By Leo Babauta
Sitting meditation sounds very simple — sit still for 2 minutes, focus on your breath — but if you’ve never done it, you’ll have some questions when you first sit down to meditate.
And so this article is a suggested way to do sitting meditation. If you have another way you like to meditate, feel free to do that instead, as long as you’re focusing your attention on something in the present moment (or the entire moment). This guide is for those who’d like a little guidance.
A quick note: I’m not a meditation expert. I’ve received instructions from experts, and have done it for awhile myself, but I’m still a beginner. However, this is a simplified set of instructions that will serve our purposes for this month. After this month, if you’d like to explore other ways of meditating, I highly recommend it.
How to Sit
First, when do you sit? I strongly suggest first thing in the morning, before you have coffee or tea or breakfast. Right when you wake up, before you get started with your day. You could find another time, but I’ve found that meditation gets pushed back when other things come up, until you just aren’t doing it. What if you have other habits you do first thing? You can still do those, then meditate — just don’t get started with everything else before you meditate.
Next: where do you sit? Anywhere quiet and comfortable. If you have a meditation cushion, try that, facing the wall. But don’t go buy one — any cushion or pillow could be used. Most of you will be more comfortable sitting on a chair or couch. Do that — we’re not learning to be expert meditators here — how you sit doesn’t matter that much. If you want to sit in bed, that’s fine — just be sure to sit upright, as lying down tends to lead to sleep.
Now, you’re sitting … how should you sit? Upright with good posture is a good thing. Try sitting like a baby sitting up for the first time — leaning forward a bit, with your butt sticking out back and your belly sticking out forward. Butt back, belly forward.
Get comfortable, but don’t slouch.
How to Meditate Once You’re Sitting
OK, you’re sitting comfortably, now what?
Keep your eyes open. You can close them, but training your attention with your eyes open is useful for when you meditate while doing other things (eating, walking, working). Direct your gaze downward, at about a 45-degree angle. Don’t grasp with your eyes; have a soft gaze.
Breathe through your nose. You can have a couple of deep cleansing breaths through your mouth, but then breathe normally, through your nose. No need to breathe deeply.
Now smile, and give thanks for being able to do something this wonderful for yourself. This is a treat.
Now turn your attention to your breath. Notice it coming in through your nose, and follow it from your nostrils to the back of your throat down into your lungs, and then back out. Do this for a little while.
When your attention wanders to other thoughts, don’t push them away. Simply note that your attention wandered, smile at yourself, and gently return to your breath.
Try counting your breaths: 1 on inhale, 2 on exhale, 3 on inhale, until you get to 10. Then start again at 1. When your mind wanders, start again at 1. Don’t get frustrated if you keep starting over — this is the practice.
When you’re breathing in, and counting 1, be completely aware of your breath. Make this single breath, and the number 1, your entire universe. There is nothing else but this. Then make the exhale, and the number 2, your entire universe. Keep doing this.
Your attention is turned completely on this moment, this breath, this number, and there is nothing else.
This is the meditation practice. Do it for 2 minutes or so.