4-Step Instant Meditation Technique
Years ago – when teaching a large number of children meditation during a one-week residential program – I developed a stripped-down way of explaining it. To my surprise, it has stood the test of time and I find it often far more effective a way of teaching basic sitting practice than any other. I’m not saying it’s better practice, but it’s a great way to get people started on the right track – at least from the perspective I gained from my particular training decades ago.
The technique has four elements which have to be explained one at a time, but they are done simultaneously, and once you have learned them, you can put them together in a matter of seconds and off you go. I’ll go through them with a little explanation, but then present them in their final form – the words in italics during the initial explanatory section. You can say the words yourself to learn it or in a group situation. The whole thing takes just a few seconds to launch. Up to you for how long to do it, but most find 2-10 minutes enough. For longer meditations, different techniques (mentioned at the bottom) tend to work better.
4-Step Meditation – Explanation
1. “Sit Up.” Take your seat with upright, comfortable posture. Have a sense of lift, lightness, wakefulness. A traditional analogy is ‘like a child watching a movie show.’ The back should be straight but not stiff, neck easily carrying the head without being rigid. Head is aligned so face is looking straight out – not up or down – and the gaze can be straight ahead or slightly down. Hands palm down on knees or in lap. Most people find it best to sit on a dining room chair. The idea is simply to be sitting up and alert.
2. “Sit Down.” Feel your weight going down through your body into the ground, feel stable, balanced, solid. Feel the weight in your sit bones. Feel both ‘up’ and ‘down’ together.
3. “Pay attention.”* Simply pay attention to where you are, the immediate situation. If you are outside, be aware of the surrounding, the view, the sky, the trees, the breezes, traffic sounds, birdsong, whatever. So first you sit – up and down – and now you pay attention.
4. “Relax.” Along with paying attention, you let go. You tighten and loosen at the same time. By doing both simultaneously you remain in a well-tuned middle. This is just like sitting up and down at the same time. So here we pay attention, but without fixating. We can pay focus but at the same time let go, being aware of the larger space. This is effortless effort if you will – again a little like a child watching a movie.
So now you know the drill, all you have to say to actually do it is:
1. Sit Up.
2. Sit Down.
3. Pay Attention.
Question: what happens when my mind wanders and I realise I’ve been daydreaming?
Answer: Just start over. Don’t harangue yourself but don’t make excuses either. Just feel yourself back in the room or situation, then instantly put together the 4 aspects. Sitting down and up is the body, both done at same time. Focusing and letting go is the mind, again both done at same time, also at same time as the body. It is just instantly being present in body and mind.
Caveat: as mentioned above, this technique might be too minimalistic for people wanting to sit for 30-60 minute (or longer) stretches, in which case I recommend a more involved technique which works with an object, like the out breath. In that case, when you notice you have spaced out, just label the whole thing ‘thinking,’ neither condemning nor indulging it, and return to the technique. You could add labelling to this stripped down one if you want (especially if doing it for more than 5-10 minutes), but really it doesn’t matter: just come back and start over with all four simultaneous elements, again and again.
Very simple! Enjoy!
*Traditionally in Buddhist meditations there is something called an ‘object,’ which is something you place your mind on, something you pay attention to. Sometimes this is an object like a stone or stick or natural feature in the landscape, a painted circle, a buddha statue, a stick of incense, or something imagined like a bright sphere, a deity, Buddha or whatever. These are all using the visual field. The more popular object is something that changes continuously and is not visual, rather physical, namely the breathing. In my school we pay attention, or identify with, the out breath, so every time we breath out, we go along with it and also with the sense that it goes out and dissolves into the environment around, be it a small room or a large valley view with expansive sky above (as in our case these days); during the in breath we just stay out, so to speak, or rest, so there is no sense of trying to stay on point every second without any pause, that would be too intense.
Going with the out breath is an example of something to focus on, but this technique is stripped down, so what I have been recommending is simpler, but also perhaps too subtle if you are going to practice for more than a few minutes, namely: just pay attention to where you are, the immediate environment or space. More simply: Be Present!
The first two are body instructions (Sit Up, Sit Down). The second are mind instructions: “Pay Attention” and “Relax.”
(If anyone has any questions, feel free in the comment section…)