I have had bad posture for most of my life. I find that if I do not sit quite straight during sitting meditation, my body leans forward putting weight on my legs which becomes quite painful. However, when I sit straight, my "sitting bones" become painful. So, I tend to rock from side to side while sitting. It may or may not be visible to others, but I am aware of it. Perhaps "shifting my weight" might be a better way to describe it. My question is regarding mindfulness meditation. Do you think it is OK to rock side to side? Should I just note something like "rocking, rocking"? Should I wait until the pain is nearly "unbearable", and note "pain, pain", "disliking, disliking" before shifting my weight, or is it OK to do so pre-emptively?
First of all I think it is important to remember that in the Mahasi Sayadaw system of meditation, you don't necessarily have to note distractions. When distractions arise you have a choice between staying with the primary object (e.g. the movement of the abdomen) or you can take up the distraction itself as an object. Both of these are equally valid. If the rocking motion is coming up a lot, you might decide to ignore it and stay with the abdomen. If it only happens sometimes it might make more sense to note it, but it makes less sense if it is happening continuously.
Also, if it is painful for your body to sit on the floor or on a cushion, I would recommend that you try meditating while seated in a chair and see if that is less painful. As long as your position is relatively stable and able to be maintained, there is no problem, and sitting in a chair fulfills these principles, so there is nothing wrong with sitting in a chair to meditate.
This sort of rocking is most likely a defence mechanism; if you are consciously instigating it, then it is simply a reaction to the unpleasant stimuli. Unfortunately, it will therefore be a cause for increased aversion to the stimuli in question; you'll become more and more averse to pain as a result of your practice, which is really the opposite of the goal of meditation. Most likely your best course of action is to:
- Begin to let go of your aversion to the pain, by noting it as "pain, pain"
- If there is disliking, note it as "disliking, disliking"
- If you the pain is overwhelming and you want to move, you should acknowledge "wanting, wanting" and then "moving, moving", etc. and move your legs, back, etc.
In some cases, this sort of aversion can transform into rapture (pīti), where it becomes a looped, unconscious behaviour that can actually feel quite pleasant, in which case it is likely to become addictive or at least distracting. In this case:
- Acknowledge the rocking as "rocking, rocking"
- If there is pleasure or liking, acknowledge it as well, as "happy" or "feeling" and "liking"
- If the rocking doesn't stop, tell it to stop, by saying to yourself "stop!".
There can be two explanations for the rocking:
- Reaction to pain
- Conditioning / fabrications
Both of these create sensation in your body. By looking and the sensations without reaction and objectively (equanimous with the understanding of it's impermanence) this will stop if the is reaction based. Also keep in mind you might not be able to stop all reactions at once due to the conditioning your mind. But this will gradually dampen and die off. If it is conditioning based then but not putting new fuel to the process (reaction to sensation creating new fabrications / conditioning as per dependent origination) by reacting it again will die off.