Chair sitting for meditation.

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Chair sitting for meditation.

Postby Sara H » Fri Dec 28, 2012 8:52 pm

I wanted to hear people's thoughts on using chairs for meditation.

In the OBC (Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, Soto Zen) this is quite common.

I use a chair a lot, I find it often eliminates effectively the settling period I usually need at the start of sitting to get the legs and posture all aligned comfortably and so there are no pressure points. I also like to sit full lotus, and as I am flexible, I find it very comfortable.

But it's interesting though, Chair sitting is not something I see a lot of other groups doing, at least from the limited experiences I've had viewing other group's meditation room setups.

I was recently at a nice local Soto Zen temple, visiting and being cordial with my spouse, and wishing them well and being friendly and neighborly as fellow Soto Zen Buddhists and all that, and they were very nice people, gave us a tour of their temple, we had tea, etc.
Very pleasant, wonderful folks.

However, I did notice, that their Zendo, was exclusively filled with floor cushions, and was designed with traditional Japanese-style raised wooden sitting areas all arround the walls of the Zendo that the floor cushions sat on.

The issue, that occurred to me, is that if somebody was in a wheelchair, they wouldn't be able to sit in the meditation hall as there was no room or place for them to do so.

Also, chairs for sitting (usually with a posture wedge cushion in the OBC) are very helpful for elderly people who have trouble bending their legs and getting up and such, as well as people who have knee problems, or flexibility issues, or spine issues that sitting cross legged or on a bench can aggravate.

Plus, chair sitting is just a very useful and pleasant and nice alternative to floor sitting .

So what are your thoughts on this?

I know some people are very traditional, but I personally think it's good to offer the alternative.
It allows more people to have access to meditation and by extension to feel more welcome at a training center and not feel like they are limited to the floor if that way of sitting isn't best for them physically or otherwise.

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Chair sitting for meditation.

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Dec 28, 2012 8:57 pm

Both the places I have been, Zendo and Tibetan have had chairs available as well as cushions..it seems like the sensible thing to do in western culture. I assumed it was sort of standard. Even if a given tradition takes the position that seiza, cross legged, lotus or whatever is better on some level, most people need to be below a certain threshold of physical discomfort to meditate with any success, it seems to me. I used to do seiza on a bench for Zazen, since going to the new place I am trying to do cross-legged and work into half lotus, which has been good for my hips, though a bit of a challenge, just now getting old enough that I am losing real flexibility there.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:12 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Chair sitting for meditation.

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:02 pm

I use a "drummer's throne" at my home shrine. I put a wool meditation cloth on it. At temple people sit cross-legged on the floor, but I cannot do that for very long there or at home. Anyway at temple it's near impossible to meditate with all the deity pujas going on and people strolling about. I've tried seiza, Burmese position on throw pillow cushions, but I'm too uncomfortable. I'd like to try a zafu and zabuton but I don't want to send for a set and then have to send it back if it doesn't work.
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flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: Chair sitting for meditation.

Postby Sara H » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:15 pm

Jainarayan wrote:I use a "drummer's throne" at my home shrine. I put a wool meditation cloth on it. At temple people sit cross-legged on the floor, but I cannot do that for very long there or at home. Anyway at temple it's near impossible to meditate with all the deity pujas going on and people strolling about. I've tried seiza, Burmese position on throw pillow cushions, but I'm too uncomfortable. I'd like to try a zafu and zabuton but I don't want to send for a set and then have to send it back if it doesn't work.


Have you talked to the people there about letting people sit in chairs?

It might be practical to bring up.

You can simply be honest with them and say that floor sitting is simply too uncomfortable, and mention that it's a sensible step other meditation centers have done.

It never hurts to ask, and honestly, they might be unaware that there is a problem.

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Chair sitting for meditation.

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:28 pm

They do have some folding chairs, but the place is so big, you're stuck in one place.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: Chair sitting for meditation.

Postby Martin007 » Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:35 am

Sara H wrote:I know some people are very traditional, but I personally think it's good to offer the alternative.


I agree, chairs should always be provided for people who find cushions difficult or uncomfortable. And Buddhist meditation is about working on the mind, it isn't necessary to do yogic contortions or endure physical suffering.
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Re: Chair sitting for meditation.

Postby chickenman » Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:11 pm

i have had a few knee surgeries and simply cannot sit cross-legged, so the chair is my only option.
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