How to Meditate

The practice of meditation exists in a variety of religious and spiritual traditions. Within Buddhism itself, there are many different forms of meditation. Insight meditation (or vipassana), from the Theravada Buddhist tradition of South and Southeast Asia, is one of these.

Bring awareness to breathing.
Insight practice typically begins with mindfulness of breathing. First, rest your body in a comfortable, yet stable sitting position. Then, simply bring your attention to the sensations of breathing, wherever they are felt most strongly in the body. For example, air passing through the lips or nostrils, or the rise and fall of the abdomen.

Notice that the mind has probably wandered.
Inevitably, after paying attention to the breath for a few moments, the mind begins to wander to thoughts (of past, future, or imagined scenarios), to feelings (of frustration, self-judgment, boredom, etc.), or to physical sensations (of pain, discomfort, itchiness, etc.).

Gently return your attention to breathing.
At this point, upon noticing that the mind has wandered – whether it’s wandered for a moment, a minute, or longer – simply notice where the mind has wandered to, and gently but firmly bring your attention back to simply noticing the touch sensations of the breath.

This is the basic technique: bringing awareness to breathing, noticing that the mind has wandered, and gently, without criticizing or judging, returning your attention to the breath. Walking meditation and lovingkindness meditation are two other fundamental practices in this tradition.

Through dedicated practice and study, you may gain insight into the nature of the mind, experience greater self-awareness, recognize unconscious behavior patterns, make more mindful choices, and experience more peace, wisdom and compassion in life.