Sitting Meditation Instruction

To begin training, try sitting on the floor with legs crossed. You might feel more comfortable if the legs are not interlocked but each placed on the ground, without pressing against each other. If you find that sitting on the floor interferes with contemplation, then feel free to sit on a chair. Now proceed with each of the following contemplative exercises.

Try to keep your mind (but not your eyes) on the abdomen. Feel your belly rise and fall as you breathe in and out. You will thereby come to know the movements of the rising and falling of this organ. If these movements are not clear to you in the beginning, then place both hands on the abdomen to better feel these rising and falling movements. After a short time the upward movement of the exhalation will become clear. Then make a mental note of rising for the upward movement and falling for the downward movement. Your mental note of each movement must be made while it occurs. From this exercise you will learn the actual manner of the upward and downward movements of the abdomen. Continue noting the rising and falling.

For the beginner this exercise is a very effective method of developing the faculties of attention, concentration of mind, and insight in contemplation. As practice develops, the manner of movement will be clearer. The ability to know each successive occurrence of the mental and physical processes at each of the sense organs is acquired only when insight contemplation is fully developed. Since you are a beginner whose attentiveness and power of concentration are still weak, you may find it difficult to keep the mind on each successive rising movement and falling movement as it occurs. In view of this difficulty, you may be inclined to think: “I just don’t know how to keep my mind on each of these movements.” But remember: The rising and the falling movements of the abdomen are always present, and therefore there is no need to look for them. Actually it is easy for a beginner to keep his or her mind on these two simple movements. Continue with this exercise in full awareness of the abdomen’s rising and falling movements.

While occupied with the exercise of observing each of the abdominal movements, other mental activities may occur between noting of each rising and falling. Thoughts or other mental functions, such as intentions, memories, plans, ideas, imaginings, are likely to occur between each mental note of rising and falling. They cannot be disregarded. A mental note must be made of each as it occurs.

If you imagine something, you must know that you have done so and make a mental note imagining. If you simply think of something, mentally

note thinking. If you reflect, reflecting. If you intend to do something, intending. If you are planning, planning. Then return to the exercise of rising and falling.

Since you must continue contemplation for a long time while in one position, you are likely to experience an intense feeling fatigue, stiffness, discomfort, or pain in the body, perhaps in the back, arms, or legs. Should this happen, simply keep the knowing mind on that part of the body where such feeling occurs and carry on the contemplation, noting, for instance, tired, stiff, discomfort, or pain. Do this naturally, that is, neither too fast nor too slow. These feelings gradually become fainter and finally cease altogether. Should one of these feelings become more intense until the bodily fatigue or stiffness of the joints is unbearable, change your position. However, do not forget to make a mental note of intending before you proceed to change position. Each detailed movement must be contemplated in the respective order. As soon as you are settled in the new position, continue with the contemplation of the abdominal movements noting rising and falling.

When you practice meditation, you have to be patient and persevere. Do not get discouraged; if you cannot get concentrated at the beginning, know that everybody has that experience. The mind is unruly and difficult to control. You can expect many distractions to interfere with your meditation exercise. You can tame a wild bull by tying it with ropes. You cannot tie your mind with ropes. But you can "tie" your mind to the object. When distractions come to you, whether, e.g., through the eyes, ears, or nose, don’t get irritated or upset, just turn them into the objects of meditation by making a mental note. In this way, you can effectively deal with everything that comes to you. Leave all your expectations behind. Just keep noting to bring yourself back to the present moment.

Subpages (1): Some Basic Guidelines