I suppose that over the years I have taken up meditation a multitude of times. My efforts have lasted days to weeks to...well, maybe a month. I really don't have trouble sitting still, the trouble has always been setting aside a specific time to sit still. Eventually something knocks me off schedule and the practice loses out to other interests.
But for the past ten months or so, based on an off-the-cuff comment by my yoga instructor, I have tagged a 20-minute meditation session onto my 20-minute yoga-ish session in the mornings.
This has worked. One practice just flows into the other and I find I have been very consistent in doing this. I started taking what I call Old Lady Yoga about five years ago and soon worked up my own morning routine. But it was only recently that I thought to add the meditation bit along with it.
This is not religious or Woo-Woo stuff for me. I don't sit in an uncomfortable position on the floor. I don't light candles or incense. I simply sit in a straight-backed chair in my kitchen. I set a timer for 20 minutes, throw a light shawl around my shoulders, and close my eyes. I try to concentrate on my breath - in, out, in, out - but my mind is much like a free-range chicken. It pecks at this thought then that one, then quickly darts over to another corner and starts pecking there.
Actually, I have come to enjoy this playtime for my mind. I think my brain needs a break each day to just wander where it will. So even though I may not get an A in Meditation Practice, that is how I do it.
I know there are hundreds of books on mindfulness and meditation and I have read many of them. My favorites, though, are as follows:
Meditation by Eknath Easwaran. I first read this book, upon the recommendation of a friend, in the early '90s. It is the first book I have ever read that once I came to the last sentence on the last page, and without missing a beat, I immediately started over again with the first word on the first page. The book was subtitled A simple eight-point program for translating spiritual ideals into daily life. The first point is meditation. It is so clearly written and personal. The author, who died in 1999, is the founder of Blue Mountain Retreat Center and Nilgiri Press in northern California. The book has been reissued with the title Passage Meditation. I don't know what changes have been made to the original text, but I see that the second edition, the one I read, is still available. Highly recommended.
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. At one time I owned this book then loaned it to a friend who returned it with the addition of multiple coffee stains and wrinkled pages. (I tried to meditate a bit so as not to get a resentment, but I don't think it worked. I finally gave the book away.) However, I recently re-read it - a library copy with no stains - and found it to be entertaining and helpful. Its short chapters/essays include practical ways to practice mindfulness and meditation within the busyness of our everyday lives.
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. Actually, I am just beginning this book written by a Buddhist monk whose name I cannot pronounce. The cover tells me this is The Classic Bestseller and I have no cause to doubt that. From the preface: In my experience, I have found that the most effective way to express something new in a way people can understand is to use the simplest language possible. I am all for that. Chapters deal with: meditation - why bother; what meditation is and isn't; how and when to sit; what to do about distractions; mindfulness; and loving friendliness.
If you meditate or have ever tried to, I am sure you have your own book to recommend and I would be happy to hear from you.