How to practice

First Lesson in Sitting Meditation

The pace of our life in the city is fast and hectic. We can easily get exhausted and drift away. Sitting meditation is an opportunity for us to stop, be able to rest both body and mind, and return to our original state of mind, a mind of clarity. It can also help release our tension and anxiety and enable us to have a clearer perspective on life. The first step of sitting meditation is to relax and be comfortable. This handout introduces some basic techniques. We hope you can enjoy the experience that meditation brings you.

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First Lesson in Sitting Meditation

Sitting Posture

  • Adjust your posture and center your body before sitting.
  • Place the round cushion on the big mat. It is recommended to sit on just one third of the round cushion, and relax your body when sitting.
  • You can add more cushions to fit your body posture, usually three at the most.
  • It is preferable to place your knees flat, close to the mat; this can help to give you stability. If you are unable to place your knees close to the mat on the floor, you can wedge a towel underneath your knees, which can help relax the tension of your legs.
  • Sit upright with your back straight. To help you sit upright, you can imagine that there is a vertical string tied from the top of your head, lifting up to the ceiling.
  • Tuck your chin in a little so that your head is slightly lowered.
  • Relax your shoulders and arms, and gently pay attention to any tension in your body and relax those parts.

Hands Posture & Center (tantien)

  • When sitting, pay attention to the center (tantien) and your hands.
  • With all fingers closed and having no gap, place your left hand on top of the right hand and two thumb ends slightly touching each other to form an oval circle. This position of the hand is called a mudra (refer to photo). Place the hands in front of your abdomen, exactly in front of your tantien or diaphragm, which is about 4 fingers below your belly button, at the central axis of your body. Relax your arms with the posture, with a little space between your body and arms, as if an egg could fit between your arms and your body and doesn’t fall down.
  • This mudra helps to remind us of our condition. If your thumbs are facing up, it means you are too tense, and need to take a deep breath to relax yourself. When the thumbs are not touching, it means it is too loose and you might be feeling sleepy. When you are too loose, you are not able to form this mudra and the thumbs can separate or fall down.
  • As you sit with the mudra in place, gently bring your attention to the tantien.

Hands Posture & Center (tantien)


  • Breathing is very important in meditation. If we breathe correctly, it can help clear our mind and we can sit still naturally.
  • When you sit down, take deep full breaths several times through your nose with mouth closed. If breathing through the nose is difficult, then naturally breathe through your mouth.
  • Keep the tongue touching the top palette (between your upper teeth and gums).
  • Relax your body and breathe in a natural, light and soft way. Pay attention not to rush, force to control your breathing or hold your breath at any time.
  • Breathe in & out through your nose and extend your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation. If you cannot do it, just breathe naturally according to your own pace and then try again when you feel comfortable.
  • As you breathe, inhale by extending your belly a little, and exhale as you pull your belly in. This way, you are breathing with your center.
  • As you inhale, repeat quietly inside, "clear mind, clear mind, clear mind," and at your exhalation repeat, "don't know". As you sit and breathe, you can observe the appearance of your thinking. Just return to this practice with your breath, repeating the above.


  • When sitting, we need to take care of our eyesight. Although closing the eyes can be very comfortable, it induces drowsiness and creates dreaming and more thinking. Keeping one’s eyes open is necessary to stay awake.
  • Keeping eyes half-opened in a relaxed manner, gaze at about a 45 degree angle down to the floor, without focusing on anything particular.
  • Do not concentrate your vision on one point. Instead, just see the floor in front clearly.


  • Zen Meditation is practice of the mind, not the body.
  • You can try and sit for 3 to 5 minutes, then gradually try 10 minutes, then up to 30 minutes. At group sittings, when the head dharma teacher hits the chukpi (bamboo clapper) three times, it signals the beginning or the end of a sitting session. The head dharma teacher will also come and check your sitting posture during the sitting session.

Zen Hitting Stick

  • During group practice, mid-way in each sitting session, the head dharma teacher will come around with a Zen hitting stick which is used to help you release your muscle tension as well as to adjust or correct your sitting posture.
  • The steps for you to request for a Zen hitting stick:
    1. When the head dharma teacher approaches a few feet near you, place hands in hapjang.
    2. Wait until the head dharma teacher stands in front of you and then bow to each other.
    3. Indicate with correct posture whether you would like to be hit with the stick on the shoulders or on your upper back
    4. After receiving the hit, both hapjang and bow to each other again.

Leg Pain and Standing Meditation

We recommend you keep still and avoid moving or changing your posture during sitting so as to minimize any disturbances for the group. When you have leg pain, the following suggestions will help you relieve your leg tension and adjust your posture:
  • During sitting, you are not allowed to leave your place. If you must leave for an emergency, please do not re-enter the dharma room again until the next sitting session, and sit outside in the hallway. If you need to move, first hapjang and do one bow while still sitting, then release your legs and sit with them in front of you with both knees together for a few seconds.
  • If your legs ache, you can bend and hold your legs. The purpose is to let both legs rest a while and allow for blood circulation. When your legs feel better, you can then stand up behind your cushion in a standing meditation posture, keeping the same practice.
  • During standing meditation, stand with hapjang and wait until the pain fades away or stand as long as necessary. Before you sit down, do one standing bow and then sit down to continue with your practice.


  • During sitting meditation, you may feel sleepy - then what should you do? We encourage you to stand up and continue your meditation in a standing position.
  • Hapjang before you stand up.

Walking Meditation

Between sitting meditation sessions, there is a 10-minute walking meditation period during which you can go to the toilet or drink a glass of water. Walking meditation guidelines are:
  • First fold your towels neatly and put them on top of your cushion.
  • Interlace all fingers of both hands in front ABOVE your abdomen, just below the chest.
  • During walking meditation, breathe naturally, paying attention to your feet touching the floor, looking down or at the back of the person in front of you.
  • Keep one arm’s length distance apart from the person in front of you.
  • You can leave and enter the group at the exit during walking meditation by doing a standing bow, making sure to join the line back in your original position. Remember who is in front and after you in the line.
  • Please be mindful to keep silence during walking meditation, including while going to the toilet or taking a drink of water. Try to maintain your practice mind during walking, standing, going to toilet, etc.


Meditation is a skill to help you attain clear mind. Continuous and persistent effort will bring benefit. There is no need to rush and instead, just return gently to the present moment. Then naturally you can relax, let go of your worries, thoughts or judgments and it can be an enjoyable experience.

Thank you!

Photo of statue Photo of statue