Meditation is an exercise for your mind - a type of contemplative practice. This exercise takes different shapes depending on the style of meditation that you are practising but, in general, it involves:

• Relaxation. Relaxing your body, slowing your breath, and calming your mind.

• Stillness. Traditionally, meditation involves stilling the body, either in a seated or lying-down position. However, some techniques are more dynamic, such as Kinhin (walking meditation).

• Looking inside. Whether you keep your eyes open or closed, meditation turns your attention inwards, towards yourself, rather than towards the external world.

• Awareness. In meditation, you become a witness to your mental and emotional states, and let go of thoughts, feelings, and distractions.

• Focus. Most practices involve focusing the attention on a single object, such as a candle flame or your breath (concentration), while others focus the attention on noticing whatever shows up in your consciousness in the present moment (observation).

By nature, certain techniques incorporate a spiritual element - their goal is to help the practitioner to experience altered states of consciousness and realities beyond the material world. However. most meditations can be practiced in a secular way, so you don't need to believe or follow any particular religion or philosophy.

Above all, meditation is a way to understand, exercise, and explore your mind. This makes it a deeply personal experience.