If I had to tell you only one thing about meditation, it would be this: Meditation is your personal experiment, performed in the laboratory of your own mind and body.
Your practice will be inspired by teachers and guided by the practices that the great explorers of meditation have handed down to us. Yet in the end, the form your practice takes is uniquely yours. When you begin your meditating practice you need the structure and direction of an established protocol. Following basic techniques helps you set up the discipline of regular sitting and teaches you how to feel comfortable, how to find inner focus, and keep your mind from running rampant.
As you continue, things will change. You start to catch the meditation current, the inward-flowing slipstream that takes the mind inward. You begin to experience periods of quiet, even contentment. Finally, you realize that meditation is actually a natural state. It will arise on its own if you give it time. In addition, you discover some of the benefits of sitting for meditation—how a practice helps you hold steady in times of emotional turmoil, how creative solutions to problems present themselves naturally when you enter a certain state of quiet.
It requires openness, creativity, and discernment.
So, a successful meditation practice requires balancing polarities: focus and letting go, structure and freedom. You need to work with guidelines. But you also need to know when it is time to let go of the “rules” and follow the signals that are coming from your own consciousness.
One of the best beginning practices is simple mindfulness—paying attention to the flow of the breathing. Mindfulness of breath.