Meditation has been practised for thousands of years in a variety of forms and in many places. There are various types of practise and many exercises. I've seen Taoist exercises that focus on internal alchemy, Pagan exercises that guide you through a nature based meditation, and Buddhist exercises that promote insight and mindfulness. Generally, meditation is believed to have no harmful side effects, but if you suffer from a mental illness or if you're in psychiatric care then it's wise to seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional before starting a meditation practise.
The exercise outlined below is a simple one, but I do need to say a few things before we begin. During this exercise you'll find that your mind will wander, that's normal. When this happens, and it will, just bring yourself back to the meditation without comment or judgement. If you get lost in comment or judgement then all you've done is get distracted again, which isn't really what we want. I tend to meditate sat in a chair, but you can use a cushion or meditation stool if you want. If you do, and you find yourself getting a cramp, it is possible to use it as part of your meditation. Personally though I don't recommend being a martyr to it, if you're uncomfortable then just move to a more comfortable position and resettle. When you begin meditating, 10 minutes is probably a good length of time to do it for. You might well find that this time will naturally extend as you keep your practise up.
- Sit, relax. Take a moment to relax the muscles in your head, then work down the rest of your body.
- Close your eyes and begin to breathe naturally, don't attempt to control or force your breathing, just let it happen naturally.
- Observe your breathing, make it the center of your attention. Don't focus obsessively on it, just observe it in a relaxed manner. Again, if you find yourself attempting to control it, don't. Should your mind wander, just return gently to your breathing.
- If you have difficulty following the breath, you may find it helps to count your breaths. You can count on each inhale and exahale, or if you'd prefer, on either inhales or exhales. Whichever you choose, don't count above 10, as you'll find yourself in danger of keeping count rather than actually meditating.
- Once your 10 minutes (or however long) is up, allow yourself to come gently back to the here and now.