Those who have had very little exposure to meditation may get confused by the variety of techniques, the number of guided meditations, the different gurus and leaders and the books and literature available. Just like everything else, the art of meditation is taught in various forms and methods to suit the needs of many different people. Meditation, even when done in a group is a very personal experience, sometimes the depth of the experience goes beyond words, language and thoughts and that is one of the reasons why we find so many varied descriptions of meditation everywhere - all of us are struggling to capture in language an experience that is beyond it.
To get started with a meditation practice, please go over the techniques mentioned here. Bear in mind that technique is simply the bridge - it is not the destination. A wonderful meditative state is what lies at the other end of the bridge and that is our true destination. All the techniques mentioned here (Concentration and Open Awareness Techniques) are ways of quietening the mind so that we can get to the meditative state which comes with a lot of physical and mental benefits.
Of course, the above instruction comes with a disclaimer that one should never meditate with any goal in mind, not even the goal of reaching a meditative state at the end of it. The reason being that assigning a goal to the mind, imposes a restriction on the mind and appoints it with a task that has to be fulfilled by the end of the practice. This totally defeats the purpose of meditation which is to free the mind from thoughts, worries, expectations and tasks.
To the beginner it may seem very confusing that we want to meditate so that we can enjoy all its benefits, but how is it that we should not expect to even get to the meditative state during our practice? The answer is - Have patience. :) As your practice grows over time and as you become a keen observer of the workings of your mind, you will have a clearer understanding of the above conundrum.
You may use the following guidelines to help you choose the right technique.
1. Choose a technique that appeals to you
Remember you may not arrive at the perfect technique for you in the first try. Meditation is an intensely personal practice and it takes a some time, wisdom and patience to arrive at a technique or a combination of techniques that suit you perfectly. Your practice will evolve over time. Hence, initially do not spend a lot of time in making sure you have chosen the right technique. Simply choose something that seems easy, doable and relaxing.
2. Choose something that is practical, simple and natural
Do not be over ambitious in choosing a technique. Choose something that is practical, that will be easy to fit into your schedule and that will be easy to carry out in your setting. The technique should seem simple and natural. If it seems complicated and forced, it is probably not the right technique for you at this time.
3. Know Yourself
When choosing a technique, keep in mind your personal likes and dislikes. If you are a kinesthetic person (someone who enjoys physical activity and movement rather than sitting down and concentrating) or if you are absolutely new to meditation, yoga or sitting down - try the Walking Meditation or the Informal Relaxation Tips first before jumping into a formal, sitting down practice. If you are an always distracted, unable to focus AT ALL type of a person, always begin your practice with some Mindful Stretching Exercises. Once you have some experience with the concepts of mindfulness and relaxation you can try out the sitting down, formal version.
4. Give it time
The Internet and our mobiles have spoiled us in many ways. We are so used to instant gratification that we do not have the patience and perseverance needed to cultivate a new habit or make space for a new practice to grow in our lives. Meditation works on the subtle energies of the mind and one or two sessions are definitely not enough to determine if the technique is suitable for you or not. Our recommendation is that once you start with a technique, do it diligently and regularly for at least a month before you come to any conclusion about its suitability or effect on your mind.
One can liken a meditation technique to the process of watering the soil, it takes time for the seed to sprout and grow roots and turn into a sapling. It is unnatural to expect the sapling to form before its time. Similarly, the most common mistake that beginners make is to expect results from the practice instantly. Until we invest time, patience and effort in nurturing the plant we cannot taste the fruits.
From our experience, we can say that if you practice regularly, sincerely and seriously you should see noticeable changes in your state of mind over a period of 3 weeks.
5. Get Involved
As you choose and practice your technique, take responsibility for it. Observe the technique growing on you and make modifications that are suited to you. Except for the time when you are actually doing your practice, be an active driver of your meditation destiny. Make small changes in your schedule and life style to accommodate the practice better (e.g. if your commute is too noisy, check if you have the option of choosing a quieter commute), become a keen observer (e.g. has your sleeping pattern changed since you started meditating?) and actively police the grounds of your mind (e.g. when riding the elevator or waiting for the meeting to start, practice mindful breathing rather than grabbing your phone or getting lost in a trajectory of the mind).
Just as with anything else, you will advance faster when you take responsibility for the health of your own mind.