For people new to meditation, the activity can seem daunting. There are many excellent books, articles and religious traditions that describe different practices of meditation. When people read a book about meditation, many people give up before they start, fearing they will never be able to quiet their mind.
Yet the catalogue of meditation's benefits should inspire anyone to consider devoting a little bit of time to it. Meditation has been observed to be helpful in situations ranging from simple stress, to headaches, including migraines, low back pain, hypertension, and more.
The most important thing to remember about meditation is that if you follow these guidelines, you are doing it correctly - in fact, you are doing it perfectly. The act of meditating is simple. Any thought or desire to have a perfectly quiet mind is a separate subject, and not necessarily any greater benefit to your health than the simple practice of meditating.
The simple steps include
- Sit in a comfortable position, including clothing, temperature, and chair. Rest your arms and hands on your legs, palms held or up or down as is most comfortable for you.
- Out of sight, set a non-ticking clock or alarm for 5 minutes.
- Close your eyes and pay attention to the experience of your breath for 3 breaths. Select one part of the physical experience of breathing: the sound, the feel of the air, the movement of your abdomen, or any part of the breath.
- Keep breathing normally, and turn your attention to that one physical experience of breathing you selected.
- When you notice that your attention wanders, smile at yourself and gently return your attention to that one physical experience of breathing.
- Extend your periods of meditation to 15-20 minutes, once or twice daily.
The secret to "successful" meditation is just doing it, as cheerfully as possible. When your attention wanders (notice the word is “when” not “if”), the more gently and kindly you can correct yourself, the better the health effect.
In one sense, the wandering of the attention is a good thing because it offers you the simple and beneficial moment of noticing and gently correcting your attention, all in good humor. The kindness of your correction will yield great health benefits if practiced over time.