Conversation 4: Mindfulness & Being Present

Exercise 5: Just Sitting

Exercise 5: Just Sitting – a recording of Julian McNally (3:42 min) 

(Exercise 5: Just Sitting by RMIT Counselling and Psychological Services, Six ACT* Conversations, RMIT University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The 5th exercise is sitting or, as we usually call it, “just sitting”. Again, you can download printable instructions at this link.

The reason we call it just sitting is to make it clear that when you do this exercise, sitting is all you do. Not sitting in thinking, not sitting in meditating, not sitting and making your mind go blank? No, just sitting.

Exercise 5: Just Sitting

So, as with the walking exercise, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.

If you don’t have access to such a place, do the best you can with what you have – ask your family or house mates to respect your time, or practise at a time when they’re asleep or not around.

You can sit on the floor if you wish, or in a chair if that is more comfortable.

The important things to remember if you’re using a chair are that you keep your spine upright, legs uncrossed, feet flat on the floor, thighs parallel to the floor. Don’t rest your back against the back of the chair, nor your arms on the armrests.

If you’re sitting on the floor, it’s fine to cross your legs, and in fact, if you’re flexible enough, you may prefer a Lotus or half Lotus position, but again, most importantly, keep your spine upright.

Throughout the sitting period, keep as still as possible. This is probably difficult if you haven’t done anything like this before.

Many people notice immediately after they start sitting, especially the first few times, that they develop an itch or an urge to go to the toilet, or a sudden concern about having left the stove on or the car unlocked.

Acknowledge these urges when they arise and continue sitting – unless you are the kind of person who leaves the stove on. If so, check it and restart your sitting – but make a note that in future you’ll check this before your practise.

As you sit, your posture may gradually slouch. If you notice this happening, gently realign your spine until it is upright once more.

As much as possible, relax any muscles that aren’t involved in keeping your posture upright and your body still.

And that’s all there is to it.

Now, just sit.

Aim to practise just sitting every day. Start with a small commitment, even as small as 5 minutes a day is a worthwhile start.

As we’ve stressed so often before, small efforts consistently made will reward you.

If you miss a day, don’t punish yourself, but forgive yourself your slip and recommit to practise again tomorrow.

If the only time you get a chance to practise is on a noisy bus or train ride on the way home, that is still better than skipping practise completely.

After all, you’re going to be sitting there, so why not just sit there?


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