Meditation Instructions

Collin York '19 and Lee Rosen, Ph.D.

Concentration Meditation Instructions

The immediate goal of concentration meditation is to focus your complete attention on the breath. This practice can bring about a sense of calm and develop your capacity to attend to the present moment.

  • Before you begin, choose a length of time for your session. Beginning a meditation practice is much like beginning an exercise training program. You want to avoid starting out too ambitiously and risk getting discouraged or overwhelmed. Shorter and more frequent sessions are preferable to longer ones. Choose a time that feels manageable; as few as three minutes is acceptable.
  • Use a device to keep track of time. There are several good smartphone apps that can help keep track of time. “Insight Timer” is a good one.
  • What to do with your body. Many teachers recommend sitting on a small pillow, with legs crossed, to maintain a stable and erect posture. We recommend that you find a position that you can hold comfortably for several minutes: sitting on a chair or even lying down are acceptable. Experiment with different postures to find the one that works for you.
  • Close your eyes, and try to keep your body still. Your mind is analogous to a cup of muddy water; the longer you keep the cup still, the more the mud settles and the clearer the water will appear. If you keep quiet without moving your body, sometimes your mind will follow.
  • Breathe normally, and focus on the breath. Try to focus your attention on wherever you can feel the sensation of it most distinctly. For many people, this is at the rims of the nostrils.
  • In order to help you concentrate on the breath, count your breaths. Take a breath in, and when the lungs are full, mentally count “one,” and then breathe out completely. Then mentally count “two.” Take another breathe in and count “three,” and breathe out completely again. When you have finished breathing out, mentally count “four.” Count your breaths in this manner up to ten. Then count backwards from ten to one.
  • In spite of your effort to keep your mind on your breathing, the mind will wander. When you notice your focus has drifted, notice and accept that your mind has wandered, perhaps noting where it was drawn, and thengently direct your attention back to the breath and begin counting again.
  • Continue counting your breaths until time is up.

Mindfulness Meditation Instructions 

Mindfulness meditation has much in common with concentration meditation, but it differs in important ways. While the main goal of concentration meditation is to focus your bare attention on your breath, the main goal of insight meditation is to develop non-judgmental and curious awareness through close observation of your moment-to-moment experience. . 

  • Follow the same steps as above through “Breathe normally, and focus on the breathe.”
  • Instead of counting your breaths, continue merely focusing your attention on the sensation of your breathing.
  • You will find that your mind will wander.If you pay careful attention to the present moment, you will notice that thoughts tend to emerge spontaneously. You may have  thought about the future, the past, or the present. Your thoughts may seem to arise in the form of ideas, sounds or images. Likewise, your attention may be drawn to a bodily sensation, or emotional states. .
  • When a thought arises, try to observe it with curiosity and acceptance. Note its presence and its nature. If you focus your attention on it, you may find that it soon fades away. Then gently bring your attention back to the breath.
  • Sometimes thoughts will grab your attention and pull you in. This is okay! If you notice this has happened, simply note this with acceptance, and bring your attention back to the breath.
  • If you’re not sure what to do, or if you become confused or disoriented, you can always bring your attention back to the breath. In this respect, your breath acts as your “anchor.”
  • Continue with this practice until time is up.


Further Information on Beginning a Meditation Practice: