Sitting Meditation

Find a quiet and peaceful place to meditate in. Preferably where there is no wind, not too hot or not too cold. Turn off your phone and other distractions. If you can’t find such a place, then meditate in a noisy and busy place.

Sit on a a cushion cross-legged, or on a chair (some postures here). The posture itself has very little magic in it, but it is best to hold yourself straight, to sit with some dignity. Find a way to sit that is sustainable for a longer period of time and in which you will not fall asleep. You should be alert but comfortable. Hands on your knees or on your lap.

If you meditate eyes closed, it may be easier to get “into it”. However note that with eyes closed it is also easier to start daydreaming or even fall asleep. Also, in some places it may not be appropriate or safe to be with closed eyes. Do what works.

 Here are two suggestions for a meditation “protocol”:

1. Mindfulness meditation

In this meditation we will direct our attention to many different things that are going on. Please note that any of the phases can be used also individually as a meditation session.

If you do all these in a single session, use 5 to 10 minutes on each numbered section.

Prepare by taking a few deep breaths; for example 5 counts in – hold for 2 – 8 counts out. Repeat a few times, then return to normal breathing.

  1. Scan your body from head to toe (see Body Scan). Release any tension you notice, if possible. If you can’t it’s ok. Just notice what is going on in the part of the body you are scanning right now. Imagine relaxing that place as much as it is possible. Go through the entire body, from up to down in a good pace.
  2. Listen to the sounds in your environment. Try not to make judgements whether you like a sound or not, or to analyze its source. Just listen to what can be heard in this space you’re in. In some sessions you can also try to locate the faintest sound or let your attention shift with the loudest sound you can hear at any given moment. If you drift away into thoughts, just notice that it happened and return to listening to sounds.
  3. Pay attention to the bodily sensations. Where and what is the strongest sensation? Is it all the time the same thing or does it change? Was it replaced by another sensation?
  4. Next move to “listen” to the thoughts that go on in your head. When you catch yourself thinking about something or starting a conversation, just notice that you are doing it. Don’t try to make it stop or go away. See what happens when the thought or an idea is being observed.
  5. Now move to scan for any emotions going on in you. Again, do not try to change anything, just find out what is there. Sometimes there can be a sensation of joy, sometimes a bit of blues or like sometimes; nothing special to mention. Either way, it’s all good. Just hang in there and see what is.
  6. Then we move on to observing the breath. How does it feel like? In what part of the body you can feel it strongest? In the nose or the throat? Are your shoulders or belly moving up and down with the breath? Is the breath easy or labored? Long or short? Do not change or stop it from changing. Observe how it is. When breathing in, know that you are breathing in. When breathing out, know that you are breathing out. If you get distracted, just notice it and return your attention back to the breath.
  7. Finally we bring it all together. Just sit there. Let your mind rest on any phenomena that calls for your attention right now. It will change all the time; now a sound, then a feeling, then a thought, a sound again and so on. Let your mind shift when it needs to. Don’t make a story about anything you notice, analyze it or try to change it or stop it from changing.  If you get engaged in thinking or daydreaming, that’s ok. Just notice that it happened and return to here and now.

End the meditation by swiftly reflecting on the experience, stretch your body and then go mind all your other business.

Tip: If you want to make sure you get all the “tasks” done within the time you have allocated, use a meditation timer that allows for intermediate bells (for example, Insight Timer).

2. Moment-to-moment awareness

This one is just sitting, with not much technique involved. If you are a first-time meditator, this one may feel a bit confusing to you so you may want to try first the first one, titled “Mindfulness meditation“. It has a bit more structure and a clearer procedure to follow.
However, you should also try this very basic non-judgemental moment-to-moment awareness some day, since it is a very potent exercise.
Prepare by taking a few deep breaths; for example 5 counts in – hold for 2 – 8 counts out. Repeat a few times, then return to normal breathing.
  1. Just sit there. Do not try to accomplish anything.
  2. Notice what is going on right now; physical sensations, temperature, sounds, feelings, thoughts that arise and other things. Do not get carried away by any of it, do not like it or hate it, just notice and let go. Do not make anything go away, instead allow it to disappear on its own time.
  3. When you get carried away by a thought, internal conversation or find yourself dreaming, just notice it and return to here and now.

End the meditation by swiftly reflecting on the experience, stretch your body and then go mind all your other business.

More information

Guided Mindfulness meditation

Guided meditations from AudioDharma

Guided meditations by Josh Korda

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Guided Body Scan

Gil Fronsdal: Guided Body Scan

Jon Kabat Zinn Body Scan Meditation

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Body Scan

Mindfulness of breathing

Anapanasati Practice – Mindfulness of Breathing (Audiodharma)

Introduction to Mindfulness

Introductions to Mindfulness meditation by AudioDharma:



Zen style of  “just sitting” of “nothing but (shikan) precisely (da) sitting (za).”

Fukan Zazengi – Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen
Instructions from Zen-monk Dōgen.

More Zazen instructions from Treeleaf Sangha

About meditation postures

Instructions from Insight Meditation Center

Sources and inspiration

The meditations presented here have their origins in the Buddhist practice but can be used outside that context as well. Many Buddhist teachers I have listened / read online have valuable instructions to offer that will help you to cultivate a meditation practice, whether you identify yourself as Buddhist or not.

Their teachings, named Dharma talks, often include both great insights to life, often with crazy humor. Please check out the talks by Gil Fronsdal, Josh Korda, Noah Levine, Brad Warner and Jundo Cohen.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a secular teacher of meditation, also with a lot of great material.

There is a full meditation course by Sam Harris, called “Waking Up”, completely non-religious.

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