"Prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening to God"
Edgar Cayce.

Every background, culture and religion has a form of meditation. Methods of meditation are as varied as the individuals practising them. Often meditation is thought of as 'quieting' the mind. However to the new practitioner, the mind's response is quite the opposite. Often this is seen as one of the great hurdles to meditation. The goal being to 'empty' the mind.

However, when looked at and understood from another perspective, meditation becomes much more than a mind numbing technique.

This mind is filled with thoughts. These thoughts have two possible sources- an accumulated past a potential future

Thoughts have no relevance to the present moment; as the moment you think of it, it is past. Contemplating the next moment is also fruitless, as it is yet to come and therefore open to change. True meditation is about listening to the very moment that you are in, without actually thinking of it. In this way, your mind is emptied of irrelevant thoughts and open to the fullness of the moment. It therefore becomes mindful of the moment.

With this in mind, all forms of meditation have validity. As thoughts arise; as our mind 'wanders off', we are merely being entertained by needs. These are the thoughts of the past and the future. Perceived unattended business. The secret to fulfilling meditation is simply to observe these thoughts for what they are - irrelevant needs to the moment - and to return to the point of focus in the moment, where all needs are met. With regular practice, the practitioner will find that the needs no longer draw the attention as much as they did, and more time is spent in the moment. This is sometimes referred to as 'transcending the moment'. It is here that time has no relevance and a sense of peace and bliss is experienced.

One of the benefits of meditation is the clearing of unwanted needs. This will open the perspective of the practitioner, allowing for true inspiration to take place.

There has been much study on the health benefits of meditation. Perhaps one of the simplest explanations of this is as follows. All sense of illness and dis-ease arises at a mind level due to a need. If the need is not satisfied, an accompanying emotion is felt. This will eventually result in a physical symptom. The process can be immediate or can take a lifetime. However once the demanding needs are seen for what they are - past or future illusions, the emotion is released and the body returns to a normal healthy state of 'Be-ing' in the moment.

Mindfulness and Insight
In mindfulness there is only one focus - sustain a single point of awareness. The focus is usually the sensation of the breath as it passes into and out of the nose. Stand, sit or lie down comfortably and begin to notice the breath. There is a cool sensation as fresh air enters the nose and a warm sensation as the exhalation exits from the nose. When your mind entertains a passing thought, see it for what it is and return your focus to the breath.

When a thought takes the attention of the mind, you may still be relaxed and quiet, but the body is affected by the busyness of the mind. When you are able to sustain awareness of the breath, even if for just a short time; the body is freed from the effects of mind busyness

The key to meditation is regularity. 20 minutes is a good time, but it should be regular. Rather than doing 20 minutes once or twice a week, try 10 minutes a day and build as you discover the benefits. Most schools of thought suggest 20 minutes at the start of your day and another 20 at the end of the day for maximum benefit. This will help to start the day with a clear mind and end it the same way.