This page is intended to give a brief overview of meditation as I understand it. This isn't an exhaustive guide to it, and isn't a substitute for a good book on the subject or proper tuition. I'm not a monk or suchlike, just an interested layperson sharing what he's learned. If you find yourself getting into it more, I strongly suggest finding a local meditation group; your nearest Buddhist centre will be an excellent place to start looking. If you're in Second Life, then I will provide links at the end of this page.

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.

The Exercise
  1. Sit, relax. Take a moment to relax the muscles in your head, then work down the rest of your body.
  2. Close your eyes and begin to breathe naturally, don't attempt to control or force your breathing, just let it happen naturally.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Once your 10 minutes (or however long) is up, allow yourself to come gently back to the here and now.
Further resources and reading.

I'm not formally affiliated with any of the following organisations or people, but I have found them beneficial and thought I'd share them in the hope of helping others.

Organisations
Birmingham Buddhist Vihara
This Buddhist centre is in the Thervada Tradition and is located in Edgbaston, Birmingham. There are a few monks onsite and the Vihara is worth a visit in it's own right.

Jangchub Ling
This is a Buddhist centre in the New Kadampa Tradition, which offers meditation classes at various locations throughout the Black Country. The centre in Cradley Heath has a cafe and a small shop onsite, they also hold various events throught the year.

Secondlife
Kannonji
Kannonji is a Zen centre in Second Life that offers group meditation and Zen Buddhist Dharma talks. It's ideal for people with disabilities or who live in remote areas.