This is a companion post to "Back Support with a Meditation Bench (Seiza)" I alternate between a bench and a zafu to move around the stresses on my body. Other than the impact on my back I find that sitting on a cushion tends to put more stress on my ankles and sitting on a bench puts more stress on my knees...so I mix it up.
Back Support on Meditation
Cushion in the Normal Position
Similar to the bench, I use the back support cushion in 2 positions. When fastened in the front the Normal
support position provides a cushion for arm support at the wrist. The length of most people's upper arm is shorter than their torso. During extended sitting "dangling" arms put stress on the back, especially if you have a weak or injured back.
The other meditation position I call the Aggressive back support position. The straps are designed to also create arm loops that allow the cushion to rest firmly against your back. I put a gazillion button holes in the straps to make it very adjustable. (Velcro would have been great except that unstrapping velcro in the zendo after zazen is not very sangha-friendly.)
Back Support on Meditation
Cushion in the
You can adjust how much pressure you want by how close you make the arm loops. I have found that short periods in the Aggressive position allow me to go back the Normal position and be comfortable for quite an extended time.
So far, the benefits of the back support seem to be identical whether I'm using it on the bench or on the cushion. I find that I use the back support in the Normal position about 3 out of 4 zazen sessions.
As part of my daily meditation practice I use an app on my iPad called "Insight Timer". One of the great features about the app is a groups feature where a lot of discussion occurs between individuals practicing meditation.
One of the discussion threads that was started by "Marcus in Scotland" was:
What one movie has made you reflect most on the meaning of enlightenment? (Only 1 - no cheating)
One of the limits of the app is that the discussion threads age and can be hard to retrace. There were many suggested movies that I had never seen so I decided to capture them here so they don't disappear. I'll try to keep the list current as long as people keep adding to it. I've tried to note which movies are available on Netflix Instant play - but that is a moving target so no guarantee on the accuracy.
Namaste and Friendly Bows _/|\_
After an isolated childhood, a 16-year-old albino boy -- nicknamed "Powder" -- is introduced into a small town, where a pair of teachers learn that he can control electricity and has an IQ that's off the charts.
Philippa and Martina turn down a chance to leave their town, instead staying to care for their father. Decades later, Philippa and Martina take in a French woman who prepares a grand feast in gratitude -- a lavish meal eclipsed only by her secret.
A Passage to India
Adventurous young Englishwoman Adela Quested journeys to colonial India with open-minded Mrs. Moore. When the women accompany a "native" named Dr. Aziz on a tour of the Marabar Caves, the excursion turns ugly as Adela ends up accusing Aziz of rape.
This awe-inspiring biopic about Mahatma Gandhi -- the diminutive lawyer who stood up against British rule in India and became an international symbol of nonviolence and understanding -- brilliantly underscores the difference one person can make.
Harold and Maude
Hounded by his mother to get out and date, death-obsessed teen Harold would rather attend funerals. But when he meets the feisty Maude, a geriatric widow who's high on life, they form a bond that turns into an unconventional romance.
Gates of Heaven
Indie documentarian Errol Morris trains his lens on obsessive pet owners and the zeitgeist that supports them, including pet cemetery owners and embalmers. Pet owners talk candidly about the challenges they face dealing with feelings of bereavement.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The original version or - The 1977, 1980 and 1998 versions of Steven Spielberg's seminal sci-fi hit are collected in this exhaustive 30th anniversary edition, which also includes a 20-minute interview with the director as well as a feature documentary on the film. Richard Dreyfuss still shines as Roy Neary, a cable worker who investigates a power outage and encounters a mysterious light from above. Teri Garr and beloved French auteur Francois Truffaut co-star.
The Dhamma Brothers - Netflix Instant Play
Donaldson Correctional Facility -- an overcrowded, violent maximum-security prison, the end of the line in Alabama's prison system -- is dramatically changed by the introduction and influence of an ancient meditation program.
Star Wars (1) I'm not sure if this is the original movie or episode 1
Description is for the original movie (Episode IV: A New Hope). Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) guides intrepid Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a valiant bid to save the captured Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). With his trusty droids and smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Skywalker must also destroy the Galactic Empire's all-powerful weapon: the Death Star. George Lucas cemented his status as a pop-culture legend with this classic battle between good and evil.
The Razor's Edge
Based on W. Somerset Maugham's classic novel. Larry Darrell returns from the battlefields of World War I a changed man. His fiancee, Isabel resigns herself to a delayed wedding when Larry heads to Paris to find meaning in his life. He's then inspired to travel to Nepal, where he receives guidance from a lama. But while he's off globetrotting, the life he leaves behind changes dramatically. There is also a 1946 version with Tyrone Power.
Pay It Forward
In this gentle drama from director Mimi Leder, young Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) responds to a school assignment with a plan to help three people who will, in turn, help three more, and so on, in an ever-widening circle. But Trevor touches more people than he expected, including his abused mother (Helen Hunt), his physically and emotionally scarred teacher (Kevin Spacey) and a journalist (Jay Mohr) who's investigating the plan.
Filmmaker Nati Baratz follows the spellbinding journey of Tibetan Buddhist monk Tenzin Zopa as he travels far and wide to identify the child who is the reincarnation of his deceased master, Lama Konchog. Acting on instructions from the Dalai Lama, the shy Zopa relies on astrology, dreams and other signs to locate the child, knowing that if he succeeds, he must also convince the boy's parents to release their child into his care.
The Last Samurai
Nathan is an American hired to instruct the Japanese army in the ways of modern warfare. Pressed to destroy the samurai's way of life in the name of modernization, Algren soon learns to respect the samurai and the honorable principles that rule them.
What the Bleep Do We Know!? - Netflix Instant Play
When she's thrust from her mundane life into an unfamiliar world, Amanda must develop an all-new perception of her surroundings and the people she interacts with in this quirky film that explores neurological processes and quantum uncertainty.
I Am - Netflix Instant Play
In this contemplative documentary, filmmaker Tom Shadyac conducts in-depth interviews with prominent philosophers and spiritual leaders -- including Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- about what ails the world and how to improve it.
Into Great Silence - Netflix Instant Play
Director Philip Gröning's study of the Grande Chartreuse monastery introduces a world of austere beauty as it follows the daily activities of the resident monks, whose silence is broken only by prayer and song. With no sound save the natural rhythms of age-old routines, the documentary -- a Special Jury Prize winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival -- captures the simplicity and profundity of lives lived with absolute purpose and presence.
A computer hacker searches for the truth behind the mysterious force known as the Matrix. He discovers that what most people perceive as reality is actually a simulation created by machines and joins a rebellion to break free.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring
Under the vigilant eyes of Old Monk (Yeong-su Oh), Child Monk (Jong-ho Kim) learns a hard lesson about the nature of sorrow when his childish games turn cruel in a story that's divided into five segments, with each season representing a stage in a man's life. This exquisitely filmed drama directed by Ki-duk Kim is entirely set on and around a tree-lined lake, where a tiny Buddhist monastery floats on a raft amidst a breathtaking landscape.
Director Richard Linklater's animated film follows a young man as he floats in and out of philosophical discussions with a succession of eccentrics and passionate thinkers, all the while uncertain whether he's conscious or dreaming.
Sent to cover the annual appearance of world-famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, a self-centered TV weatherman unleashes his bitterness -- and soon realizes he's doomed to repeat Groundhog Day until he learns that his actions can affect the outcome.
Penny Marshall directs this whimsical comedy in which 12-year-old Josh yearns to be a grown-up, and when he makes that wish at a Coney Island fortunetelling machine, he awakens the next morning as a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks). Josh lands a job at a Manhattan toy company, where his child's-eye view helps him climb the ranks -- but he finds himself pining for all he left behind, despite the attention of a beautiful co-worker (Elizabeth Perkins).
A washed-up, ambulance-chasing attorney gets a chance at redemption when his friend tosses him an open-and-shut medical malpractice case. But instead of accepting an easy cash settlement, he takes the powerful defendant to court.
Accompanied by diverse world music -- without any dialogue -- this mesmerizing visual study conveys the relationship between humans and the environment, with images ranging from the daily devotions of Tibetan monks to views of the Hong Kong skyline.
The Straight Story
When his brother, Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton), falls ill, Iowa farmer Alvin Straight (Oscar nominee Richard Farnsworth) pledges to go to Lyle's side -- despite being unable to drive -- armed with a riding lawnmower for transportation, a tent and unshakable determination. Leaving his mentally challenged daughter (Sissy Spacek) at home, Alvin sets out to cover the 300 miles to his brother's house in a weeks-long journey of healing and remembrance.
2 Disc TV Series - Convicted of rape and murder at age 18, Daniel Holden spends nearly 20 years on death row until DNA evidence finally brings the verdict into question. Now, Daniel must learn to live as a free man in a town where people still think he's guilty.
Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have)
The once-acclaimed French school system is under siege, with overcrowding making it impossible for children to receive the education they deserve. But there's one place that's trying to buck the tide. This documentary by Nicolas Philibert visits a one-room schoolhouse in rural Saint-Étienne-sur-Usson, where Georges Lopez teaches his 13 students, ranging in age between 3 and 10, the old-fashioned way ... with effort, attention and encouragement.
Based on a story by celebrated Japanese author Haruki Murakami, this visually poetic fable tells the story of Tony Takitani (Issei Ogata), a solitary technical illustrator. Raised as an only child and partially estranged from his father, Takitani is unaware of his own loneliness until he falls in love with Eiko (Rie Miyazawa). He soon marries her and comes alive for the first time. But Eiko's obsessive passion for couture leads to tragedy.
Little Buddha - Netflix Instant Play
Keanu Reeves and Bridget Fonda star in this moving drama from Academy Award-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci. In a big American city, a boy and his family discover the story of a prince in a land of miracles. But the miracle becomes real when Tibetan monks appear, searching for their leader's reincarnation ... who they believe to be the boy. Suddenly, their worlds meet, leading the Americans on an extraordinary adventure.
Kumare - Netflix Instant Play
Filmmaker Vikram Gandhi presents himself as an enlightened guru from the East and builds a following of disciples in the West. "Kumare" acts as the centerpiece of a social experiment to explore and test one of the world's most sacred taboos.
Life of Pi
Based on Yann Martel's best-selling novel, this coming-of-age tale recounts the adventures of Pi, an Indian boy who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with only some zoo animals for company.
Forks Over Knives - Netflix Instant Play
Focusing on research by two food scientists, this documentary reveals that despite broad advances in medical technology, the popularity of animal-based and modern processed foods have led to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.
Amongst White Clouds
In this fascinating documentary, filmmaker Edward A. Burger takes viewers deep into the unseen world of the Buddhist hermit monks who live and teach in sanctuaries spread across China's Zhongnan Mountains. The masters and students maintain a tradition of seclusion reputed to date back five millennia. Burger -- who spent years living among the monks -- offers intriguing insight into their mysterious way of life and spiritual practices.
After stopping a desperate man from jumping in front of the speeding Sunset Limited subway train, a Good Samaritan discusses the meaning of life and death with the person he rescued. This HBO drama is based on Cormac McCarthy's stage play.
When a stoic government official (Takashi Shimura) in post-war Japan learns he has terminal cancer, he suddenly realizes he's squandered his life on meaningless red tape and has no close family or friendships to lean on, in this drama from director Akira Kurosawa. Resolving to use his remaining time wisely, he sets out to steer a children's playground project through the bureaucracy he knows so well. (also recommended most of Kurosawa's films.)
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace - Netflix Instant Play
Spiritual guru Ram Dass attempts to recover from a stroke, which he dubs "fierce grace," in this documentary produced and directed by Mickey Lemle, a close friend of Dass for decades. Dass, author of the lauded Be Here Now, was felled so severely by the illness that he became paralyzed -- but in true Ram Dass fashion, he saw it as a reason to look death in the face.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
You'll feel instantly at peace with this chronicle of one of the most unique books of Buddhist spirituality, narrated by singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Sit back and explore the rites prescribed by the text and see how they're applied by people around the world. Two parts -- "A Way of Life" and "The Great Liberation" -- are included.
Eat Pray Love
Recent divorcée Liz decides to reshape her life, traveling the world in search of direction. She heads to Italy, India and Bali, indulging in delicious cuisine while seeking the true meaning of self-love, family, friendship and forgiveness.
Ghost - Netflix Instant Play
After wealthy CEO Nanami Hoshino is killed in an accident, she takes the form of a ghost. Soon, she realizes that her grief-stricken husband is in grave danger in this remake of the American film Ghost.
Samsara - Netflix Instant Play
2011 version. Unconstrained by dialogue or narration, this contemplative documentary reveals the ties between the dueling rhythms of nature and humanity as found in diverse locations across the globe, from sacred sites and natural wonders to industrial zones.
1988 version. After Shi Ba (Han Lei) -- a privileged youth turned con artist -- meets a fetching dancer named Yu Jing (Xiaoyan Tan), he decides to go straight and leave his life of crime behind him. But will his checkered past come back to haunt Shi Ba when a blackmailer comes calling? Di Liu, Jingmin Luo and Lijun Liu also star in director Jianxin Huang's downbeat Chinese drama adapted from a novel by Shuo Wang.
It's a Wonderful Life
It's a wonderful film. Frank Capra's inverted take on A Christmas Carol stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a good man who's spent a lifetime giving up on his dreams in order to keep life in his small town humming. When a guardian angel named Clarence finds a despondent George poised to jump off a bridge, he shows George what life would've been like had he never been born.
Resurrection - couldn't find on Netflix - available through iMDb/Amazon
Ellen Burstyn experiences the afterlife for a brief time after a car accident that kills her husband. As she begins her long process of physical healing, she discovers that she has the ability to heal physical infirmities. While most people simply accept her gift, her lover (Sam Shepard) becomes mentally unbalanced and dangerous because she does not place the healings within a religious context.
Chaim Potok's acclaimed novel is translated to the screen in this lyrical adaptation. It's World War II, and as battles rage in Europe and Asia, two young men -- one a member of the Hasidim, the other the son of a reformed Jew -- become friends in spite of their differences. Stars Maximilian Schell, Rod Steiger and Robby Benson.
The World's Fastest Indian- Netflix Instant Play
This fact-based drama stars Anthony Hopkins as quirky New Zealander Burt Munro, a 67-year-old grandfather who flies across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats and attempts to break into the record books on his customized Indian Scout motorcycle.
The Way - Netflix Instant Play
When his son dies while hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in the Pyrenees, a grieving father flies to France to claim the remains. Looking for insights into his estranged child's life, he decides to complete the 500-mile trek to Spain.
Stranger than Fiction - there are 2 movies with this name and totally different plots
Will Ferrell movie: As best-selling novelist Kay Eiffel struggles with how to kill off her main character, IRS auditor Harold Crick begins hearing her voice in his head and slowly realizes that he must stop his own death.
After a lifetime of dreaming about traveling the world, 78-year-old homebody Carl flies away on an unbelievable adventure with Russell, an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer, unexpectedly in tow.
During her family's move to the suburbs, Chihiro (voiced by Daveigh Chase) wanders into a magical world where a witch rules -- and those who disobey her are turned into animals. When Chihiro's parents become pigs, she must find a way to help them return to their human form. Adapted from the Japanese original, director Hayao Miyazaki's adventure tale won the Best Animated Feature Oscar for its enchanting story.
Holy Smoke - Netflix Instant Play
While on a journey of discovery in exotic India, beautiful young Ruth Barron falls under the influence of a charismatic religious guru. Her desperate parents then hire PJ Waters, a macho cult de-programmer who confronts Ruth in a remote desert hideaway. But PJ quickly learns that he's met his match in the sexy, intelligent and iron-willed Ruth!
A Christmas Carol (1951 version with Alastair Sim)
Considered by many to be the classic adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel, this 1951 version stars Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, the callous miser visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. Michael Hordern plays the spirit who successfully haunts the old man. Co-starring in this seamless sketch of Dickens' England are Hermione Baddeley, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison and a young Patrick Macnee.
Based on the Russian sci-fi novel Roadside Picnic, this science fiction milestone from director Andrei Tarkovsky takes you into the Zone, a mysterious, guarded realm containing a mystical room in which occupants' secret dreams come true. Stalker, a man able to lead others to this holy grail, escorts a writer and a scientist through this foreboding territory and confronts several unexpected challenges along the way.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Inspired by Richard Bach's best-selling novella and featuring a Grammy-winning score by Neil Diamond, this live-action family drama follows the quest of a young seagull to transcend the boundaries of his flock.
The Celestine Prophecy
When disillusioned history teacher John Woodsen (Matthew Settle) gets laid off from his job, he finds himself bored and rudderless until, on impulse, he hops on a plane to Peru to meet an old friend who's searching for some ancient scrolls. To his surprise, Woodsen finds a lot more than sacred texts on this journey of spiritual awakening based on James Redfield's best-selling book. Hector Elizondo and Annabeth Gish co-star.
Something Unknown Is Doing We Don't Know What - can purchase from Amazon
Something Unknown offers us a front row seat at the frontiers of reality. Grounded in a century's worth of data from psychical research and situated in the entangled realms of quantum theory, this movie will expand your horizons and broaden your worldview. Sit back, secure your seat belt, open your mind, and enjoy a new lens of perception. You won't want to miss it! --Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, Ph.D., President/CEO of the Institute of Noetic Sciences
After his amazing safe landing of a damaged passenger plane, an airline pilot is praised for the feat, but has private questions about what happened. Further, the government's inquiry into the causes soon puts the new hero's reputation at risk.
Fly Away Home
When 13-year-old Amy adopts a flock of orphaned Canada geese, she sets out to teach them survival skills. Before long, Amy and her inventor dad take to the skies in a homemade aircraft to help the gaggle migrate 500 miles.
In this star-studded drama, six seemingly disparate stories take viewers from a South Pacific Island in the 19th century to 1970s America to a dystopian future, exploring the complicated links that humans share through the generations.
Wake Up - Netflix Instant Play
Jonas Elrod woke up one day with the ability to see and hear angels, demons and ghosts. Filmed over the course of three years, this documentary follows Jonas and his girlfriend as they try to understand the phenomenon.
While struggling to endure his perfection-obsessed wife (Annette Bening), an unfulfilling job and a sullen teenage daughter (Thora Birch), suburbanite Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) falls deep into a midlife crisis and becomes infatuated with one of his daughter's friends (Mena Suvari). Director Sam Mendes dazzles with this arresting blend of social satire and domestic tragedy that scooped up five Oscars, including acting honors for Spacey.
Through chance, human action, past history and divine intervention, an eclectic cast of characters weaves and warps through each other's lives on a random California day, building to an unforgettable climax.
Life is Beautiful - Netflix Instant Play
A Jewish Italian waiter named Guido is sent to a Nazi concentration camp, along with his wife and their young son. Refusing to give up hope, Guido tries to protect his son's innocence by pretending that their imprisonment is an elaborate game.
After an atheist woman's hands and feet begin to mysteriously bleed, the Vatican sends a myth-busting priest to investigate the phenomenon. Soon, the woman's symptoms become more frightening, and the two are thrust headlong into supernatural terror.
The Thin Red Line
In director Terrence Malick's lyrical and beautiful retelling of James Jones's novel about the 1942 battle for Guadalcanal, the men of C-Company become a tight-knit group as they each individually struggle with the horrors of war.
Goddess Remembered - available used from Amazon VHS format
This stunning and poetic documentary examines pre-Christian goddess-worshipping religions and explores the modern women's spirituality movement inspired by them. This film is part one of the Women and Spirituality trilogy which also includes The Burning Times and Full Circle.
I Heart Huckabees
When a mystery needs to be solved, and it's not a whodunit but rather a maze involving complex emotions, it requires the expertise of intellectual -- and perhaps slightly kooky -- detectives Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard (Dustin Hoffman). Jude Law and Naomi Watts co-star in David O. Russell's quirky comedy that finds the existential husband-and-wife team helping a do-gooding client (Jason Schwartzman) who's plagued by twists of fate.
Zorba the Greek
Basil (Alan Bates), a young English writer, meets a free-spirited Greek peasant named Zorba (Anthony Quinn) on the island of Crete. While Zorba pursues a relationship with aging French courtesan Madame Hortense (Lila Kedrova, who won an Oscar for her role), Basil attempts to court a young widow. Along the way, he learns valuable life lessons from the earthy Zorba, who has an unquenchable joie de vivre. Nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Run Lola Run
In this thrilling roller-coaster ride, Lola receives a frantic phone call from her boyfriend, Manni, who's lost a small fortune belonging to his mobster boss. If Lola doesn't replace the money within 20 minutes, Manni will suffer the consequences.
In the year 10,191, two factions vie for control of planet Arrakis aka Dune -- home to the most valuable substance in the known universe, Spice. But when one leader gives up control, it's only so he can stage a coup with unsavory characters.
Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi), the mailman on an Italian island, pines from afar for a beautiful waitress. But when exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) comes to live on the island, Ruoppolo delivers Neruda's mail and picks up lessons on love, life and poetry. Noteworthy extras in this edition include director Michael Radford's commentary and a featurette about the real-life Neruda.
Hachi: A Dog's Tale- Netflix Instant Play
When his master dies, a loyal pooch named Hachiko keeps a regular vigil -- for more than a decade -- at the train station where he once greeted his owner every day in this touching drama based on a true story.
The Big Lebowski
Slacker Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski gets involved in a gargantuan mess of events when he's mistaken for another man named Lebowski, whose wife has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. All the while, the Dude's friend, Walter, stirs the pot.
Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance
Koyaanisqatsi, which marks Godfrey Reggio's debut as a film director and producer, is the first installment of the Qatsi trilogy. The title is a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance." Created between 1975 and 1982, the film is an apocalyptic vision of the collision of two different worlds -- urban life and technology versus the environment. Philip Glass composed the film's musical score. The other 2 movies in the trilogy are: Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation, and Naqoyqatsi (available on Netflix Instant Play)
Peaceful Warrior - Netflix Instant Play
College gymnast Dan Millman had everything he could ever want, until an injury changed his life forever. During his recovery, fate presents Dan with a wife and a stranger named Socrates, who unlocks a world of wisdom and spiritual understanding.
I've been using my sitting support for about 6 weeks now and it has made a huge difference in my meditation practice. With the support I was able to relieve the acute pain and I discovered the next level of pain that sat right below the acute level. What became clear was this next level of pain came from my good friend - my body - trying to do its thing and adjust to the circumstances it was dealt.
I finally realize the extent to which the right side of my body has been tortured: my neck has had 4 surgeries on the right side; my right collarbone was broken and never aligned so it "set itself" at an angle that left my right shoulder about 2 inches lower than my left; I had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder for a racquetball injury; and, I have a broken wingtip on the right side of a vertebra in my mid back.
These had seemed like mostly disconnected events until now. With the acute pain gone I could feel them each speaking with their own voice. The more I listened to what they were trying to say the more I realized that my "neutral position" needed to adjust. I discovered that by rotating my shoulders a few degrees in favor of my right side almost all of the pain dropped away.
The shift is quite subtle. I'm not sure it would be obvious to anyone else; but from inside me it feels like I've rotated a lot.
The funny thing is now that I can get comfortable during zazen I find it easy to fall into a more blissful state when sitting. My new practice is to focus on concentration.
If you struggle with pain during mediation I strongly encourage you investigate the source. Finding your neutral position can make dramatic change in the quality of your practice. Of course, sitting in one position for an extended time will inevitably create its own stress on your body. You just don't have to add additional pressure from injuries, or the other issues that make your body unique.