Beginning Meditation Instructions

This first set is the beginning meditation instructions that are handed out when someone comes for a half hour before a sitting. They are intended as a ‘reminder checklist’ that’s quick and easy when you are learning to sit.
beginning meditation instructions
A longer set of instructions can be found here. Please note, neither of these takes the place of a beginning meditation class, which is strongly recommended for new meditators.


Part 1 Concentration: Letting the mind settle in the moment

  1. Body attention scanning
  2. Bring attention to the place where the breath is most noticeable
  3. Let your attention rest in that place. Feel the sensation of the breath as it touches this spot on the in-breath and the out-breath. If distracted, notice that you’ve been distracted and come back to that spot.
  4. Let the breath find it’s own natural rhythm

Part 2 Insight: Seeing what is arising

  1. Begin with focus on the breath spot
  2. As other objects draw your attention (thoughts, sounds, body sensations, etc), notice that your attention is now on this object. Stay with this object until it is no longer the focus of attention.
  3. In between objects that catch your attention, or if you’ve wandered off, come back to the breath spot.
  4. As you become more stable in attention, you may find you are going from object to object and coming back to the breath as needed to stabilize attention and focus.

Think of these two parts as traveling a two lane highway. Both are moving in the same direction, just a different speeds. Part 1 is a training of the mind and attention to be able to remain more stably in the moment watching your experience. Sometimes, you’ll do this for just a few breaths at the beginning of a sitting, find yourself quite settled, and spend the rest of the sitting in Part 2.

At other times, you’ll find your mind jumpy and skittering off, and you’ll find staying in Part 1 longer to be helpful. Or, in the middle of a sitting, you find you are unable to rest your attention stably and come back to Part 1.

As your practice develops during Part 2, there may come a point where you find you only occasionally notice the breath. This is fine. It is also fine to keep yourself close to breath awareness. You also may find yourself noticing spaces, or gaps, between objects. These gaps may seem still, spacious, or empty. You may find focus shifting from the objects to the gaps between.

Part of insight maturing is accepting all objects and states of mind equally, one is not better than another. Noticing preferences (liking and disliking) becomes part of your practice. The preferences are objects themselves. For example, you might notice anxiety, and also the dislike of it and wanting it to go away. The anxiety and disliking are different from each other – exploring preferences becomes rich and valuable in understanding how your inner world works.

A common obstacle is thinking meditation is to ‘get to‘ a more centered or peaceful place.

There is no way to ‘get to‘ centeredness. Centeredness is found by being with and accepting whatever is coming up in your experience – as it is. Relax and trust yourself – everything you need is already present inside. Since meditation is about being you, you can’t do it ‘wrong’.

It is human to have a tendency to beat ourselves up a bit because we cannot do this perfectly. When this kind of judging comes up, notice it as another object. Notice if it has a hook, meaning that it feels very ‘real’ and compelling. Qualities that we bring to meditation to support ourselves here include loving kindness and compassion for oneself and others, and a sense of humor.