No, you don't have to go under a canopy or go to a forest to meditate— although once you fall in love with meditation, the romance might just happen.
There are two basic types of meditation. The first one is an active, one-point focus meditation, where you train your mind to focus on one thing: your breath, a color, an image, a sound, an emotion, a concept, a mantra (a repetitive phrase— usually a sacred syllable in Sanskrit), or a location inside or outside your body. This point can be the whole integration of several smaller components, such as concept meditations which observe the present, ideas, or surroundings.
The second type is a passive, zero-point focus meditation, where you train to focus on nothing: you keep your mind empty — a blank slate of all thoughts, sensations, and emotions. You withdraw all your senses completely from the outside world to remain passive in that empty space between your thoughts. It takes approximately six seconds for a non-meditator to have a thought. As you progress daily, this interval will extend. This emptying of all thoughts allows you to become a clear vessel for new insight, expanded awareness, and bliss.
The key to meditation is to do it everyday— a habit just like brushing your teeth or showering— only this habit cleanses and primes your mind instead of your body. Interestingly, it was the monks who first introduced us to the cleansing powers of the daily toothbrush. Now the wise monks are introducing us to the cleansing powers of daily meditation.
Scientific research shows that even small amounts of meditation is good for the brain, and the more it is practiced— the faster and better the results. In a conference in Arizona in 2005, Dr. John Hagelin presented brain-scan evidence of healthy restructuring of the brain based on 20 minutes of twice daily Transcendental Meditation. Whatever your time input is, your brain will thank you.
If you believe that meditation is hard, it will be challenging. If you believe meditation is easy, it will flow. After all, it's not like we're building a rocket, but simply staying quiet. Like any new habit we acquire, our brain needs time to adjust or rewire to its new conditions —it's only a matter of practice. Consistent practice, without interrupting the process while it is busily reassembling itself, is key to a quicker and successful outcome. Research indicates that the brain begins rewiring immediately! So do not feel discouraged if your mind wanders a lot. This is normal.
Except in meditations aimed at generating positive emotional states like Positive Emotion Generation (see below) and Compassion Meditation, a standard rule to clearing your mind during meditation is: don't identify with your thoughts or emotions. You merely observe, without analyzing or judging, and gently let go of all thoughts or emotions that may arise. You merely notice the thought or emotion that popped in, but you don't get caught up in it. You let it go. And you go back to focus. Everytime you let go and refocus, your brain builds stronger and stronger neural connections that allow you to direct and deepen your focus at will. And needless to say, better focus translates to better results in all your daily activities!
Meditation's two requisites are to relax and focus. This meditation is considered fundamental to all types of meditation, due to its simplicity and relaxing effect, so it must be practiced first. It is also used in Mindfulness Meditation.
EFFECTS: Increases focus, relaxation, and body awareness; antidote to stress & its related illnesses.
Adapted from Your Hands Can Heal You, by Stephen Co and Eric B. Robins, M.D.
EFFECTS: Releases emotional blockages, increases vitality, focus, mental clarity, body & energy awareness; increases oxygen and life force in the whole body, which has an overall health-enhancing effect.
Learned from Master H.H. Sri Swami Brahmavidyananda Saraswati.
EFFECTS: Cleansing and clearing, positive predisposition, increases focus, mental clarity, body & energy awareness; white increases mental clarity, balance, and peacefulness; visualization process enhances visual skills & creativity.
This meditation is easier once you know how to anchor or focus your mind first. Breath Awareness Meditation (see first graphic) is a preliminary step.
EFFECTS: Increases mental clarity and insight by clearing your mind so that answers, solutions, & ideas can easily enter your consciousness; blissful energetic & physical sensations; increases consciousness; prolongation can result in expanded awareness about the nature of reality.
EFFECTS: The more you generate this emotion, the more your brain rewires itself to feel this way on a consistent basis. You will also attract situations that make you feel this way. Best of all, you will be aiding the world with this heartfelt desire for everyone.