7 Reasons Why Sitting Meditation Isn’t For You

Share Button

sitting-meditation-womanSitting meditation isn’t for you.

There.  I said it.

Now, before you start losing your inner peace by getting angry with me, let me be absolutely clear: I don’t hate sitting meditation. 

Actually, it’s because I have so much respect for this art that I can’t keep my big mouth shut any longer.

These days, sitting meditation is very popular.  It’s not uncommon to see health-related websites casually recommend that you should practice sitting meditation for 30-60 minutes a day.

And this is madness. Here’s why.

1. You Don’t Have A Teacher

You need a teacher — one that is alive, one that you see regularly, and one who knows your name.

There is no substitute. Books and videos can teach you ABOUT sitting meditation, but they cannot teach you the art of meditation.

I’m constantly amazed at how little respect some people have for the art of meditation in general.  Of course, they say they respect it, but their actions speak differently.  Many people treat it like some sort of beauty tip that they learned out of a magazine.

Learning face-to-face is important for all energy arts, including qigong, tai chi, and yoga — but it’s especially important with sitting meditation.  The heart-to-heart transmission, the teacher’s guidance, the hands-on correction — these things are absolutely crucial in sitting meditation.

If you are serious about learning the art of sitting meditation, then go find a teacher.

2. You’re Too Weak

When the Great Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Zen, arrived at the Shaolin Monastery in 527 AD, he found that the monks were too weak — mentally, physically, and emotionally — for the intensity of sitting meditation.

So he taught them exercises like Lifting the Sky and the 18 Luohan Hands to get them stronger.   It worked like a charm.  Those monks became some of the best  meditators in history.

Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening.   Treat it with care.” –  Buddha

If you’re sick, if you’re in pain, if you are weak — then you probably aren’t ready for sitting meditation. 

People are often surprised by this because sitting meditation looks so easy.  This shows a shallow understanding of sitting meditation.

If you don’t associate the word “intensity” with “sitting meditation”, then you don’t really know what sitting meditation is.

I follow Bodhidharma’s approach.  To cultivate a healthy mind, you must also cultivate a healthy body (and vice versa).  Spiritual cultivation is a noble goal, and one that I myself am committed to.  But I don’t just cultivate the spirit and neglect my body.  That wasn’t what Bodhidharma taught.  If you want to cultivate the spirit, then you must also cultivate the body.

3. It’s Too Advanced

Tell me if this sounds familiar.  You sit down to meditate, close your eyes, and soon you are able to enjoy the bliss of a clear and tranquil mind.

For 1.7 seconds.

Then the internal dialogue starts.  It probably goes something like this:

“Ahh.  Tranquility…I should meditate more often…so many things I should do…wait, did I forget to pay that bill?  I wonder if they’ll charge me a late fee…ugh, I hate that…How much do I spend on late fees every year?…How many starving children could I feed with that money?…I’m hungry…”

Before you know it, 10 minutes have gone by.  Maybe you clear your mind and once again enjoy 1.7 seconds of tranquility, but then maybe you become aware of an itch on your nose.  Then the itch becomes the center of your universe.

You wonder if it’s more Zen to scratch the itch, or suffer through it.  You take note to Google that later.

This goes on for 20 minutes, and people call it meditation.  It’s not.

Sitting meditation is an advanced technique.  Jumping straight to sitting meditation is like jumping straight to a triathlon.  If you haven’t exercised in years (or ever), then maybe you shouldn’t start with the most difficult endurance exercise on the planet?  And if you have no experience with meditation, then maybe you shouldn’t start with the most difficult and advanced form on the planet?

4. It’s Too Still

When you hear the word “meditation,” do you automatically think about a person sitting cross-legged on the floor?

Did you know that sitting meditation is just one of many forms of meditation?  And did you know that moving meditation, like Lifting The Sky, is much, much better for beginners?

When you meditate in motion, the physical movement helps to anchor you against the tumultuous waves of thought.  In the Chinese tradition, they call this “using one thought to dispel a thousand thoughts”.  In the case of an exercise like Lifting the Sky, the “one thought” is the exercise itself, which incorporates both flowing movements and gentle breathing.

Instead of wrestling with thoughts, the mind clears itself effortlessly.  Thoughts still creep in, but it’s easy to let them go as you continue enjoying Lifting the Sky.

If you compare the two methods — Lifting the Sky vs. Sitting Meditation — one of them is the clear winner for beginners.  With Lifting the Sky, students are able to spend the majority of the session meditating.  Meanwhile, with sitting meditation, students spend most of the session thinking.   In other words, one student is meditating for most of the time, with minor interruptions of thinking, while the other student is thinking most of the time, with minor interruptions of meditation. Big difference.

Add the tremendous health benefits of practicing Lifting the Sky to the equation, and the answer is clear.  Lifting the Sky is a better choice.

5. It’s Hurting You

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have hurt themselves with sitting meditation.  If you think I’m joking, if you think that something like sitting meditation couldn’t possibly cause harm — then why are you practicing it in the first place?

If it’s not powerful, then why bother?

It’s a powerful technique — the most powerful technique I know.

To put this in perspective, the most basic techniques that I teach are capable of reversing pain and illness that even the world’s best hospitals sometimes can’t reverse.  If the basic techniques are this powerful, then what are the advanced ones like?

Powerful techniques must be done correctly.  And you must be well prepared before trying them.  Most people haven’t done enough prep work to practice sitting meditation

If you still have pain, if you have any type of illness, if you take any kind of medication —  then you are still dealing with energy blockages.  To prepare for sitting meditation, you need to clear those blockages.  Qigong and Tai Chi are excellent ways to do this.  Acupuncture is another excellent choice.

If you skip the preparatory phase and go straight to advanced techniques like  sitting meditation, then you’re likely to hurt yourself. Your back pain will gradually get worse and worse, or you’ll find that you are getting more and more angry.  These are warning signs that you need to practicing the preparatory exercises instead of sitting meditation.

Meditators can be incredibly stubborn.  They insist that sitting meditation is good for them in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Some even argue that pain is a natural part of meditation.  To me, this is madness.

Over the years, I’ve managed to convince many meditators to take a break from sitting meditation and focus on moving meditation.  In every single case, the student was amazed at how quickly their problems disappeared.  And once their problems disappeared, they were able to practice sitting meditation on a much deeper level.

6. You’re In Pain

Did you know that you should be 90% pain free before attempting sitting meditation?  If you are not 90% pain free, then you will likely aggravate your pain with sitting meditation rather than relieve it. Meanwhile, Qigong is an effective way to get yourself out of pain.

What about using sitting meditation to heal the pain?

That’s like using a knife to hunt deer.  In theory, it can work, but it requires a ton of skill.  And of course, if you are skillful enough to kill a deer with a knife, then you can do it much more efficiently with a crossbow or a gun.

Sitting meditation is not designed to heal pain. Qigong is.  Use the right tool for the job.  Then, once you’re pain free, you can use sitting meditation for its intended purpose of spiritual cultivation.

7. You’re Not Getting Results

After meditating daily for years, many people are no happier or healthier than before.  In fact, many of them are worse! For some reason, they continue to meditate despite the fact that they aren’t getting any results.

Sitting meditation is powerful, so it should bring powerful results, right?  The results should be obvious not just to you, but everyone around you.

Look at the results that Qigong students get.  Is that what you’ve experienced?  Is that what your classmates are doing?  Would you like to experience results like that?

Be honest with yourself. Are you tracking your progress?  Are you getting results?   If not, then change something.  The sooner you change, the sooner you can start getting the results that you deserve.


Unless you have a teacher, my best advice is for you to stop practicing sitting meditation. By “have a teacher”, I mean that you have a living, breathing teacher who you see in the flesh at least once  a year (and preferably more often).

If your so-called “teacher” doesn’t know your name, if you can’t get hands-on instruction from him or her, then you don’t have a teacher.  Sorry.

If you don’t have a teacher, then I recommend that you replace sitting meditation with the best Qigong exercise in the world: Lifting the Sky.  You can learn it here for free.  Try this for 30 days, and see what happens.  I think that, even after only 30 days, you’ll see a big difference.

You can also experiment with standing zen.  Use my free audio lesson as a guide.  Do that every day for 30 days, and I’m confident that you’ll get better results than you were getting with sitting meditation.

But if you really want to get results, then you must find a good teacher.  Is there a book by a meditation master that really resonates with you?  Then what are you waiting for?  Go get instruction from that person!  That’s what I did.  After reading my teacher’s books, I flew halfway around the world to go learn from him.   You can do it too!

Drop me a comment below if you have questions. Or if you haven’t already gotten your free stuff, then make sure to grab them here. 

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

Share Button

, , , , , ,

23 Responses to 7 Reasons Why Sitting Meditation Isn’t For You

  1. Fred Chu November 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Before I came to Shaolin Wahnam, I was very interested in learning sitting meditation, and even books written by monks (!) nowadays state that you can learn sitting meditation from their books. Leaving aside the mind aspect of meditation, some of these books recommended downright frightening methods of increasing hip flexibility to assume the lotus position. Yikes…

  2. Barbara Gamble November 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Any chance of a meditation class in our future?

    • Sifu Anthony November 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

      Barbara, I currently offer 13 meditation classes per week. Or did you mean sitting meditation? 😉

      Yes, we will do some sitting meditation in the new year.

      • Melissa November 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

        Ah ha, that’s the question I was going to ask. 🙂

      • BJ Streetman November 9, 2012 at 8:53 am #

        Sifu, I don’t want to learn sitting meditation. I sit 8 hours a day at my desk and long for moving meditation at the end of the day. If I’m in class the day you teach it, can I do something else?

        • Sifu Anthony November 9, 2012 at 9:01 am #

          I hear you, BJ! And yes, don’t worry. I won’t make you sit. 🙂

  3. Tommy August 24, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    I totally agree. Sitting meditation is one of the hardest things to do. Poor posture, constant interrupting thoughts, lack of focus can actually make one feel irritated and painful.

  4. funboy November 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    Just curious what meditation is to you Anthony? If your sitting and watching/learning about the waves of your mind, even if thoughts are coming and going how isnt that meditation?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais November 4, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Hi “funboy”. Meditation, to me, is any practice that purifies or clears the mind. I’m not sure if I understand the rest of your comment, but I think you’re referring to styles of meditation like MBSR that focus on observing thoughts or even discomfort in the body. In that case, if the practitioner is successfully making the mind clearer, then they are successfully meditating. But if they are not successfully clearing the mind, then they might benefit from a different form of meditation, especially moving meditation.

      Did I answer your question? Also, I prefer having conversations with real people, so a real name would be great!

  5. Joe Whittaker November 20, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    I agree that if you have muscular imbalances, poor posture etc. then sitting in one place for a long time may generally not be the best thing for your problems.

    However, the student teacher dynamic is a very zen based tradition not all meditation traditions require this. Everyone I have met that practices regular sitting meditation reports benefits from it. There is also a huge volume of scientific literature showing the benefits of sitting meditation in novices and masters.

    I don’t know how you could claim that sitting meditation is detrimental to people. Everyone would benefit from 10 minutes of meditation a day.

    You may be right in saying that sitting is not the best form to start with, but any form of meditation has great benefits.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais November 20, 2013 at 10:56 am #

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for the input. In your comment, you said:

      “I don’t know how you could claim that sitting meditation is detrimental to people. Everyone would benefit from 10 minutes of meditation a day.”

      My claim is based on my experience teaching thousands of students, and interacting with thousands more. It’s true that lots of people benefit from sitting meditation, but it’s absolutely not true that everyone will benefit from it. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of cases where sitting meditation was actually harmful. Here’s an excerpt from an email I received this week. I receive emails like this all the time.

      “I’ve tried sitting meditation before but, it was really uncomfortable. Honestly, it made my anxiety worse. But when I learned Lifting The Sky from you, it was totally different. Maybe because of the movement or the breathing, I don’t know, but it was very meditative and afterward I felt better than ever!”

      If sitting meditation works for you and your friends, great! But that’s not a very big data set to draw your conclusions from. It’s not wise to make sweeping conclusions based on such limited experience.

      Zenfully yours,
      Sifu Anthony

  6. Mariusz December 27, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I see a great value in your teachings, but I see them as relaxation techniques. I believe that they are very powerful to healing physically and emotionally many people as you say. But I think you shouldn’t confuse people by calling it Zen, this is very different from what most Zen masters teach. Some Zen masters say that if you practice to feel better then you should better try some drugs because this isn’t the purpose of practicing Zen, feeling better it’s more like a side effect.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais December 27, 2013 at 11:22 am #

      Hi Mariusz. Thanks for the kind words.

      Regarding the word “Zen”, it means “meditation”. It can also refer to a particular school of Buddhism. I use the term “Flowing Zen” because it accurately describes what we do, which is a form of flowing meditation.

      You might also be interested to know that our lineage traces back to the founder of Zen, Bodhidharma. You can read more about this here:


  7. The stick February 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    No one can tech you who you are, masters are not zen.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais February 18, 2014 at 11:15 am #

      Hi “the stick”. I assume that you meant “teach”. And I agree. Ultimately, we are all responsible for realizing the true nature of existence.

      But having a good teacher certainly helps.

  8. James Smith December 1, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    My son has been practicing Zen meditation for the past 6 months including staying in a Japanese monastery for 2 months.After returning home his mental health quickly deteriorated. He now has been diagnosed with psychosis by different mental health professionals. He sometimes does not believe that he has mental health issues, other times he does. His behaviour is unusual. Sometimes he is hyped up, other times the opposite. He constantly loses things and his short term memory is shot. He also now practices strange behaviour, in public spaces and lacks motivation and direction.

    He stubbornly believes that the sitting meditation is beneficial to his mental health. I believe that it is compounding problems that may have been there before he started the meditation. His mental health has declined markedly since he started sitting meditation. I believe that the intensity of the meditation has sent him over the edge. Any discussion with him that perhaps the Zen meditation is causing more problems for him than solving. is seen as a personal sleight. I believe that his daily practice of meditation for 2 hours continues to add fuel to the fire.

    How does one convince someone with psychosis, compounded by practicing sitting meditation, that what they are doing is doing more harm than good to their personal health? What is it about zen meditation that can compound these mental health problems? What advice would you give him, particularly in relation to continuing to practice sitting meditation, whilst his mental problems also continue?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais December 1, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Hi James. I’m really sorry to hear about your son. I may be wrong, but it sounds like your son probably had a pre-existing mental health issue that is being exacerbated by Zen-style sitting meditation.

      I wish that I could say that this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing, but it’s not.

      Zen-style sitting meditation is both intense, and also advanced. That’s because it was designed to catapult the practitioner to enlightenment in 1 lifetime, as opposed to other methods that take a more leisurely approach.

      It is not the fault of Zen sitting meditation that is causing his problem. Rather, the problem is that your son is choosing a technique that is too advanced for him. The irony is that another style of Zen meditation — i.e. Qigong — would likely clear the issue rather than exacerbate it.

      I’m speaking as someone who has suffered from his own mental health issues. In fact, I started doing sitting Zen meditation before learning Qigong. It had the same effect on me as it did on your son.

      You might show your son this post. You may also tell him that he is free to contact me.

      • James Smith December 1, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

        thanks for the advice. much appreciated.

  9. Abhishek Gupta June 1, 2015 at 3:51 am #

    Sir, I agree with you, i started meditation 10 days ago. Within one week i felt very well but after that now i am feeling physically, emotionally and mentally week. I am feeling that i am emotionless and does not understand anything. i am feeling like dumb. so, i have stopped doing meditation, and i will follow your advice that meditation cannot be merely learned by seeing videos. Two years ago i was suffering from depression, but with efforts i made my self emotionally strong. But when i started doing yoga i felt the same problems. I think these divine things are interrelated and we should not do yoga and meditation without any teacher.
    I want to know from you then these spiritual leaders tell us to do meditation and yoga, why they do not tell us about these important things.

  10. Robin December 8, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

    I like the article, especially what it says about your teacher knowing your name. However, animated advertising (“click here for details”) is something I really dislike – makes me want to leave your website behind. Something about respect and choice since we’re wired to pay attention to things that move.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais December 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

      Hi Robin. Thanks. I’m not sure what you mean by “animated advertising”. Do you mean the hello bar at the top advertising my next 101 workshop at my studio?

  11. Vera May 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    Nice, Sifu! Thank you so much!!
    For years I’ve tried sitting, but even 5 minutes as too long..I was getting restless by even thinking of it… And of course all pains in body were screaming out….But even Taichi was not helpful when I had a restless mind and the environment was not calm ( there was an all out strike in the city)…
    Qi Gong taught me how to sit clearing each part of the body with deep breaths.. Now I follow my instinct : Qi gong before sitting , or even no sitting. But I find when I am truly relaxed I can sit for about 40 minutes in which I go from blank mind, to deep breathing, to some stretching, and back to blank mind… This way I melt the pain, and calm the mind considerably 🙂
    So, great thanks!

Leave a Comment or Question

© 2016 Flowing Zen and Anthony Korahais. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use