Meditation is simple. It is the practice of Mindful Breathing. More experienced meditators might practice some inquiry, where you think of a thorny issue or a question and allow an answer to arise, but beginners will want to start out by working to quiet and focus the mind, as much as possible. There are many books on meditation styles and eventually, you may want to explore, but if you are just starting, it is best to keep things basic.
Sit still in a quiet place with your hands in a comfortable position, your back straight on a cushion/pillow or the edge of a chair, pay attention to your breathing and whenever you notice your mind starts to wander away from the breath, just refocus and come back to noticing your inhalation and exhalation. I use a meditation timer on my tablet, which sounds a chime every five minutes and then a gong sound at the end. This interval timer helps get my attention if I have become lost in thinking and need a little reminder to get back to my breath.
Think your mind is too busy to meditate? Guess what? Pretty much everybody has a "monkey mind" that constantly chatters and wanders. Each time you notice that you are internally planning, predicting, ruminating, worrying or complaining, coming back to your breath is like a push-up for your brain. Meditation practice is how you train yourself to become more self-aware and more rooted in the present moment. Please do not scold yourself when you notice you have become lost in thoughts! Smile. Be lighthearted. Focus on the next breath and be grateful that you are taking this time for yourself. The payoffs? Better sleep. Better ability to manage stress. Less reactivity. A slowing down of your life in general. Greater clarity. Better moods. Increased ability to make healthy lifestyle choices. Reduced anxiety and depression. Meditators are building strong minds and everything else starts falling into place.
You should start with five or ten minutes a day and gradually work up to twenty to thirty, depending on how much time you have and what works for you. Consistency is the key. I have been meditating for two years and am able to sit most mornings for twenty to thirty minutes. When I don't meditate, it is usually because my four-year old daughter has gotten up early and thwarted my self-care routine. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often. I have so much more to say about the benefits of meditation in my own life, but I will pause here and say more in future blog posts.