How to Establish a Daily Sitting Practice
As with all things, start where you are. You have everything you need right now. First, decide to sit each day. Next, plan the time, place and duration for your sitting meditation.
Choose a time
Morning is often best because the mind is calmer than it is later in the day. However, the best time is the time that you can commit to on a regular basis. If one longer sit isn't possible, try two shorter ones.
Choose a space
There is no perfect place. If possible, dedicate a space exclusively to your daily sitting. Choose a relatively quiet space where you can leave your cushion (or chair) so that it is always there to return to. You may want to create an altar with a candle, inspiring photos or statues. These are not necessary, but are beneficial if they help to motivate you.
Choose a duration
As long as is comfortable, plus 5 minutes. This is a general guide, not a rule. Even fifteen or twenty minutes will seem an eternity in the beginning, but that impression will change with time. If you sit each day, you will experience noticeable benefits (e.g., less reactivity, more calm) and be able to increase your sitting time.
Set your intention
It is helpful to recall at the start of each sitting meditation why you are doing it. Remember that your purpose, to become more open and free, will benefit you and those around you.
Set your posture
Alertness is one of the two essential ingredients in every meditation. Sit on a chair, cushion, or kneeling bench as straight and tall as possible. In the beginning, sitting against a wall can help you learn what a straight back feels like. Around this straight-back position, let the rest of your skeleton and muscles hang freely. Let the hands rest comfortably on your knees or lap. Let the eyes close, bringing the attention inward.
Openness is the second essential ingredient in every meditation. Once you feel your spine is erect, let everything else relax, hang loose, and soften. Breathe through the nose, loosen the face, neck, hands, and stomach area. You may want to begin at the scalp and move your attention slowly downward, methodically relaxing and softening each part of the body. Please don't skip the step of relaxing/letting go! Consciously releasing body tension will help you open to whatever arises during your meditation.
Sustaining a Practice
Here are just a few helpful hints for sustaining your sitting practice:
- Sit every day, even if it's for a short period.
- A few times during each day, establish contact with your body and breath.
- Remember that everyone wants to be happy, just like you.
- Practise regularly with a group or a friend.
- Use inspiring resources such as books, or audiotapes of dharma talks.
- Study the Buddhadharma (e.g., the 4 Noble Truths, the Noble 8-Fold Path).
- Sign up for a retreat - one day, a weekend, or longer. The experience will deepen your practice.
- If you miss a day, a week, or a month - simply begin again.
- If you need guidance, ask for help from an experienced meditator or teacher.
You are traveling a path that has led to clarity and peace for many people over thousands of years. May their efforts support and inspire you.