Sitting meditation uses the breath as the focus of attention. Participants are instructed to sit in an upright position with a straight back, preferably with their eyes closed. Once the participant is settled in this upright position, he/she should shift attention to the breath. He/she notices the physical sensations of the breathing, such as the air moving into the nostrils and the chest expanding. As soon as the mind begins to wander, the participant simply notices the distracting thought without evaluation and returns his/her attention to the breath in a kind way.




Practicing sitting meditation serves many goals:

Sitting meditation allows us to experience how associative and strong the noise is that our thoughts cause. Although the simple instruction to keep one’s attention on a specific body part seems simple, it is often more difficult to do than the participant originally thought.

Sitting meditation involves repeatedly learning how to draw one’s attention to a certain point. This is, therefore, a form of mindfulness training. In the sitting meditation, the focus of attention is the breath. The effect of the training of attention in this way can also transfer to other areas, such as focusing (concentrating) attention on a specific task, a conversation with someone, etc.

Sitting meditation helps one learn to detect when attention wanders. Being able to notice when attention wanders is a critical component of successful self-control. Within the self- control literature, this function is indicated by the term “monitoring.”

The sitting meditation can provide insight into the nature and pattern of thoughts in general. The participant may notice recurring themes of thoughts. The participant may realize how some thoughts are played repeatedly, like an old record. In effect, this exercise is teaching the thinking mind how to perceive. The way in which attention is returned to the body, namely without judgment and with acceptance, is an important part of mindfulness.




Before clients start sitting meditation, it can be helpful to instruct the following:

■ Ask clients to do the sitting meditation with a posture that signals dignity and alertness: sit with a straight back and straight head, and make sure that the shoulders are relaxed. Whatever you sit on, try to make sure that your knees are lower than your hips. In this way, your spine will be self-supporting, and your lower back will have a gentle inward curve.

■ See the illustrations below for some options:

■ Practicing on a cushion can sometimes be a challenge, especially when clients are not used to sitting on a cushion. When clients suffer from physical problems or complaints that make sitting on a cushion difficult or impossible, a few options can be considered: A. When using a cushion, ask your client to sit close to a wall so that the wall can offer support for the back. Alternatively (or in addition), clients can use additional cushions or a folded blanket to get the height right for them or reduce the pain that is caused by the position. B. When using a cushion is not an option, consider using a chair. C. When a chair is not an option, consider performing the meditation reclined or lying down.

■ Do not read the instructions during the meditation. Clients often notice when the words are your own or someone else’s. Rather, practice and construct your own phrases. You are encouraged to meditate together with your client. Timing and tone of voice are usually improved when the instructor is meditating as well rather than simply giving instructions.

■ Many clients feel that they need to perform well: staying focused on the breath as long as possible, not getting distracted by thoughts, “clearing the mind,” etc. Make sure clients understand that the goal of meditation is not perfect performance. When goals are introduced, awareness tends to shift to monitoring progress towards the goals. As a result, tension, frustration, and a goal-driven mindset often emerge, especially when the attempts to reach these goals are less successful than expected. Instead, inform clients that the exercise cannot be done in a “right” or “wrong” way. When the mind is distracted, that is ok. It is part and a challenge of the exercise. The moment you realize that you are not present in the exercise, you are, in fact, already present. Simply realizing that you are not present is a success, and the non-presence makes success possible.

■ When unpleasant physical experiences are present, the instructor can make them become part of the exercise. Examples include unwanted or disturbing noises in the environment, pain in the body, and negative emotions. Rather than mentally fighting these disruptions (“This is not good, this should go away”), clients can learn to observe them and become aware of the difference between the experience and the thoughts that are created as a result of the experience. In this way, they can notice that suffering is often, to a great extent, caused by the thoughts we create about experiences. When we learn to observe difficult experiences and develop the ability to be present within them (the pain, the anxiety), our ability to tolerate them and deal with them increases tremendously.

■ Often, integrating more extensive formal mindfulness practices in an already busy daily life requires careful planning and communication. It is advisable to let people find for themselves the time and location that work best for them to perform the exercises. While some people find it more feasible to practice in the morning before going to work, others may benefit more from practicing in the evening after work. Moreover, informing family members about the practice can help minimize interruptions during practice. Repeating a practice regularly using the same time and location is likely to result in a habit, which will have a better effect.




In this meditation, we are going to use our breath as an anchor for our attention. Before we start, it is important to let go of strivings, of goals, the idea of how we should do this to perform well. Simply allow yourself to do this exercise as you do it. Let go of the idea of right and wrong. Simply see how it goes.

Now, first, make sure your posture is active but comfortable. Sit straight, keep your shoulders relaxed, and keep your head straight. Try to have a posture that signals dignity. If you want, you may now close your eyes. For a moment, just become aware of how you are present in this room, how your body is represented in this room, how your body is connected to a chair or cushion. Maybe you notice how your feet are touching the floor or making contact with the floor. Simply notice. Maybe you notice other physical sensations. Maybe you feel pain in your back or tension in your shoulders. That’s okay. Just simply observe it without attempting to make it go away. Just notice your body as it is present right here, right now. Now let’s focus our attention on breathing. Notice how the air gets in through the nose and how your chest expands when you breathe in. Additionally, notice how it relaxes when you breathe out. You may also notice how your belly moves when you breathe. There is no need to control your breath or modify it; simply witness it as it naturally occurs. Breathing in and breathing out.

Allow yourself to be present in this moment. Sooner or later, often sooner, you will find yourself distracted. Maybe you get distracted by thoughts or sounds or sensations in your body. That is fine. That is just how your mind works.

You can always turn your attention back to your breath and let go of distractions. Just breathe in and breathe out.

Rather than focusing rigidly, let your attention softly rest on the breathing. Do not force yourself. With an open and gentle attitude, follow your breathing.

Every time you find yourself distracted, come back with a gentle attitude. Do not punish yourself. It is okay. It is just how your minds work. Always turn your attention back in a kind way. Breathe in, notice how the body reacts, and breathe out.

Where is your attention now? Is it still focused on breathing? Or is it elsewhere? If you’re distracted, maybe you can notice what has distracted you: a thought, sensation, an emotion, a sound, and then bring it back.

Even if you find yourself being distracted many times, remind yourself that you are always the one who can turn your attention back. You have the power to do that. You can decide to come back to this present moment at any time simply by focusing on something that’s occurring right now at this moment. In this case, your breath.

Now, if you want, you may slowly open your eyes again. Return to this room with your attention.