How to meditate, and what meditation does for you.
Meditation is a basic practice for self-realization. Basically, you sit straight and concentrate on a particular point in your body (usually the belly, or the breath). When you notice that your have drifted away from this point of concentration, you gently return to it.
What it does for you
This practice in a gradual way helps in lots of aspects of your life. It makes you more aware of the current moment, the here and now, giving you a sense of having more time to deal with situations. It develops concentration and awareness of the self and body. It balances energy and the chakras. It makes you calmer and more relaxed. It also helps reduce mental chatter, and helps you be in your body. This all helps making you more open to yourself and the world, to be your natural self.
How to meditate - the details
Most people meditate for 15 - 30 minutes at a time, once or twice per day. It is a good idea to meditate at least 20 minutes a day, for instance after you have woken up in the morning. You could use a clock or watch to keep time, but you'd need to check it every so often, which distracts from the practice. It's better to use an alarm of sorts, that you can set to a predetermined time.
It is best to focus on a point in the belly. There are also meditation traditions where focus is on the tip of the nose, sensing the subtle sensations of breath through the nose. However, focussing on the belly makes it easier to silence mental chatter and develop more body awareness than focussing on a point on the head does, where the chatter is happening.
You can focus on the upper part of the belly, on the movements of the breath. This is the point usually used in Zen meditation. Alternatively you can focus on the point called the Dantian or Kath, that is located 1½ thumb widths under the navel, 2 to 3 thumb widths inside of the body. The term Dantian originates in Chinese Martial Arts and Qigong. It is an important energy center, being located in the center of the body. The term Kath is used in the Diamond Approach, and originates in Sufism.
There is no need to focus on your meditation point to the exclusion of everything else. It is okay to also sense your body and feelings, as long as your meditation point is part of what you are sensing.
It is important to sit straight and relaxed, with a solid sense of stability. You can sit on a straight chair, but usually people meditate sitting in lotus position, with crossed legs on a meditation cushion, or with the legs folded and on their heels. The latter position can be aided by using a wooden bench that allows for this.
Depending on your sitting position, you can have your hands in your lap, or on your knees. You can hold your hands in a particular position (a mudra). If you hold them in your lap, keep your palms up, and on top of each other. Put your left hand underneath, its palm touching the back of the fingers of the right hand. This is like the mudra for the Sacral chakra. If you want to put your hands on your knees, let the backs of your hands touch your knees. Let either the tips of the middle finger and the thumb or the index finger and the thumb touch.
You can either keep your eyes closed, or look at the floor 1.5 meter (5 feet) in front of you. If you keep your eyes open, make sure that the space in front of you is not too distracting. Meditate in a quiet place.
It is inevitable that thoughts come up. There is nothing wrong with thoughts, except when there are so many thoughts that they make it hard to sense yourself and your situation, which is actually the case with most people. When you notice that you are thinking or fantasizing, gently return to your point of focus. Don't try to suppress thoughts, just gently return focus.