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Episode 13: Foundations of Meditation - Part Two: Commitment, Humility, Environment and Posture
In this episode Craig continues our exploration of the fundamentals necessary to establish a profound meditation practice rooted in our highest potentials. This episode is part two in a three-part series on the foundations of meditation.


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In This Episode…

“Spiritual awakening is a force that turns our world upside down. It reveals to us that everything we thought we knew, and every way we thought things worked, and what we thought was important was in fact a construction of our culture and our mind. It shows us that there is so much more to this existence than we ever imagined. So perhaps the most important quality that we can bring to spiritual practice is a profound humility–which is an openness to the unknown.” —Craig Hamilton

During our meditation journey, we often overlook the vital foundational elements that can build a strong container for deep practice. Sometimes, the meditation feels deeply fulfilling, but at other times, we encounter challenges like boredom, lack of focus, or distraction.

By grounding our meditation in these foundational pillars, we can unlock the full potential of our practice.

In this episode, Craig discusses four of these practice pillars…

First, he explores how two inner foundations–commitment and humility–can support you in staying consistent with your practice and open to new experiences and insights.

Then, he looks at two outer foundations–environment and posture–that can help you show up fully for each moment of practice, relaxed, alert and focused.

Join us and learn how these essential pillars can support your meditation experience and bring greater consistency and depth to your practice.

If you’re interested in exploring more of Craig’s approach to meditation, you’re invited to tune in to a 90-minute online workshop Craig will be hosting called Meditation 2.0 – The Miracle of Direct Awakening. Register for free at: FreeMeditationWorkshop.com


Episode 13 Foundations of Meditation – Part Two

I’m going to begin with a discussion of the practice mindsets that help support a profound meditation practice. These are the attitudes, qualities, and dispositions that we can cultivate and bring to our practice that enable us to go deeper.


The first practice mindset I want to talk about is commitment, which is different from intention. You might have heard me talk about the importance of anchoring yourself in a powerful intention to practice, but commitment is a different mindset.

You might think of intention as something that you can cultivate and that you can deepen and strengthen through reflection. Your intention is what you ground yourself in — the deeper why that propels your practice. It’s the driver of practice. Intention is very related to motivation. In fact, intention is the source of your motivation to practice.

Commitment is something different than intention. The interesting thing about commitment is that it can be present, even if you have a weak intention. Commitment is something that can be there, rock-solid, even if you don’t have any motivation to do your practice.

Commitment is really potent when it comes to meditation because meditation is an ongoing practice. And for our meditation to work, we have to have a commitment to do it on a regular basis. Otherwise, most of us won’t be as regular as we need to be.

Why not? Because if we don’t have a commitment at the foundation, what do we have? We have the attitude, conscious or not, that “I’m going to meditate when I feel like it.”

If you’re lucky enough to have a really powerful intention and a lot of motivation to meditate, you might find that you do feel like meditating a lot, and so you do meditate most days. That might work for some of us for a while, but even in that case, there will be days when you probably don’t feel like meditating.

And if the only thing driving you to meditate is that you feel like doing it today, a lot of days will come when you don’t feel like it. You won’t meditate on those days and you’ll lose that crucial consistency. You’ll practice in fits and starts.

A lot of us have had that experience with meditation practice, haven’t we? We practice in fits and starts. It’s a little bit like physical exercise. People make commitments, for instance, “I’m going to do this routine every day, or three days a week.” Then extenuating circumstances come up, and we don’t stick to it.

We lose our momentum.

Make Your Commitment Concrete

Having a commitment to our practice is essential. There are two aspects to this that are really important. The first is making that commitment concrete. You state that you are going to meditate this often, this much. “I’m going to meditate for 30 minutes every day, no matter what.” Or, “I’m going to meditate for an hour every day, no matter what.” Whatever our commitment is, we stick to that.

We can go above and beyond our commitment sometimes, and that’s fine. If you really feel like meditating, or you have extra time, or you want to go deep into meditation one day and do a lot more than your baseline, that’s fine. But it’s critical to have a solid amount that you’re committed to and always do.

We don’t want to overcommit. If we commit to more meditation than we can do, like , “I’m going to do an hour every day,” we might find some days that we really don’t have the time. We don’t do it. So we instead only end up meditating for half an hour or not meditating at all.

Now we’re undermining ourselves. We’re undermining our strength of character. We’re undermining our own integrity with ourselves. We made a commitment, and we didn’t follow through. It weakens our spiritual backbone, and it’s very bad in any context to break commitments with ourselves and with others, but we’re talking about our commitment to ourselves here–and in particular, in a spiritual context.

Make A Realistic Contract With Yourself

If we’re going to have a regular practice commitment, we also need a way to negotiate it if we end up breaking our commitment. Because one of the ways people break any commitment is by missing a day. Psychologists who study behavior change have researched this phenomenon. The way people make changes is, fundamentally, by following through on their commitments.

Researchers have found that a commitment to oneself represents a sort of contract with oneself. Once any part of the contract is broken, people tend to let themselves off the hook for the whole contract. Once one clause is broken, the whole contract is null and void.

You miss a day of meditation and then you think to yourself, “I guess I’m not committed because I didn’t do it.” The next time you don’t feel like doing it, you believe that you already broke it, so it doesn’t matter if you break it again; it’s already broken. This isn’t rational, but it’s how our minds work.

The way to avoid undermining yourself is to have different ways of keeping to your commitment. For example, you may encounter an unusual circumstance, like when you’re traveling and your plane is delayed. So you’re in the airport or you get home late and then you’ve got an early morning the next day. In this case, you just weren’t able to do it.

Rather than breaking your commitment to yourself, you can make an arrangement with yourself where you make up your meditation by the end of the week. It could be the end of the calendar week, or it could be by the end of the month, but whatever you do, you always find a way to make it up. You’ve got an extra half hour to do at some point, so you do it. Now you’re caught up and you’re still in integrity and the contract is still in place. That is the key.

There are a few pointers that I want to underline around this topic of commitment. I know you’re all very committed people. You made a commitment to do this work. I’m sure you’re meditating with a lot of regularity. But hopefully, what I’ve shared here will support you to make your commitment complete and full so you can always keep your commitment.

Commitment Means You Just Do It

I alluded to this earlier, but I want to highlight one piece. Part of what is great about commitment is that commitment can rescue you, even when you don’t feel like doing it. This is true because a lot of us ask, “How do I get the motivation to do something I don’t want to do?” It’s a reasonable question.

We have times where we experience that we want to meditate, we’ve committed to meditate, but we don’t feel like meditating. We’re not motivated to meditate today. We think that we have to motivate ourselves to do it. We’ve got to remember why we’re meditating. We want to talk ourselves into it, talk to an accountability partner, get them to talk us into it.

We have this belief that “I need to get motivated to do it.” But no, you don’t. You don’t have to be motivated to do it. All you have to do is be committed to do it, and you do it regardless of whether or not you’re motivated.

This is true of a lot of things in life. It’s not just meditation. There’s an important difference between these two different mindsets. One involves the belief that I have to be motivated, I have to work up the motivation, I have to get the drive to do it. The other doesn’t require constant motivation. Instead, I have a commitment. So I do it even when I don’t want to do it. It’s very liberating to have that power.

The whole motivation “game” is a way that we remain in bondage to our feelings, which is another aspect of unenlightenment. This is ignorance, samsara, the bondage of the human condition, ego, being a slave to our feelings, saying, “I’m a conditioned creature. I do what I feel like doing. I’ve got to motivate myself to get myself to do things.”

Making a radical commitment to something and then just sticking to it is a liberation from the bondage to our feelings that characterizes the human condition. You just do it.

Try that out with anything in life that you have a hard time doing. Just make your commitment, and say, “I’m going to do it, no matter how I feel.” Get up early and exercise every day, even if you just don’t want to at all that day. I’m going to do it because it’s a commitment. I’m not going to negotiate with myself. I’m not going to try to motivate myself. I’m just going to do it. Just do it. That’s the motto of commitment, in a sense. This is one of the practice mindsets that’s worth reflecting on.


The second practice mindset I want to briefly explore is humility. Humility is a fundamental key to meditation practice. It may be the most fundamental, in fact, because meditation is about going beyond the mind. It’s about going beyond the known.

An inner quality of humility is a quality that says, “There is so much more to this cosmos than my mind will ever be able to comprehend. I don’t know everything. I might not know anything. So, I’m open and receptive to what I don’t yet know. I’m open, ready, vulnerable, receptive to where I have not yet been.

Humility is not about rejecting what we know. It’s not self-diminishing. Most people think, “Oh, humility is being humble, that it’s sort of self-diminishing or self-deprecating.” It’s not really that. Instead, there’s a very beautiful innocence in humility.

Humility Means Never Assuming We Know

There’s a quality of never assuming we know. That’s what I’m trying to convey. We’re open to knowing things. As we go through life, we gain all kinds of knowledge.  And if we’re truly humble, wisdom will start to emerge spontaneously of its own accord.

But we won’t try to own the wisdom. We won’t try to grasp it. We won’t try to bolster ourselves with it. We won’t use it to try to feel safe and secure in an insecure world. We’ll allow it to flow. We’ll respond to it, but we’ll remain in a place of always realizing that at any moment, something could overturn our whole worldview.

I could discover that everything I think I know and everything I think is important is completely upside down. And then I realize I have been totally confused. To be ready at any moment to discover that you’re totally confused about things—and to be okay with that—is a very deep spiritual attainment. To get to a place where we’re truly ready and willing at any moment to have our whole world turned upside down.

Spiritual Awakening Turns Our World Upside Down

I hope you can see why this willingness is so important for spiritual life because spiritual awakening, if it’s anything, is the force that turns our world upside down. It reveals that everything we thought we knew, and every way we thought things worked, and what we thought was important, is in fact not the way we thought it was. It was a figment of our imagination. It was a construction of our culture and our mind, and there is so much more to reality than we ever imagined. And that’s why I think that the most important quality we can bring to spiritual practice could be profound humility.

I encourage you to reflect on that, and to cultivate that in your life. Humility is not just about meditation, it is about all of life. Then you bring it to your meditation, so you come to meditation ready to enter into the unknown. From that place, with that mindset, meditation can consistently take you somewhere new. Why? Because you won’t be stopping and getting stuck and looking for a feeling of certainty and something to hold on to. You’ll be relinquishing that, letting go of that, and this makes everything possible.


Another foundation for awakening is the environment in which we practice – sometimes called environmental factors. This is really a foundation of deep practice. So, I want to share a few things about our environment, because it genuinely matters.

It’s not critical, because you could do a practice of direct awakening in any environmental circumstance. You could do it in the middle of an intense storm, sitting outside on a bench with a raincoat on, in hurricane-force winds and storms. And you could sit and practice it with intensely difficult circumstances going on and people coming up to you, shouting at you to leave and run away, or whatever you imagine. You could do it.

Create A Dedicated Practice Space

However, there are environmental factors that powerfully support our practice, and one of them is simply to meditate in the same place every day. Create a little sacred space in your house or apartment or, if you have to do it at your office, do it in the corner of your office.

Whatever it takes, create a little space where you consistently practice and do whatever feels true to you to make it into a little sacred temple. That might mean making it very clean and tidy and maybe having a little plant there or something that represents nature because that is meaningful to you. But aim for it to be clean, beautiful, and tidy, as your spot where you practice.

Creating a dedicated practice space also might include putting some sacred objects there that are meaningful to you. Even though I’m obviously very post-traditional in a lot of ways, I like having a little Buddha statue and a little Tibetan singing bowl sitting there – just something that creates the simple sense of a temple. I’m not worried that you’re going to become attached to your sacred objects and think they’re gods and feel like if they’re not there, you can’t meditate. I think you’re more evolved than that.

Whatever you want to do, creating your own little sacred temple can be a powerful support. It helps remind you what you’re there to do. It helps draw your energy toward the sacredness of the practice.

Try Not To Meditate Where You Work

Ideally, don’t meditate in a place where you also do work. That’s why I was a little reluctant to mention an office, but for some of us we’re going to find time to practice at work in our office. But ideally don’t do it in the same part of your office.

Don’t do it at your desk. Move into the corner. Have a separate place, as well as a separate chair or bench or meditation cushion where you go and practice, and that’s all you do there.

Create A Meditation Travel Kit

If you travel a lot and often meditate in new places where you don’t get to be in your usual spot, create a travel kit that helps you set up your little sacred space. Again, if you want to have a few objects that help you do that, that’s fine. You don’t absolutely have to. You can just find a spot in each hotel room and imbue it with the sense, “this is my meditation spot,” and you just meditate over there. That’s fine as well.

But you can pack a few things – a scarf, a statuette, or something else that helps you recognize your space as a meditation temple. Again, it is not a critical thing, but it is supportive. And we want all the support we can get for these challenging practices.

Embrace Solitude & Silence

Another environmental support is solitude – being far away from other people, unless they’re meditating with you. In that case it’s wonderful because you have a supportive community. Supportive community is also an environmental piece. If you can meditate with other people, that’s a powerful support.

If you’re not meditating with others, try to avoid practicing in a place where people are coming and going, and you can hear them and feel their presence as they’re doing stuff and the TV is on in the other room.

Part of that has to do with noise, which I’d call its own category of environment – peace and quiet. But part of it has to do with the energy of other people doing things around you that draws you out of your quiet little fully-focused practice. It’s distracting energy.

I mention “quiet” to the degree that you can find a quiet place. Most of us live with other people. Ask them, “Hey, I’m going to go do my practice. Can you be quiet? Can we keep it down? Could we have the house be quiet for half an hour when I do this?” That’s not too much to ask. Maybe you do something in exchange for their cooperative silence.

Create A Clean, Bright, And Cool Space

In terms of our visual environment, having good lighting is favorable because it helps us stay awake and generally supports wakefulness. And having an uncluttered visual environment supports our focus.

Temperature is part of the environment. What temperature do you think is ideal for meditation practice?

I recommend keeping it on the cool side because that helps us stay awake and alert. It doesn’t mean you have to be cold, but you can choose to be in a room that’s a bit cooler, and then maybe you wrap yourself in a shawl or put on a vest to stay a little warmer. The cooler air on your face, and the cooler temperature overall, will help you stay more awake. In contrast, when you’re in a very warm room, it’s a little harder to stay alert.

That’s all I’m going to mention about environmental factors. Again, it’s a relative dimension but it’s a real dimension, to the degree that you can set your environment up. The optimal thing is having a separate room in your place that can be your meditation space. But I realize that extra space is not something everybody has, so to whatever degree you can approximate that for yourself is good.


Now I want to explore posture and a few other things about the physical body. Like our practice environment, posture is only relatively important, meaning it’s not of absolute importance, at least according to me. Some teachers in various traditions have rigid beliefs about posture. I don’t.

I believe that having good meditation posture can support our alertness and our focus for the practice. I don’t believe there’s any exact way that you must sit in order to be able to allow the energy to flow in a certain way, or anything like that. This is not that kind of practice. For other practices it may be very important.

What’s important here about posture is being relatively comfortable so you can forget about your body for a period of time. You want to be undistracted by pain and also sit in a way that requires a little bit of effort. This will support your alertness, your presence, and your awakeness.

What Is The Ideal Meditation Posture?

I’m going to briefly discuss what I consider to be the ideal meditation posture. Then I’ll talk about what to do when you can’t do the ideal posture because many of us have chronic pain, physical conditions, acute pain, or other physical challenges. That means we can’t sit in what I would label as the “ideal” posture. So, after I discuss ideal posture, I’ll share some options for how to sit in other ways or meditate in other ways.

What I call the ideal posture is something you can do either sitting on the edge of a chair or a bench, sitting on a meditation cushion on the floor, or using a kneeling bench. Any of these are fine.

The three points I want to emphasize around posture are, first, that it’s upright and unsupported, meaning you’re not leaning back against anything. Your back is not supported. You are sitting upright and you’re holding your upper body up because that requires a little muscle effort and keeps you in the state of alertness that I keep emphasizing.

The second point is having your knees lower than your hips. Your seat is a little high and that allows your knees to be down lower than your hips relative to the ground. This tilts your pelvis forward, putting a natural curve in your back, which is healthy and generally allows you to sit relatively pain-free. In contrast, when you’re a little more slouched, leaning back, you’re often going to experience more pain.

Consider what a good, healthy, upright posture would be for you. And, again, that can happen on the floor on a cushion or a bench or sitting on the edge of a bench or chair. Sometimes you have to raise yourself up a little, putting a cushion on the chair to get you elevated enough for that to work. I invite you to experiment with finding your seated posture.

The last point is to draw your head up straight from your spine. You’re not tilting forward or tilting back. It’s as if your head is being pulled up toward the sky, or pulled up toward the ceiling.

In addition to that, your shoulders are relaxed but square, not rolling forward but also not pulled back tightly so you’re putting tension into your neck or your back. Your shoulders are simply squared and relaxed.

Your hand position can be either resting on your legs palms down or folded in your lap facing upright. If you like doing a traditional mudra with your hands, that’s totally fine, but it’s not essential at all. It’s not something I teach.

Adjustments For Chronic Pain

Those are the basics of what I would call “ideal posture.” If you have chronic or acute physical issues that make it hard to sit in that way, then I recommend trying to find a way to sit that best approximates that as a first step. If you can sit upright in good posture with your back supported, such as in a firm chair with a lumbar pillow, that would be the next best thing for you because at least you have a good posture even if you’re propped up. That might be second best.

If you can’t do that, then I recommend you find whatever works for you to be able to sit with minimum pain or even lie down. You could lie down on your back with your lower legs propped up on a chair or sofa. This position often alleviates a lot of back pain and other pain. Or you can get a zero gravity chair, which takes all the pressure off your joints and puts you into that super comfortable position—although those chairs are hard to stay alert in, they’re so relaxing.

That is the main comment I would add for anybody trying to meditate lying down or in a gravity chair or a similar situation. Keep in mind that if you meditate like this, you’re going to have a challenge remaining alert and awake.

Techniques To Help You Stay Awake

First, meditate in a well-lighted place. Keep your eyes open to help you stay alert. If you find when you try this that you always fall asleep, you can also try meditating standing up. It’s possible to meditate standing up. Just stand in a position and do the practice. That is definitely doable and it’s hard to fall asleep standing up.

You could try walking very slowly in a place where you can walk with minimal distraction—an uncrowded park or a wide open space. This is a little less ideal. It’s harder to do this and really give yourself fully to the practice, though it could be a good addition to your core practice.

It’s Ideal To Be Still

One other thing about posture is the issue of stillness. I’m often asked if it’s okay to move if you feel an itch or some other discomfort. My answer is that it depends how bad it is. This means that yes, of course it’s okay to move, but it is ideal to be still.

It’s okay to move if you feel an itch or have pain. We absolutely don’t want to get distracted by it, but often with something like a bit of an itch or a little bit of pain you can continue doing your practice and it will go away on its own. And it is better if we can be still for the entire period of the practice.

I’ve done a lot of retreats. Some people can’t help but shuffle every few minutes. Try not to be that person who’s shuffling all the time. If you need to readjust a little bit to accommodate some discomfort once or twice during your sitting practice, don’t worry about it. It’s not a problem. Again, there’s no absolute need to remain perfectly still. However, it is a powerful support for the inner stillness, so it’s good to strive for.

The main thing to understand here is that there should be no physical barrier to meditation. Meditation is an inner practice. Physical posture supports it, but it’s not essential.



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