Most of us are so busy that the thought of sitting still for 20 minutes or even 5 minutes a day is beyond us. We know meditation is probably good for us, but rewards seem fuzzy and methodology even fuzzier. What, exactly, is meditation? And do you have to be religious? Meditation is often associated with Buddhism, which makes it seem even more cloaked in mystery for those of us who aren’t Buddhist. And just how do you go about it?

First, you don’t have to be religious to meditate, but don’t be surprised if a regular practice of meditation opens you to more spirituality in your life. When you spend time in quiet thought—one definition of meditation—you are bound to become calmer and more focused. You may even feel more inner peace and balance.

So relax. Taking a little time out for quiet thought can’t be that daunting. Here are some tips:

1) Set Yourself Up for Success. Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Where you can sit comfortably, whether it’s in the traditional cross-legged position on the floor or in a straight-backed chair. You want to make sure to sit up so you can stay alert. Big comfy chairs may put you to sleep.

2) Focus on Breathing. Close your eyes or keep them partially closed so you can focus all your attention on breathing. There is no trick to this. Just breathe naturally. Notice as you breathe in and out. Concentrate on the simple act of breathing to the exclusion of all else.

3) Quiet Your Monkey Mind. When your thoughts stray from your breathing—and they will—notice them and bring them back to your breathing. Your mind may wander again and again. Some days it’s easier to stay focused than others. When you discover yourself making a mental grocery list, gently bring your mind back to your breath.

4) Some Quiet Time Is Better Than None. Most people start out meditating for a few minutes at a time. When you’re beginning, three minutes can seem like eternity. Gradually, you’ll get the hang of it and may want to extend to five minutes and perhaps ultimately 20 or a half hour. This is your practice, and there are no rules, so meditate as long as you feel comfortable.

5) Consistency Is Key. You are more likely to reap the most benefits if you meditate about the same time and in the same place every day. So it’s a good habit to get into. But don’t be discouraged if you miss a day or several. Realistically, very few people will be able to meditate on a regular basis. So just return to your practice when you can, knowing that some quiet time will be good for you.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: