Basic Meditation Instructions

Meditation is simple, but not easy.

There are four traditional meditation postures: sitting, walking, standing, and lying down.  On Wednesday evenings, our sangha typically practices sitting and walking meditations, which are described briefly below.

The important thing to remember about meditation is that it is a practice.  Keep at it.  Even for advanced meditators, each meditation is a new experience.  Don't hesitate to ask questions about meditation during dharma discussion or individually to other more experienced practitioners in the sangha.

Sitting Meditation 

Sitting here is like sitting under the Bodhi Tree.
My body is mindfulness itself,
calm and at ease
free from distraction.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

For sitting meditation, select one of the cushions (zafus), meditation benches, or chairs available in the Meditation Pavilion or bring your own cushion. 

Sit in a balanced way that is neither too tight nor too loose, relaxed yet energized.  If using a cushion, you may choose to sit in half-lotus, full-lotus, or kneeling position.  Regardless of how you are sitting, allow your hands to rest comfortably on your knees or your lap. 

Meditation practitioners typically select an object to focus attention on during meditation. For example, you might select a phrase ("gatha") to link with your breathing, or focus on the physical sensation of the breath. 

Examples of gathas are:
Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.
Breathing out, I feel solid.

For mindfulness of the breath, choose a location in the body where the breath is most obvious to you--on the upper lip, at the nostrils, in the throat, or in the chest or belly rising and falling--and use the felt sensation of the breath as the object of your meditation. When your thoughts wander, simply bring them back to the breath.

Walking Meditation

The mind can go in a thousand directions.
But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.
 -- Thich Nhat Hanh 
We typically practice walking meditation inside the Meditation Pavilion as a group walking in a circle. During pleasant weather, many people enjoy practicing walking meditation individually outside in the gardens.

Walking meditation is done very slowly and mindfully, unless you are feeling especially tired or restless.  In which case, walking briskly outside may raise your energy level or shake off restlessness.

For walking meditation, you might consider using one of the following practices:
  • Link your breathing with the movement of your feet.  Move your left foot with your in-breath and your right foot with your out-breath.
  • Use gathas.  When you step with your left foot, think "I have arrived" and with your right foot, "I am home;" or left foot "Yes" and right foot "Thank you."
  • Practice mindfulness of moving.  Directly experience the physical sensations of your body in motion, paying special attention to the sensation of your feet and legs as they move. 
  • Use phrases to note the movement of your feet, such as "lifting, moving, placing; lifting, moving placing." 
There are many ways to practice mindful walking. Don't get hung up on a particular form. See what works for you.

For more information about meditation techniques and practices, refer to the Resources page.