Posted by: Michael Rickicki | 03/09/2015

One-Sided Practice

I’ve been reflecting on the need to begin training the body as well as the mind and came across this quote by Upasika Kee Nanayon on ATI and I think it speaks to the problem with such a one-sided practice:

§ The Buddha compared the training of the mind to holding a bird in your hand. The mind is like a tiny bird, and the question is how to hold the bird so that it doesn’t fly away. If you hold it too tightly, it will die in your hand. If you hold it too loosely, the tiny bird will slip out through your fingers. So how are you going to hold it so that it doesn’t die and doesn’t get away? The same holds true with our training of the mind in a way that’s not too tense and not too lax but always just right.

There are many things you have to know in training the mind, and you have to look after them correctly. On the physical side, you have to change postures in a way that’s balanced and just right so that the mind can stay at normalcy, so that it can stay at a natural level of stillness or emptiness continuously.

Physical exercise is also necessary. Even yogis who practice high levels of concentration have to exercise the body by stretching and bending it in various postures. We don’t have to go to extremes like them, but we can exercise enough so that the mind can maintain its stillness naturally in a way that allows it to contemplate physical and mental phenomena to see them as inconstant, stressful, and not-self…

If you force the mind too much, it dies just like the bird held too tightly. In other words, it grows deadened, insensitive, and will simply stay frozen in stillness without contemplating to see what inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness are like.

Our practice is to make the mind still enough so that it can contemplate inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness. This is the point for which we train and contemplate, and that makes it easy to train. As for changing postures or working and getting exercise, we do these things with an empty mind.

When you’re practicing in total seclusion, you should get some physical exercise. If you simply sit and lie down, the flow of blood and breath energy in the body will get abnormal.

I haven’t missed more than a day of formal meditation practice in years but I can’t even begin to compare that with physical exercise. I think I will try to begin again with the 1088 full body prostration practice that I have done from time to time as a way of luring myself into a body practice and see how that develops.


  1. I find doing yoga is a good way of integrating mind and body. You can do the asanas (positions) in the mind of meditation.

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