“Stage Zero” as a practice

waterfall You can practice Stage Zero as a practice in its own right, spending anywhere from five to twenty minutes on this exercise, or you can go straight into Stage 1 after working through the material below.

Start with adjusting your posture

  • adjust your cushion height so that your back is relatively straight, and also relaxed
  • make sure that your hands are supported
  • relax your shoulders, letting them roll back to open your chest
  • adjust the angle of your head, so that the back of your neck is relaxed, long and
    open, and your chin is slightly tucked in
  • let your eyes close

You’re now ready to begin working on body awareness and relaxation.

Take your awareness through your body, from your feet to your head, becoming aware of every muscle, and relaxing it as much as you can. If your awareness wanders, just come back to your body. Once you’ve scanned through your entire body from your feet to your head, then be aware of your body as a whole, continuing to make sure your posture is open and upright, and that you are continuing to relax.

Then notice the sensations of your breathing — right in the center of your experience. Let your awareness fill your breathing, and let your breathing fill your awareness. Just keep on bringing your awareness back into your breathing, and let the relaxed rhythmic movements of your breathing have a calming effect on your mind.

You can continue doing this for several minutes, or you can go onto Stage 1 of the practice, which involves counting your exhalations.

12 Comments. Leave new

I have a real problem with getting the right posture and I am constantly fidgetting in my meditation which is really distracting. Actually I have particularly bad posture on my shoulders and I have even been seeing a specialist. The thing is that to get my shoulders to roll back and my chest to open (which is also correct posture in physiotherapy) takes a constant and conscious effort which actually causes some discomfort (aching) in my back (since the muscles are working in a way which is healthy but not habitual to them). The alternative of slouching obviously is not a good position for meditation since it means my chest is closes, and it also leads to aching but in a different place (since its a habitual, but not healthy position).

Is there any way I can over come this? I’m doing physio excersises etc but its a slow process since my whole back/shoudlers/hips are all tight and loose in the wrong places.

It seems silly to think I have to wait till my body is in perfect shape to enjoy meditation.

I would really appreciate any advice. This problem is what has kept me doing meditation only in bits and pieces here and there.



Hi Matt,

I’m generally stiff and I tend to put it down to genetics since the rest of my family have very tight muscles as well. My shoulders can be a real problem when doing lots of sitting. What I find very helpful is to have a scarf wrapped around my waist, tied behind my back, and to keep my hands tucked into it. Having the hands supported above the level of the navel is almost essential for us tight-muscled types. This really takes the weight off of the shoulders.

You might need rather a long scarf, and you need to make sure it’s going to be tight enough that it gives real support while not being so tight that it causes discomfort. I’ve included a picture below to illustrate:

A blanket can also work, although in the summer heat it can be impractical to have that much fabric wrapped around you.


Hi Bodhipaksa, I read about this somewhere on your site and I’ve been doing it, but I wasn’t doing it like in this picture. That’s really helpful. I will try it like this today. Thanks :)


I was advised not to start meditaing until any and all mind-altering meds/alcohol are out of my body for 2 weeks. I just stopped a sleep med. Would you agree or have any other advise on that issue? Also, what about coffee in the morning? That habit will die hard for me if at all but I want to meditate in the morning, of course.
Thank you


There’s no inherent harm in meditating while being on sleep medication or while drinking, but your meditation might be less effective and more distracted, and this could be discouraging. But if for some reason you had to go back on the sleep meds I wouldn’t regard that as a reason for not meditating. Likewise, it would be highly counter-productive if you felt you had to stop meditating because you had a glass of wine!

I’d suggest not worrying about the coffee for now, and see how it goes. In my experience the majority of people who meditate drink coffee, and only in the most die-hard addicts have I noticed it causing so much restlessness that their meditations were unusually distracted. Sometimes I’ve had a cup of tea of coffee before meditation in order to dispel extreme tiredness, and it’s actually been helpful!


Is there difference between concentrating on the breath and being aware of the breath or are they one in the same?


It’s the same thing, although be wary of the word “concentration.” It doesn’t mean something effortful, but essentially letting the attention rest on the breath.


On behalf of all of us with shoulder problems, thank you so much for the trouble to post this picture. This is really helpful!


I find that when I focus on my breath, my breathing pattern changes. I’ll start taking longer and deeper breathes. How can I stop that and just focus on my breath as it is?


Hi, Lauri,

It’s quite natural for your breathing to become slower and deeper as you pay attention to it. If your breathing is longer and deeper, then that is your breath “as it is.” Just go with it.

All the best,

Katerina Greece
March 10, 2012 6:55 am

Is this a simple seating positiion or you have to cross your legs
as well? I mean is there a picture to recommend?


Hi, Katerina. Visit our meditation posture section to find out about various ways to sit in meditation.


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