extreme language skills to do Vipassana, just enough to understand the instruction; if you learn Thai in long-term, good, but I would not see it as something to start with. In some centers, there might be yogis speaking your language (French?) which could translate for you.

Before being too far in your plans about becoming a monk, you could do retreats (starting with the 2-3 week "basic course") without long travels to Asia for the start, and then see if the practice is suitable for you; I posted some of the centers from this tradition in Europe in this answer; in France, there is a group organizing retreats regularly which may also help you find a suitable place.

  • What is "meditation pain"? – ruben2020 Oct 18 '15 at 16:01
  • This term refers to pain one may experience in meditation but does not signal dangerous body condition -- e.g. when one has numb legs, the meditator might think (s)he will have necrosis unless s(he) moves, or back pain, which usually disappears the moment one leaves the cushion. It is a natural part of meditation. Middle way is the important rule -- working with the pain if possible, use it for insight, see also the mind's reaction to it (anger, self-pity, switch-off, fear, ..; very useful), but not torture oneself by remaining in position which is unbearable, and mindfully adjust the posture. – eudoxos Oct 18 '15 at 19:56
  • Thank you for your reply. I have problems with my back for 8 years already. I have a slight scoliosis and since nearly 2 years chronic pain in my left shoulder. I'm making a physiotherapy and the therapist told me that i need regular exercise. I'm worried that it gets worse if i go to a monastery and can't exercise there. – Stéphane Oct 19 '15 at 15:10
  • PS: My native language is German. – Stéphane Oct 19 '15 at 15:59
  • For german-speaking centers in Europe, look at Dhammacari (in Bavaria/Bayern) and Tisarana (in Prague); in Thailand, there are quite often German yogis or teachers in Wat Chom Tong. – eudoxos Oct 19 '15 at 16:20

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