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.
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 how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.