As I watch my daughter (8 weeks old and counting) growing larger, smarter and more engaged with her surroundings, I have been reflecting on the amazing world we live in today. I often liken it to "life in a science fiction novel," because there are technological wonders and social meanderings that would have been considered too strange to be believed even 50 years ago. The upside of this is that we have a tremendous wealth of resources, not only material but intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic, with which to play. Because of the way we can overlap the maps from one system to another, we also have a wonderful opportunity for cross-pollination – applying the wisdom of one discipline to the problems of another. One good example of this is a bit that I encountered in my Tai Chi/QiGong practice that I applied to my sitting meditation practice.
In Tai Chi there are a series of fundamental teachings that apply to all movements and postures. Among these are a few gems that work equally well for sitting postures. The corollary to "stand as if sitting" is "sit as if standing." When sitting on your cushion, extend your legs (in your mind) down into the earth so that it feels like you are standing. The admonition to have your head "rise toward heaven" and your feet "sink below the earth" applies as well. As does the instruction to "expand your body to fill the space around you effortlessly." This is not alway an easy direction to follow. It actually helps to have practiced Tai Chi or QiGong first and have a good foundation, and then apply it to sitting. However, this can still work.
When you take your seat, be sure that your knees are even or lower than the crest of your hip. Now imagine your body like a tree; roots plated deep into the soil, limbs reaching for the sky. Trees have no tension and yet they are very strong. They are "relaxed like a tree." This is how to sit as well. Next, imagine that your whole body is gently expanding from within, like a balloon. Feel the internal force of the expansion holding your body effortlessly erect. Now your energy will flow more easily through your limbs, allowing you to sit for much longer without your legs falling asleep. Try it!