Breathing is natural and something we all do every second of our lives. However we probably do not consciously breathe very often if ever. Using the breath as an anchor point is a very simple method of enabling us to practice mindfulness and meditation. For this type of focus the key is to observe your breathing without trying to force any rhythm and allow the breath to settle in its own natural tempo. The attention then should be on the in and out breath slowly reciting to yourself 'I am breathing in - on the in breath and I am breathing out - on the out breath'. You should start to try breathing into the abdomen using the diaphragm as opposed to in the chest area where tension can build. This if practiced correctly will bring ourselves more into the present allowing us to let go of our worries and anxieties, always remembering if our attention drifts to gently bring the focus back to your breath.
Buddhist meditation suggests religious connotations however meditation can be just as acceptable as a secular practice. The core teachings of Buddhism being compassion and kindness reflect in the various meditations it offers. Buddhism believes in stopping the cycle of suffering to attain nirvana (extinction) through turning the mind in on itself to see what remains.... loving kindness towards yourself if practiced will in turn cultivate the same attitude towards fellow beings growing in compassion and tolerance. Just 'resting in our being' and harnessing a sense of gratitude are two other techniques we can practice both having palpable, positive results.
Mantra refers to word or sound (originating from Hinduism and Buddhism) to assist with focus and concentration whilst meditating. In T.M. (Transcendental meditation) mantra are designated solely for the recipient who must not share with anyone else. However more commonly traditional mantras are used universally. It derives from the Sanskrit word meaning 'sacred message or text, charm, spell or counsel'. Again the mantra relieves the practitioner of future or past anxieties by bringing focus into the now, using the rhythm and sound of the words recited. It can be silently repeated in your mind or vocally by yourself or in a group. OM NAVAH SHIVAYA (I bow to that supreme consciousness as the universal divine resonance) is one example of many mantras. This mantra should be chanted traditionally with devotion to SHIVA, producing effects of peace, concentration and energy. The words phonetics have certain vibrational qualities when spoken especially OM (whole) and the way it resonates with the being.
Silence can be deafening if really listened to. This meditation is basic and appears really simple and easy. On the contrary it can be the most challenging! It is the fundamental point of allowing our internal space to be silent in all meditation and just notice the arising of all things to appear and let go showing the impermanence in all conceptions, pointing us back to our true nature within giving great peace and contentment. We can simply follow the breath to lead us in as an anchor point.
Meditation could be described as completely embodying life in every single moment. Zen deriving from Japanese Buddhism practices this commitment and discipline to its core. Its attention to not losing oneself in nonexistent entities or situations like the past and future and fully embracing the present moment now! The truth apparent to us all. Therefore it can be practiced in entirely every nuance that we encounter in our lives and each thought can be looked at philosophically to see the positive insight within it. Aware of exactly what you are doing in the act of doing it at all times is Zen. This requires unequivocal discipline. Za Zen (meaning meditation) is heeding attention to strict and straight posture while practicing.
Mindfulness can be encompassed in all the aforementioned meditations in some form. Rather than having the feeling of letting go and letting things arise it comes from a different angle training the mind to focus intently on various objects and sensations in the present moment accepting what is! Variations can include a mental image, visualisation, different breathing techniques and the entire body aware of muscles, pain / contraction as in the body scan practice. Eventually learning to relax into current impermanent state again seeing what feelings of peace, contentment and compassion remain.