Although meditation is the cornerstone of nearly every spiritual tradition, it is widely misunderstood. Many think of meditation as a severe practice requiring a lot of time and effort. You may even believe have to go to a mountain top and sit for hours in a lotus position!
The reality is much simpler than that. All you need to do is to sit in a relaxed position and focus on your breath. Since the mind is very busy, it can be helpful to concentrate on a mantra or listen to calm music. If thoughts enter into your meditation, don’t judge them or try to eliminate them, just bring your attention back to your breath. You may find it useful to count your breaths when thoughts intervene.
The effects of meditation are cumulative so it works best if you make it a habit. You can start with very short meditations, such as 2 or 5 minutes, and then gradually work up to longer periods. Since the purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind, it provides an excellent way to keep worry and anxiety in check. For many people, it takes just 10 or 15 minutes a day to reap the benefits of meditation. Even a very brief meditation can make a huge difference in your ability to handle stress.
A common mistake that beginning meditators often make is starting out with some type of “expectation.” For example, they may expect to get a mystical experience, such as an incredible feeling of peace, a divine vision, or miraculous healing. However, the whole purpose of meditation is to clear the mind and return to the “present moment.” As soon as you expect something to happen, your mind has left the present and is in the future. While many have reported mystical experiences during meditation, it’s not up to you to make that happen. Your job is simply to be still and focus on your breathing, which will open a channel that allows good things to flow to you.
Thus, don’t get frustrated if it feels like “nothing is happening”, especially at first. Just as you wouldn’t go to the gym, lift a few weights, and expect to immediately walk out with huge muscles, it may take some time before you feel the effects of meditation in your life. Take it on faith that if you meditate every day, you will develop your “spiritual muscles” and open a gateway to your higher self.