Finding a comfortable place to meditate will help you to meditate more. Though there are no rules as to where that comfortable place has to be. In a quiet room, with a simple chair is basic, but if you are like me, you might be inspired to find yourself a special Meditation Chair.
A Crow, A Piece of Driftwood and an Invitation to Meditate
WINGED MEDITATION CHAIR
My thought takes wings
My chair takes roots
While my immobility sets loose
All the wild horses of the mind.
Is this my thought or is it yours?
How come a stormy sea,
Choppy waters, restless waves
Agitate my morning hour
While I sit immobile on this chair?
After the storm, calm
A bird space, white golden light
Sets majestic wings
On the shores of my imagination.
The roots of this chair
Feel the planet, feel my depths.
Father chisel, mother wood
Love of hands.
Thank you, thank you so much.
Silence flows the day at the door
With boundless gratitude
I am aware of all the common things
And many uncommon ones
Here in their own eternal hour.
Poem By – Hipólito Orlando Sánchez
MORNING MEDITATION ROUTINE
Many years ago I found a piece of wood washed up on the shore at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, NY. Something about it spoke to me and I took it home and was inspired to make it into a meditation chair. As you can see, it has “grown” wings over the years and I still love to use it for my daily meditation routine. A friend and spiritual companion who saw a picture of the chair was inspired to write a poem about it and he wonderfully captures the essence of an experience of meditating in the chair. The poem is beautiful, but there is more to say. . .
I meditate each morning before breakfast but after showering and doing my other morning activities. It is a good time to meditate because the day has not yet fully begun. Once the day has started, it is much harder to stop and do a meditation exercise. There are parallels to the challenge of keeping a physical exercise routine and as someone who also does physical exercise in a routine way (though not daily), I feel the challenge. Sometimes I look forward to exercising or meditating and sometimes I do not.
But, I found Tools. . .
Making my meditation practice and my physical exercise routine a habit, with the time already set aside, and being committed to “doing it anyway” makes doing both easier. I now use a timer for the different steps of my meditation. It records automatically that I have meditated and for how long and it keeps a running account of this activity. Just like the step counter on my phone, it reinforces my intention though I almost never look back. The meditation app also gives me the number of people who are using it at the same time and shares photos of some of them. It is a wonderful feeling to know that I am sharing a practice with many others who are also committed.
Posture in Meditation
My meditation chair originally did not have a crow’s head and wings. It was just a simple chair hammered together with nails. When I built it, I only had a couple of simple hand-tools. Later, I learned wood carving and was also able to buy some power tools. As I used these new tools for carving and polishing the wood, I also learned new tools to grow my spiritual practice. Of course, you don’t need a special chair to be able to meditate, but it does matter what posture you take.
The posture I use is that of sitting comfortably, my feet on the ground and my back straight. Sometimes I lean on the back of the chair and other times I sit with my back unsupported. The point is to be comfortable, not having to give too much attention to the aches and pains of a particular posture. This posture stimulates attention. Other types of meditation use other postures but for my purpose, keeping attention is primary – it helps to keep my mind and body really connected!
Paying Attention to Energy
For the meditation exercises that I do, I’ve been taught to hold my hands together in my lap or clasped in front of my body in the position of prayer. This closes an energy circuit needed to give the meditation the strength of my whole body. I center my awareness in my heart. Meditation can be considered a form of prayer if we think of prayer generally as any activity that we use to elevate our thoughts.
My overall intention is to have my morning meditation set the tone for my day. Sometimes this may mean that I remember the meditation during the day. Other times it is only in looking back that I can see how it may have influenced my day. There many more times when my thoughts, feelings and behavior are not influenced by my meditation. However, just recognizing this adds to my overall awareness. This awareness is at least as valuable as the times when I did put into practice the results of my meditation.
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW
The reason my chair has wings and the head of a crow is inspired by a few things. First, it represents to me my intention to “fly” in the sense of traveling beyond my ego. Sometimes I use a visualization of myself sitting in the chair as seen from the point of view of a bird circling on high. This allows me to see myself within a larger context and this helps to get me out of my self-centered perspective.
While the perspective, from a bird’s eye view is lofty, the things that I meditate on are very “down to earth.” Sometimes, the image includes the others in my house or my neighbors on the block. At times it will include the whole city where I live or the country in which I reside. Looking at my life in this context stimulates that part of me that values relationships amongst people and the environment. I have learned that everything is connected but I need to keep reminding myself of that.
Here is a simple meditation you can do right now.
Find a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed for a little while. Choose a comfortable upright chair. Sit and close your eyes and begin to “see” yourself sitting in the chair. Use your imagination to see yourself from above, close to the ceiling. Then imagine the view from higher . . . above your house or apartment building, or wherever you are at this very moment. Keep going higher and you can begin to see the other buildings near you and imagine all the people in all the buildings nearby who are breathing the same air, living this never to be repeated moment in their own ways.
How many of them do you know? How many of them are really mysteries to you, if you think about them at all? Journey higher and see for miles around . . . the movement of traffic, the human imprint on the landscape, the natural background. You can begin to really feel as one among many. Can you feel yourself connecting with fellow travelers on this planet at this time. As your perspective gets higher and higher, you can begin to see the outline of the earth and you can see that we live in “outer space.” There is nothing “outer” about it. It is our locus and we share this experience with all humans who have ever lived. Indeed, we share it, like we share our DNA with all of life, that remarkable thing we most often take for granted. How does it feel?
Coming Back to Earth
As you journey back down in your imaginative picture to the chair you are sitting in, hold onto the awareness, and the sensation of connectedness. Throughout the rest of the day, pay attention to how you now perceive things as you take this new awareness into your daily tasks.
I find such meditations helpful in taking me to a deeper appreciation of life and of others; those known to me and those unknown. It gives me a sense of being a tiny part of something much bigger. It is so “big” that I can only take it in, in small snippets like this, but the effect is profound. I realize how I am never alone and how much I am part of everything. It makes me more genuinely interested in others: more open.
This might not be true for you. We each have different ways of finding such places in our hearts, but I encourage you to explore and find what is meaningful for you.
You may wonder why the chair is in the shape of a crow?
I haven’t always liked crows. For a long time, they seemed noisy, and when they travel in large groups I saw them seemingly intimidating the smaller birds which I didn’t like. In their darkness, they kind of reminded me of death; probably because I had been influenced by the Edgar Allen Poe poem, “The Raven.”
In addition, about 20 years ago, we had an outbreak of West Nile Virus in my area. As I doctor, I cared for some people who were infected by the disease and left with permanent neurologic damage and some patients died.
The West Nile virus especially affected birds, particularly the crows of our area even more so than the humans. I didn’t realize this at first, being so human oriented. However, after some time, I noticed there were no more crows flying around. Then, realized, I missed them, in spite of my earlier unease about them.
A New Perspective
Later, when I was visiting New Mexico, which has an abundance of crows, I started more carefully observing them and then researching what I could about them. Only then did I come to appreciate how remarkable crows are. It was an example, to me, of only appreciating someone or something after it is gone. Taking a person or place for granted is a way of being unconscious and meditation is a way of becoming more conscious.
Now, thankfully, crows are back in our area and I am fascinated whenever I see them. I noticed, that they are excellent at communicating with each other and also send messages of danger to other creatures; that they work in teams, and are very intelligent. I can see that human consciousness is not the only type of consciousness and this connects me to all other animal creatures in a different way.
Finding Strength Through Practiced Awareness
At the start of the COVID pandemic, I did a number of drawings to try and deal with my feelings of unease. I find drawing to be another form of meditation sometimes – and, like any daily practice, the benefits often come spontaneously, even when you are not deliberately meditating. In other words, if you have been doing these meditation exercises regularly, after a while the state or states that you access during meditation are not so difficult to access at other times. Indeed, they often can occur spontaneously.
During the early days of COVID when everything was shutting down and deaths were mounting, I did the following drawing. The image, is that of a crow coming out of the fire. In my imagination, she said, “We survived West Nile virus. You will survive this.”
I suppose such a drawing is open to many interpretations. But for me it was the reassurance of nature, voiced by a wise crow who had survived another devastating virus.
The image didn’t come while looking at TV or listening to the news. Nor did it come as I tried to care for my patients during this time.
It came in the form of a meditation that expanded my context to include not only humans, but other forms of life.
And, it really helped me.
We All Need Help
The world is changing very quickly. Technology is a big part of these changes – some good and some not so much. One good thing is the interconnectedness of us all. However, are we capable of living well these days? Are we capable of maintaining focus when there are so many distractions? The short time frame in which we normally live our lives as humans is even shorter when we begin to feel that not much today will be here tomorrow.
With existential threats to human survival in the background, and the loss of common cultural agreed-upon values, it is easy to be confused. No one can help us the way we can learn to help ourselves. There are no easy answers in living, but one thing for certain is that not knowing myself opens me to be influenced unduly by every so called “influencer” and every crackpot trying to take advantage of me. I know I need an approach to living that can help me find my place, my calling, my joy.
Meditation exercise, seriously done, on a regular basis is a path, not only for monks and mystics but for everyone who wants to thrive in this crazy world.
My crow chair is really only some wood put together, now with screws and dowels and glue instead of just nails. It is not an end but a means to a greater end. It is a magnet that pulls me back to the exercises I know I want to do and need to do to live a better life. I life with meaning, and context and value, not just for myself but for those I meet every day.
I hope you can find your very own “crow chair,” a place where you can feel completely safe and drawn to on a regular basis. A place where you can learn to become a full and whole being. A place where that being will fully join the human race as it struggles to unfold in this changing world.
By Robert Magrisso