Here is a mini-guide to various types of meditation you can do. There are many other names for these practices, many other descriptions, modifications. Whatever works for you, really. More types of meditation will be added to this as they come up in the blog.
Uses: clearing the mind, prepping for other mind work, de-stressing, strengthening the "mind muscle", less "chatter"
Goal: Focusing on only one thing (here: breathing)
1. Pick a length of time (eg 5 minutes), and firmly decide that you're only going to do the meditation for that span. Realize that there'll be plenty of time afterwards to think about other stuff, and you can totally afford x minutes of meditation.
2. Grab a timer, the kind that beeps when you've hit the end of the time. A back-up option is an alarm clock, and you'd set it to go off in the future.
3. Remove all noises, distractions and bright lights. Arrange yourself so you're sitting upright, straight-backed, comfortably. No laying down, slouching, leaning against the back of a chair (sit on the front-most part only), etc.
4. Start the timer, watching it for the first few seconds to make sure it is actually counting down. (Or: turn on the alarm.) You are not allowed to look at this device again until it goes off! Keep your eyes shut!
5. Breathe in, and observe yourself breathing in. Watch your breath stop at the top of the wave. Watch yourself breathing out, and be aware of your exhalation. Notice as the breath stops at the bottom, empty, for just a tiny pause.
6. Don't think about anything else.
7. That's it! Just do this until the timer/alarm goes off.
Ok, hahaha, if only it were so easy. That really is all there is to it, but the trick is that you're going to start thinking about other things. What to have for dinner, the conversation you had yesterday, that song you just can't get out of your head. It may happen 500 times in 5 minutes. That's fine. Just notice that you are not observing your breath, and then go back to observing your breath.
The entire point of this is to practice putting these other thoughts aside to focus instead on what you set out to focus on: here, your breath. You do not "fail" if you find your mind wandering. In fact, you "win" if you find your mind wandering because you are aware that you are not observing what you meant to be observing.
Drop the thought, tempting as it is, and go back to your breath. Remember, you can afford these few scant minutes! You've surfed the internet for hours and been just fine, so you can take these few minutes, so just go back, watch the breath.
Don't control the breath, though when you first start out doing so can help you focus. Eventually you just watch it. Watch how, like a cat pouncing on a mouse, your inhalations start again after each little pause of empty lungs.
Thoughts arise, but now is not the time. It's ok, just observe that your mind is wandering, then go back to observing the breath instead.
Doing this is like building up a muscle. You are literally building up willpower. You're practicing having concentration, practicing focus. It's one of the most useful skills a person can have, because you are building up the ability to control your thoughts.
Maybe the whole 5 minutes goes by and you only spent 2 seconds actually watching your breath. That's ok. You're now that much more aware of how much your mind chatters when on its own, and that alone is super important. Give it another shot, and maybe next time you'll get 10 seconds total. Just like building a muscle, you might start off weak (but can get some really rewarding big gains very early on)!