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Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
A First Meditation

Abstract: The Zen Center of Los Angeles outlines an effective beginning meditation.


1.  Decide how long you are going to sit (5 to 40 minutes), and how you are going to time yourself.  Do what is necessary to allow yourself to sit without interruption for that period of time.

2.  Select a straight-backed chair with a flat seat.  Sit on the forward third of the chair so that your feet are firmly planted on the ground.  To be comfortable, you may sit on a pillow on the chair seat.  If you have back trouble, you may want to put a pillow between your back and the back of the chair.

3.  Place your feet flat on the floor as far apart as the width of your shoulders.  Experiment, moving your feet slightly forward or backward, to find the most comfortable and stable position.

4.  Straighten and extend your spine and align your head (stretching up and then relaxing).  Let your center of balance be in your lower abdomen.  The shoulders and abdomen are relaxed.  Be careful not to slouch!  Your spine is upright and straight and your shoulders are back, chest open.

5.  Keep your head upright, with your nose centered over your navel.  Tuck your chin in slightly.

6.   Lower your eyes so that the lids are about two-thirds closed.  Gaze toward the floor, about 3 to 4 feet ahead.  Let your eyes rest without focusing.

7.  Keep your lips and teeth closed.  Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth.  Swallow any saliva in your mouth and evacuate the air to create a slight vacuum.

8.  Place your right hand, palm up and fingers together, on your lap against your abdomen.  Allow the left hand to rest on the right, with only the fingers overlapping.  Bring the tips of the thumbs together, touching lightly, so that an oval is formed.

9.  Center your spine by swaying from side to side in decreasing arcs.

10.  Take a deep breath, exhale fully.  Then take another.  Let the breath settle into a natural rhythm.

11.  There are many techniques to settle the mind.  For example:  Silently count each exhalation and inhalation from one to ten (exhale-one;  inhale-two;  exhale-three ... to ten).  Then begin again with one.  When thought feeling or sensations arise, note that, and go back to one.  If you lose count, go back to one.  If you count past ten, go back to one.  You might also wish to try simply following the breath without counting.

12.  Keep as still as possible, continuing your practice for the time you originally selected.

Let us know how your sitting is going!

The Zen Center of Los Angeles has kindly provided permission to use this meditation for these notes.


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03.10.04         2004 GFDL

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