What is meditation and how can we do it? (Part 2)

So now let's look at the practical side of meditation so you are able to get going and keep going.
By far the most difficult part of meditation is to get yourself to do it and daily. The practice itself will deepen of its own accord and with time as long as you have the basics to keep you going, which is what I’m going to share with you now.
To start with you must absolutely make a decision to do it every day simply because that's the only way you'll benefit from the many rewards on offer from doing the daily practice. I always challenge my students to commit to 100 continuous days of meditation and if they miss a day then they must start the full 100-days again from day 1. If they are complete beginners, I start them on just 5 minutes per session, allowing them to stay at 5 minutes until they feel confident to move that up to 6 minutes a day. Once they are confident at 6 minutes of daily practice they can move up to 7 minutes per session and continue in this manner until they reach 60 minutes. Some may never reach 60 minutes per day but some meditation is always much better than none so to start with developing the habit is the primary priority.
I personally like to meditate with specifically designed music for meditation, for example, Holosync or Dr Jeffry Thompson’s Awakened Mind System. One caveat, however, is that if you follow a guided meditation, then make sure the guidance is directing you to stay present. Some of the guided meditation CDs to change states and heal different aspects of life are great and recommended, but the daily practice I am recommending is to learn to focus entirely on the moment only.
You can sit in a comfortable seat or in the lotus position, whatever works best for you, but if you do sit in a comfortable seat, make sure your back is straight otherwise if you get too comfortable, you may fall asleep. 
Make sure you schedule a time to do it, or you may find that it's very easy to give yourself a reason not to do it. I always classify it as a very important meeting I will be having with myself and schedule it the day before so I know when I’m going to be doing it, and it goes into my calendar as a real appointment. The general recommended best time to meditate is in the morning so that you start your day from a balanced and centred place as well as gain all the benefits from the meditation. Meditating at any time during the day rather than not, however, is still excellent so don’t use the excuse not to do it just because you don’t have time in the morning.
Before you start the actual meditation practice, tell your mind that it may as well stop complaining because whether it likes it or not, you’re here for the duration. By doing this you are becoming the master of your mind, for a little while at least. When a person has spent the majority of their life with their attention on their thoughts about life, then what happens is they become a slave to their thoughts. If they entertain a good thought then they feel good for a while but as soon as a negative thought comes into mind, then a negative feeling follows. Many people experience their life as an up and down roller coaster of emotions and this is because they are a slave to their thoughts, not realising they have the power to change them at any time.
Mastery of the mind transports a person to a much better way of experiencing life. You’ve mastered life when you can direct your thinking at will, in a way that makes you feel good regularly. This can only happen by learning first how to bring your attention from your thinking stuff into the moment, which is exactly what meditation is teaching us.
Let's now look at how to meditate.
Once you are in your comfortable seat with your back straight and you’ve instructed your mind that you’re going to be there for the whole 30 minutes or whatever amount of time you’re starting with, you then relax the body to the best of your ability. Take a few deep breaths to start with then scan your body to see if you are holding any tension. Especially look at the stomach, shoulders, mouth, jaw, eyes and forehead as we hold the most tension in these places, then consciously relax them. If you can't seem to fully relax then give that to yourself by telling yourself something like, 'I can't relax and it's ok.' This takes all the pressure off and gives you permission to be yourself.
So you’re now as relaxed as possible in your seat and you begin the process of bringing your attention from your thoughts to this moment. There are only 2 places you can ever have your attention:
1. On your thoughts or 2. At the moment you find yourself and the practice of meditation is to bring your attention to the moment so that eventually you actually get to fully and consciously experience your life rather than thinking about it. The practice of meditation is a technique to learn to become meditative.
As you sit in meditation, you do all you can to observe what is actually happening in the moment that you are observing. The gurus call this developing the observer. When you develop the observer by simply watching what is happening without reacting or needing it to be different, peace ensues.
It’s simple to understand, but it’s not easy, and the reason it’s not easy is because of all the attention you’ve given to your thinking for so long. You can imagine your thoughts as a train that continuously travels through your mind. It never stops and even with lots of meditation it never will stop, but it will lose its power over you if you do take on a meditation practice.
As the train travels through your mind, it has different carriages as with a real train, and each of these carriages contains a particular theme of your life. For sure one of the carriages will be all about your family and within that big carriage, there will be small carriages that contain each of the members of your family. There will be a carriage for your work and your close friends and everything else that happens in your life. 
When you first attempt to bring your attention from the carriages of the train to the moment, they (the carriages) will protest madly. Think about it, they’ve been having your attention for so long, you’ve made them God, and they’re not going to like it at all when you start to pull your attention from them. This is the one main reason that people stop their meditation practice so early after they’ve started. It takes regular practice to change where we direct our attention because we've been so accustomed to looking at our thoughts all the time.
If you begin with a 5 or 10-minute meditation, you'll be lucky if you can stay present for longer than 20 seconds before your attention is back in one of those carriages.
The purpose of meditation is not to stop thinking but rather to pull our attention from our thinking, so let us now look at how to do that.
What you have that is always in the moment is your physical body, and it’s your body that you’ll use to help bring your attention back to the moment. Whenever you remember, you’re going to put your attention on the end of your nose and simply watch yourself breathe in and breathe out. That’s it! Easy right? Well, you’ll find that out when you try. If you’re like the rest of us, however, keeping your attention on the end of your nose without putting it on your thoughts is extremely difficult, to say the least.
What will happen is that you’ll find yourself in your thought carriages again, so as soon as you remember that you’re in there, you simply come back to observing your breath. In the beginning, you may never remember to come back to the breath until the buzzer goes to state that you’ve gotten to the end of the meditation, so you simply give yourself a little hug and congratulate yourself for completing it, and then affirm that you’ll be doing it again tomorrow. If you do remember, however, then simply watch your breathing for as long as you can, and do this even if the thought you were thinking was a really good or entertaining one. You must learn to bring yourself off your thinking and into the moment, your great life depends on it.
Once you get used to bringing yourself back to your breathing more often, you can then also, at the same time become aware of yourself at the moment you find yourself in. What you do is you become aware of how you are sat and if there is more weight on your left or your right buttock. Which parts of your feet are actually touching the ground and which parts of your body are touching the chair. What is your relationship with the moment you find yourself in, what’s happening at the feeling level? What can you hear? What is the taste in your mouth? What does it feel like to be you right now? What does it feel like to be in the room your find yourself in? Remember all the time not to analyse anything or change it, you are simply observing the moment.
After a time, you’ll have moments when you are so deeply immersed in the moment that you’ll experience total bliss. After this happens, let it go, don’t look for it in the next sitting because, as with life, it is never the same, everything is always in a state of flux and movement. The blissful moments are beautiful though and they do come more regularly the more you practice.
I challenge you to take on a 100-day meditation challenge because once you've done that you'll not only get to experience the tremendous benefits that come from meditation but also you'll be well on your way to establishing the habit of daily meditation and its a habit that will massively benefit every area of your life if you take it on.
According to Michael Gladwell, in his book Outliers, to become a master in anything like a concert pianist, for example, it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice. The time needed to learn to meditate and then get the massive improvements in your life from its practice is minuscule in comparison.
When would now be a great time to start?