The Stages of Sitting Meditation

Mindful sitting meditation is made up of five distinct stages. You may like to begin with practicing one stage and move on to add a stage when you feel you’ve understood it. Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous, dive in with the full sitting meditation and see how you go. Here are the five stages and how to practice them:

  • Mindfulness of breath

    • Sit in an upright, dignified position if you can.

    • Become aware of the physical sensation of your natural breathing wherever it’s most predominant for you (for example, the chest or belly).

    • When your mind wanders off to other thoughts, as it naturally will, smile and gently bring your attention back to your breathing.

    • Allow your breathing to be natural. You breathe all night without any effort. So just be aware of the process.

  • Mindfulness of body

    • Have a wider awareness of your body as a whole.

    • Notice all the sensations in your physical body as they fluctuate and change from moment to moment.

    • Gently bring your attention back to your body when it wanders.

    • If a certain part of your body causes discomfort, turn your attention towards that area and imagine your breathing going into and out of that part of your body. See if you can allow that sensation to simply be. Have an attitude of acceptance as best you can.

    • Remember, the sensation of your own natural breathing is also a bodily sensation that you can focus on.

  • Mindfulness of sounds

    • Open your awareness to sounds.

    • Notice how your mind labels and judges sound. Be aware of that and go back to listening to the sound itself.

    • Be aware of the volume, pitch and quality of the sounds as they change from moment to moment.

    • Notice the silence, which is between and underneath all sounds. The sounds arise from a background of silence.

    • Let the sounds come to you instead of reaching out for the sounds.

    • Rest your attention on sounds.

  • Mindfulness of thoughts

    • Now turn your attention inwards to thoughts.

    • Be aware of your thoughts in an impersonal way.

    • Remember that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts.

    • Watch thoughts arise and pass away, just like the sounds.

    • If you find it helpful, imagine clouds passing through the sky. Place your thoughts on the clouds and watch them come and go. You’re taking a step back from your own thoughts.

  • Open awareness

    • In this final stage of the sitting meditation, allow your attention to be open.

    • Notice whatever is most predominant in your awareness. It can be your breath, body, sounds, thoughts, emotions – it doesn’t matter.

    • If you find your mind gets caught in a train of thought, come back to an awareness of your breathing for a few moments and then go back to an open awareness.

    • This practice can be tricky, so just have a go and try to be patient with yourself.

Practice the sitting meditation once a day for at least a week and record your experiences

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