Keeping it Together; The Importance of Good Life Posture

balance posture shambhala

The Importance of Good Posture

When reading Shambhala: The Spiritual Path of the Warrior, I came across an interesting passage in which the author, Chogyam Trungpa, calls upon us to always maintain good posture when we are sitting. He says that to do otherwise is to "give in to our neuroses."

This phrase stuck with me, and I thought it was mostly to do with strength of will and discipline, but as life in Korea began to get more frustrating and pointless, I noticed that I started to care less about the 'posture' of my life. I started to let my living space fall into disarray. I stopped putting my clothes away neatly. Dishes were left unwashed. And with each passing day of poor posture, life felt more and more aimless. I found it easier to whine and complain, and harder to motivate myself. My Black Dog seemed more persistent.

It occurred to me that making my bed was perhaps more important than just following Mom's advice.

Little Emergencies

When we let little things slide, we send the message to ourselves that our little complaints and discomforts are significant enough to derail life. When we neglect to do such simple things as fold our clothes and keep our eating space clean, simply because we are tired or frustrated or upset, we are saying to ourselves that our emotional ups and downs are so powerful to justify holding up our daily routine. Basically, they are emergencies (what is an emergency but something so important, so dire, that it justifies a break of routine?).

And if every small thing is an emergency that must be tended to, we will never be able to make forward progress in our lives.

These frustrations and upsets are the neuroses that Trungpa was talking about. If we are always justifying them, they will always master us. Our lives will be run by our emotional state, rather than by our ideals, principles, and intentions.

We might actually look for emergencies and exceptions to a healthy, empowering way of living. Emergencies make us feel important; if we are worthy of special treatment or attention (even if it's just our own) that makes us feel bigger and more significant. Seen from this perspective, it's actually selfish and petty to give so much weight to our little frustrations. Better to acknowledge them and accept them, without letting them spill over into our lives.

The truth is, few of us really bother to put up this sort of fight against neurosis. If we are having a bad day, it shows in our posture, both physical and situational. Our house falls into disarray and we slump or zone out, which reflects the disarray we have permitted into our minds.

We might use every little thing to justify:

On the other hand, there are those that never have bad days. No matter what happens to them, they get up on time, they shave, they wash their face, they make their beds, fold their clothes, prepare a nutritious breakfast. And so, they maintain the integrity needed to move on and get past the hardships. They live with discipline.

After all, how much energy does it really take to cook a meal or fold a shirt? Not much. If we are honest, we always have at least enough energy to show ourselves and our lives the respect we deserve.

Of course, the action of maintaining good posture is as much a reflection of inner integrity as a way to cultivate it. This is not a one-way street. You need some integrity to hold your posture, and you develop integrity by holding posture.

So, the next time you've had a late night or a rough day at work and you just want to throw your stuff on the floor, ask yourself if your pouting is really an emergency, or if you're just giving in to make yourself feel important. Do you really want to lose out on the benefits of a clean room (vital for creativity and peace of mind), a healthy meal, or a good night's rest, in exchange for a few minutes of self-importance? Or are you mature enough to swallow the need for self-indulgence so you can get back to doing work that matters?

(Photo credit: Wonderlane on Flickr)