Structure of a Sitting in Natural Meditation
A Course in Meditation
by Theodore K. Phelps ©
-from Chapter 1 in Student Reading, "The 10-Step Agenda of a Sitting" pp. 109-112
ADVISORY: Eliciting the
meditative function in a reliable way suitable for daily practice
is an art. Like every art, it requires attention, practice, care, and
expert advice. It takes careful learning to be able to do what is
simply expressed here, especially in the heart of meditation in Steps
5, 6, and 7.
The 10-Step Agenda
of a Sitting
A sitting of Natural Meditation has a continuous
flow, yet also has structure. Like a flowing river, it has a
beginning, middle and end. The meditative function (see Day 3, Chapter
6, Chapter 8) needs a set of distinct intentions and actions to get it
started, a different set to maintain it, and yet another set to bring
it to a graceful close. This flowing structure can be conveniently
described in 10 steps spread over three phases. We call the structure
the 10-step agenda of a sitting.
1. Sit comfortably with your head free from
The best way to support the meditative function is
by sitting comfortably. Place your body safely on a chair or couch in
a comfortable position so that you can, in effect, leave it alone.
Your back should be fully supported, but your head should be free and
not resting back on anything. You can fold your legs if you are
sitting on the couch. If the fully folded leg (lotus) position is
comfortable for you and you have already been meditating that way for
a while, you can come back to it in your Natural Meditation sittings
after you have given the meditative function a good chance to blossom.
You may remove your eyeglasses if that feels better.
2. Decide when you will stop meditation and make a timepiece visible.
As you settle into position, determine what the
clock face will read when it is time to stop. Arrange your clock so
that you can peek at it without having to move much. If you need to
put eyeglasses on to see it, keep them near at hand so the movement is
3. Close your eyes.
When you are all set with the seating and
timepiece, close your eyes. If you feel any strain in doing this, then
lower your eyes and close them when you are ready. Closing the eyes
helps the inward movement of attention and the gentle release of
4. Wait half a minute.
Begin the release of personal striving by letting
your thoughts flow as they will without judgment or control. When you
think half a minute has passed, move to the next step. If you go over
half a minute, donít consider it wasted time and donít adjust the
5. Recall a thought or word without doing anything to it.
The verb we use in the instruction is recall,
but you can substitute hear if you like. You actually begin
Step 5 in the moment you end Step 4. Why? Because, recalling the
mantra can be as simple and transparent as just remembering that the
mantra exists, or that you are meditating. So, at the end of Step 4,
just by thinking that half a minute is up, you have already recalled
that the mantra exists, and that is a good, transparent way of having
the mantra in the mind without doing anything to it.
6. Recall the mantra again and then whenever awareness allows.
We might have said, "Repeat the mantra over and
over until time is up." But that would encourage a mechanical
procedure or concentration. Instead, we want to encourage natureís
process, with its gentle opening of the windows of the mind. If we
take a light approach to this, there will be times that awareness will
shift and not quite allow us to recall the mantra. We must allow that
to happen and not forcibly hold on to the mantra. If we feel the urge
to sleep, we do not fight that. After a period of sleep, awareness
will return on its own allowing you to recall the mantra.
7. Donít try to become different, to mentally go anywhere, or to stay still.
This "step" actually is a suggestion about style.
It goes with Step 6 throughout the body of the meditation. The style
is to let nature do the work and not to try to make it seem like
8. Observe the clock when it seems to be
time to end.
Eventually, you will have the thought that time is
up. Just check your clock, and if time remains, close your eyes and
continue. Donít use a timer that sounds an alarm. It can be quite
9. When it is time to end, keep your eyes closed for three minutes.
You are still out on the lake of meditation. Your
metabolism is lowered and your consciousness is delicate and open. So, donít just stand right up. Sit with eyes closed, moving and
stretching for about three minutes. If youíre called out of meditation
suddenly for an emergency, be smart about it. Get going right away,
but go slowly enough to be sure you are safe.
10. Move a bit and then get up gently.
As you get up, expect yourself to be slower and softer for a few
minutes. Then you will most often move and think with renewed energy
and alacrity. Some days you might enjoy staying in your chair a while
longer enjoying the light, praying, thinking about a problem, reading,
or saying an affirmation.