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What I Do When I Meditate

Over the years, people have asked me what I do when I meditate. This is what I do:

1. Find a quiet space. One where no one else is, and one where you can’t hear music or roommates talking or the TV.

2. Get a couple pillows. The goal is to sit on them so your rear end is a few inches above the ground. This helps you maintain a good posture and helps your knees touch the floor when your legs are folded.

3. Sit in one of three positions:

full lotus
yogi woman

half lotus


I use Burmese, which is the easiest of the three.

4. Put your hands in front of you about waist-high like this:

5. Balance your weight over your hips. Imagine a string running up your spine and pulling you toward the ceiling. The point of all the previous steps is to create a self-supporting posture so your body will keep itself upright without you having to expend much energy.

6. Look at a spot a few feet in front of you on the floor. Some people close their eyes all the way. I don’t. If you keep your eyes open, keep them in focus, too. Not staring, but not wildly fuzzy. Just a normal gaze.

7. Breathe in and out at a regular pace through your nose. You can do just this, or you can count your breaths (in “one,” out “two” — till you get to “ten” then start over; if your mind wanders and you lose count, just start at one again).

8. Don’t try to clear your mind or any of that, just let the thoughts come and go. At first, this will seem maddening. Everyone’s brain is active, including mine and including yours. I still have days where my mind is bouncing all around. But I also have days when it isn’t. Notice your thoughts and let them happen, but try not to follow any one thought down the rabbit hole.

9. Try to do this whole thing for 5 minutes the first few days. Then 10. Then, if you can, get yourself up to about 20 minutes a day. First thing when you get up or right before you go to bed. Or both.

10. As of today, I’ve gone 298 days without missing a day. (And, with the occasional missed day, I’ve been doing it for much longer.) This last year has been one of huge upheavals in my life, and I’m convinced meditation has helped me maintain some level of sanity through it all.

11. Meditation is never perfect. If you don’t have a quiet space at home, do it under a tree or on a park bench or anyplace you can grab a little alone time. The library is perfect — you can meditate in a chair and it’s always quiet.

Published in Buddhism


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