The Essence of Just Sitting: Some Meditation Techniques for Beginners

A woman sits outside in a peaceful area and meditates.Just Bow
Putting my right and left hands together as one,
I bow.
Just bow to become one with Buddha and God.
Just bow to become one with everything I encounter.
Just bow to become one with all myriad things.
Just bow as life becomes life.

-Uchiyama Roshi’s death poem

There are many ways of interpreting, understanding, and categorizing peace. What might be helpful, however, is dropping all ideas about peace and looking for its actual reality. This means that we drop our philosophies and theories about peace and “just bow as life becomes life.” In other words, there is a kind of existence in which all of the aspects of being merge into awareness. This merger is not a state where there is no emotion, a state where there is no feeling, a state where there is no energy. Rather, this ability to experience moments where life and time are suspended and concentrated is what we are, what is.

Last month, I was asked to write a “beginner” article on meditation. Depending on your understanding of what constitutes meditation, you can either move through your life accepting all that arises or you can practice this in a more formal way. Practice and discipline are avenues of knowing what is essentially always there—peace. So, if we begin by accepting whatever arises—anxiety, grief, confusion, anger—then we can do this by just sitting and having breakfast. We can also do this—sit with whatever is arising—more formally. It does not make a difference. If you notice that you don’t want to sit formally, then see if you can challenge that preference. If you have no problem accepting your immediate interior and exterior experience, then do that as your “meditation.” However, if you feel you are suffering, then there is a need in your life for meditation.

A preliminary to meditation is embodiment—having a sense of being in your body. One way to accomplish this is by practicing a short relaxation exercise in which you feel the heaviness or tension at the top of your skull and begin to imagine it descending down—literally feeling it move into your face—sense your forehead, eyes, cheeks, and mouth—feel the tension moving out of your face and then down your neck, shoulders, spine, upper and lower belly, and, ultimately, into your feet. Once the heaviness and tension is in your feet, then imagine all of the tension moving through the soles of your feet and into the ground. Relaxation helps us to center and to feel that we are in the present moment.

The next steps are simple breathing exercises. Basically, you are looking to breathe naturally while dissolving any fixations in the out-breath. So you contact your breath—however you notice it and just be with it—don’t alter it, don’t force it to be other than it is, just bring your full attention to your breath, the life force that energizes your being.

Next, we attend to environment. You will need to disengage from any stimulation by finding a space without people, phones, television, books, and computer screens. Certainly, early morning is a good time to meditate—before the world, at least on your half of the continent—is moving about. You can sit on a chair, a couch, cushion, or even lie down (you’ll have to monitor sleepiness while lying down). You will need to sit/lie in a relatively still position for about 20 minutes, twice daily. This should not be torture. So, you can shift your position to become more comfortable, but you don’t want to start walking around. The point is that you wish to remain quiet, awake, and comfortable. It may also be important to schedule in some transition time from the sitting-proper to your more active involvement in your life.

The above are the prerequisites and now for what you do: you do what you do! Based on the intention and vision you have, that you wish to suffer less, you do not try to change anything. You are simply being with what you’re thinking, feeling, experiencing. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. If you’re following your breath, follow your breath. If you’re reciting a mantra, recite a mantra. If you’re daydreaming, daydream. There is nothing to do! So, maybe you are observing the process and maybe you’re not. Maybe five minutes have gone by and you don’t know where they went. If your eyes are open, if your eyes are shut—it makes no difference.

What I’m saying is there is no right or wrong way to meditate. This will be hard to accept since everything in our culture is about the right and wrong ways of doing things. This aspect of your experience has no parameters except that you are awake and relatively still. Peter Fenner, whose course on non-dual teacher training I recently took, reminds us, “Since there is no object of meditation and nothing to get out of it—there can be no distraction to it happening just as it is happening.” The only requirement is that you commit to sitting and you do so for twenty minutes, twice daily. As you remain diligent in your sitting practice, coherence and peace radiate like the sun shining through the clouds of conflict and suffering.

Coherence and peace are what penetrate the surface appearance of suffering, not because we are looking for anything, but because it coexists with suffering. Fulfillment, by definition, requires nothing more—all things arise in their space—and nothing needs to be different. When we know this, it constantly reinforces itself, but until we know this, we take our spot and sit with wakeful dignity—the rest shows up because it’s already there. As Krisnamurti was fond of saying, “Don’t just take my word for it, find out for yourself!”

© Copyright 2010 by Linda Jame, LCSW, therapist in Katonah, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 5 comments
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  • BUZZ

    BUZZ

    September 4th, 2010 at 3:07 AM

    Peace 2 me, is something that I experience when I can concentrate on what’s on hand and have nothing else to worry about,when everything is in order and under control.Peace means no conflict of my own thoughts.

  • faye

    faye

    September 4th, 2010 at 6:18 AM

    Can’t do it. . . too impatient

  • Deanne

    Deanne

    September 5th, 2010 at 4:23 AM

    BUZZ I completely agree with you- but how do I get to that point? No conflict of my own thoughts is so difficult as I am always second guessing myself!!

  • Olivia

    Olivia

    September 7th, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    I love my meditation time- it keeps me focused on the important things in life

  • Linda Jame, LCSW

    Linda Jame, LCSW

    September 8th, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    When I think about the condition of “no conflict,” (as you suggests, Buzz, and as you ponder, Deanne) as a prerequisite to peace, I’m aware of the paradox that exists in experiencing no-mind or unconditioned presence. We are relative beings with a temporal existence. That fact of our mortality is our first emotional threat (conflict, suffering) if we are not in denial. Yet, Awareness, which experiences life, has no personal stake in what happens. This neutrality offers relief from worry. So, you are right, Deanne, in being curious about alignment with this Awareness! Asking in moments of agitation, “What is this?” may assist in neutralizing the worry–as you begin to notice that it is the thoughts that are provoking worry, and without alignment with the thoughts, you just find yourself absorbed in the moment–not in your worry. This is a process which requires noticing how a thought influences experience oftentimes more than the actual experience!

    Language obscures–practice elucidates. Faye–good for you! OK so you’re too impatient–now notice–spend lots of time accepting your impatience–not judging–simply being in it and let that be your invitation to rest–right in the middle of impatience!

    Love you all–thanks for your comments.

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