Swaying during studying, praying, listening

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Re: Swaying during studying, praying, listening

Postby invisiblediamond » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:46 pm

SeekerNo1000003 wrote:This may be a trivial question, but something I've been curious about.
I once saw Buddhist monks swaying while studying texts, I believe.
In other religions, swaying may be a part of a given practice, such as praying.

What are the causes of this behavior? It seems involuntary. And what is its function?
My only guess is that swaying makes one more calm, and therefore may be a way to increase concentration...

If so, would such practice be encouraged? On the other hand, could it also be an obstacle?
For example, if it is used to enhance concentration, wouldn't one's ability to concentrate without the swaying,
actually diminish?

This reminds me of some children who rock or sway. Parents may discourage such
behavior...Not sure if the children's behavior here may be connected to what I have observed about swaying in general.
Anyway, insights regarding any of the questions above would be great!


It's a symptom of autism and/or asperger's syndrome. Rocking and swaying is what kids do when they didn't get enough affection from their mothers. You see the lamas doing this and it makes sense if they were taken from mom as small toddlers.
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Re: Swaying during studying, praying, listening

Postby reddust » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:56 pm

invisiblediamond wrote:
It's a symptom of autism and/or asperger's syndrome. Rocking and swaying is what kids do when they didn't get enough affection from their mothers. You see the lamas doing this and it makes sense if they were taken from mom as small toddlers.


That is a silly statement. Many people sway or rock when sitting for long periods of time strongly focused for a variety of reasons. I've worked with autistic children with horses, therapeutic riding and I served at many kinds of Buddhist retreats. Some autistics rock some don't and some people who focus for long periods of time on what ever the subject is will start rocking or swaying. For Vipassana meditation that is frowned on, keeping the body still is part of strong determination and learning how to focus the right way on body sensation, but for other types of meditation I don't know. I remember my vipassana teachers saying swaying or rocking is the release of defilements. Staying still helps letting go of sensation easier I guess, I dunno. I remember I used to sway to the beat of my heart during meditation, the sensation was pleasant and I started attaching to it, I stopped the swaying.
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Re: Swaying during studying, praying, listening

Postby M.G. » Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:35 am

invisiblediamond wrote:
SeekerNo1000003 wrote:This may be a trivial question, but something I've been curious about.
I once saw Buddhist monks swaying while studying texts, I believe.
In other religions, swaying may be a part of a given practice, such as praying.

What are the causes of this behavior? It seems involuntary. And what is its function?
My only guess is that swaying makes one more calm, and therefore may be a way to increase concentration...

If so, would such practice be encouraged? On the other hand, could it also be an obstacle?
For example, if it is used to enhance concentration, wouldn't one's ability to concentrate without the swaying,
actually diminish?

This reminds me of some children who rock or sway. Parents may discourage such
behavior...Not sure if the children's behavior here may be connected to what I have observed about swaying in general.
Anyway, insights regarding any of the questions above would be great!


It's a symptom of autism and/or asperger's syndrome. Rocking and swaying is what kids do when they didn't get enough affection from their mothers. You see the lamas doing this and it makes sense if they were taken from mom as small toddlers.


That's an interesting theory. Where did you first hear this idea articulated?
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Re: Swaying during studying, praying, listening

Postby Gwenn Dana » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:15 pm

Hello everybody,

this question is a bit older, but I just came across it and I think I can make a small contribution.

It is correct that in the beginning stages of meditation coming to rest is one of the major concerns.
But there is a difference between coming to rest in the mind, and being motionless.
You can even hypnotize yourself into a completely stiff body without your thoughts ever coming to real rest.

Once your thoughts really have come to rest, then usually your muscular tension will also be lower.
Then there comes a completely different story: dependent on how your body is built, being completely still might not be the best thing you can do. You have no influence on how your body is built. Its determined by genetics. You're only inhabiting it and have to deal with the way the body works.

Nothing in this world is completely still, not even things which are considered "dead". Your body needs motion.

Some people, dependent on the length of the tendons in their spine, will cramp up when standing or sitting erect for longer periods of time (which is bad). They simply cannot find a balanced, upright position which is still.

If you now loosen that tension by meditation, the backbone becomes somewhat instable.
That can be avoided by slight, constant motion (rhythmic motion is something in harmonic tune with the rest where fidgeting is not).
Once you have detached your self from your body/mind that swaying is not a "problem", but a means to keep your spine healthy. You're now in control and can turn it on and off as you see fit.

It is not meditation when it comes along with ruining your spine. Once you see, your body will tell you what it needs, and what to avoid.

Best wishes
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Re: Swaying during studying, praying, listening

Postby SeekerNo1000003 » Sun May 18, 2014 1:56 am

Gwenn Dana wrote:It is correct that in the beginning stages of meditation coming to rest is one of the major concerns.
But there is a difference between coming to rest in the mind, and being motionless.
You can even hypnotize yourself into a completely stiff body without your thoughts ever coming to real rest.


Thank you all for your input. You have answered my question to some extent. The part above was especially helpful.
However, I am still not completely satisfied. Perhaps this is a trivial matter, but I would like to investigate further.

I found a video titled "Annual Medicine Buddha Prayer Offering 2011" at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlS0Tr- ... PRcP_Tgq-2
At 16:04 minutes, you will see many monks swaying from left to right while reciting a text. As the camera zooms out,
you will then see subsequent rows of monks quite still, mostly not reciting any text.

It seems plausible to me that one is more likely to sway if engaging in specific (rhythmic?) activities like reciting a prayer. If so, then I wonder if swaying during such activities is helpful? On the other hand, if one practices mindfulness then wouldn't one be still even during such activities? To me a rhythmic swaying seems more automatic rather than conscious... Would an aware person stop the swaying or could one allow it and still be aware of it? Which one would be more conductive to the practice of mindfulness?
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