How to Work a Meditation

How to Work a Meditation

Some suggestions:

If you are a part of our Guelph community, just continue coming to the Sunday or Wednesday sessions just as you have been.

Maybe bring a small notebook to write down the meditations and maybe take a few notes.

When you work with a meditation for the first time, recite the “saying” until you get a feel for it. See if the languaging works for you. If not, change it so that it does. For instance, one of the loving-kindness phrases is “May I be happy”. Someone might find the word happy to be shallow or too ephemeral, and so change it to “May I flourish” or whatever is meaningful to them. Make the wording and phrasing your own!

Write it:

on the white board at home, or the mirror in your bathroom with an oil pencil.

on a cue card and stick it on your fridge, bulletin board or leave it on your desk at work. You can gather up these cards, put an elastic around them and “collect the whole set”.

in your journal once or several times. See if any reactions arise and write them down.


on your body with henna or as a tattoo.

or in some other creative way – draw, paint, chant, photograph or write as a poem.

Recite it:

a few times each time you see it, or think about it. Again see what comes up – any thoughts, feelings, sensations, resonances, resistance or insights. Maybe write them down.

several times before you get out of bed in the morning, or just before you go to sleep.

three times before each meal.

several times before or after your daily meditation, if you have one.

Do a Deep Dive:

1. Prepare for the Sit

Clean your room a little. Maybe turn off the lights and light a candle.

Sit on the edge of a chair, a cushion on the floor, the corner of your couch, a meditation bench, or on the ground under a tree. Maybe keep a place in your home, that is preferably quiet and private.

Keep your back straight but relaxed;

your eyes closed;

your head tilted slightly downward;

your hands resting comfortably on top of your thighs

or on top of each other in your lap.

Stay as still and silent as possible, however if you find your self in increasing discomfort adjust your posture as mindfully and intentionally as you can.

Set your motivation. [See footnote.]

Breathe naturally.

2. Calm Your Mind

Now, find your breath. (See footnote.)

Put 90% of your attention on the actual physical sensation of the breath, and 10% on the appropriate light labeling, to stay with it.

Set a clock or a timer for 5, 10 or 15 minutes.

For the duration of the time, gently and steadily keep your attention on the breath. Many times your mind will wander off the breath. When you notice this, whether after only a few seconds or minutes, consistently and non-judgmentally bring your attention back to the breath, again and again. Do this for the set amount of time. This will help your mind settle and become a little more calm and pliable.

3. Recite the Saying:

Say it once, 5, 10, 25 or 100 times – slowly or quickly; loudly or softly or silently in your mind. Change your pace or energy as the meditation progresses or as circumstances require. Take a pause and let the words sink in. The quantity of recitations is only suggested. Do fewer or more as you are inspired.

It would be helpful to get a string of beads or what I call a “mind-training abacus”. These can be bought in a store as a “mala”, “Greek worry beads” or “Muslim prayer beads”. You can also make your own. I’d recommend 100 or 108 beads and that you use strong string or fishing line. These counters help you to set how long a session will be, without using a clock. Count off as many beads as number of recitations as you want to do. Click a bead for each recitation.    

4. See what arises:

 As you recite the phrases, or right after you finish, observe what arises. It could be a thought, a feeling or a sensation in the body. Sit calmly with this. Watch these things come and go. Thoughts will give rise to feelings; feelings to sensations in the body; sensations to feelings; feelings to thoughts and so on. For example, you might be meditating on thoughts about impermanence, and begin to viscerally see, how everyone in your life will come and go. This may lead to feelings of sadness or fear, which leads to sensations in your body and a determination not to be fooled by the illusion of permanence.                                                     

 If a strong emotional reaction occurs, use the breath as an anchor to help you keep your balance. In time, spontaneously or through thin threads of logic, insights about what you are observing will arise. They could be about your immediate experience or of a deeper, more universal nature.

Reflect on it.

Feel it in your heart.

Feel it in your body.

Make it vivid.

Don’t be perfectionist, grandiose, hopeless, sentimental or too metaphysical.

If you start feeling overwhelmed by the meditation, then stop. Take a break whether for a few minutes, hours, days or weeks. Use your intelligence to change direction, possibly shifting to metta or to some fun distraction.

5. Gather insights:

Afterwards, you might journal any images, insights, sensations, intuitions or feelings; talk to a friend about them or bring them to your sangha.

Other Possibilities:

Journal It:

Write it all out. Don’t leave any insights on the table.

Find Someone to Talk To:

Find someone to talk to, or even better a group of people such as a sangha or mastermind group.[Of course bring your observations and insights to class!]

Bring It to Life:

at your work, home, yoga class, out walking in nature, shopping or anywhere really.


Read recommended or self-discovered books on the subject. They could be fiction, philosophy, Buddhism, poetry, physics, Sufism, biography, neuroscience, Taoism, astronomy or whatever helps you dig into the subject matter, especially if it helps you feel it in a visceral way.

You can also watch related movies, plays, documentaries and art.