Meditation used to be seen by many people as something simply religious or just a stress-reducer. Some have seen it as something pretentious or New Age-y.

In fact, in recent years, scientific study has re-discovered the power of this ancient practice. In controlled-outcome research, basic meditation techniques have been shown to be highly beneficial, time after time.

Meditation can be a catalyst for healing and growth in therapy. It is a way for you to become your own therapist, purely in the sense that you develop mindfulness, the ability to observe your own mind. You begin to live more and more in the present, rather than living in the past (depression) or living in the future (anxiety). This is not some remote, unattainable enlightenment; it is coming back to our essential intelligence and basic goodness, which are always present.

For those interested, I offer informal meditation instruction, in a brief, 5 to 10 minute format, as a part of counseling. If you have tried meditating before without success, I know the feeling. There are many ways to bypass that problem, most of all, not trying so hard.

Below is a sample of mindfulness meditation steps. . .

Use mindful breathing to relax and calm your mind. Start by sitting comfortably on a chair or cushion with your spine straight (off the chair back). Eyes are open, with a soft, downward gaze. Take a nice, big breath and slowly exhale. Now all that's left to do is to notice your simple in-breath and out-breath, just as it is.

We don't make any effort to make something special happen. We just notice the physical sensation of the breath. When thoughts begin to crop up, that's natural. Just silently label them "thinking", and bring your attention back to your breath. Without judgment. Continue this process for 5 or 10 minutes, taking a break and then repeating again. Try it in the morning and/or the evening.

This basic meditation has fueled the ancient teachings for millennia.