I recently read the best book about meditation that I have ever read - The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. (It is available online at iTunes or at Amazon.com.) If you want to meditate, but have felt intimidated, then this is the book for you! This beautiful monk shares stories about how he struggled with meditation and anxiety. Reading his story is inspirational and will likely help you feel not so alone in your struggles with meditation. The Rinpoche weaves Buddhist philosophy with neuroscience and quantum physics in a way that is easy to understand.
Yongey Mingyur also explains many different types of meditation in a way that helps reduce the intimidation factor. I am certain that you can connect with one of the types of meditation he teaches to get you started. For me, it was validating to read a Buddhist monk saying some of the same things that I have said to clients over the years. I have taught meditation to many people over the years and I always tell people to start small and easy. I think it is better to do even a few minutes of meditation a day than to do none. I think many people believe that they must meditate for 30-60 minutes, and, so, they never find the time to start. The Rinpoche even talks about meditating for a few seconds at a time!
The other big factor that seems to intimidate people about meditation is they believe that they must learn to stop all thoughts to have a completely clear mind. This is a myth! I enjoyed Rinpoche’s explanation that we can no more stop the brain from thinking than we can stop the heart from beating. By nature, the brain thinks. Let me say this again… meditation is NOT about stopping your thoughts! Know that you will have thoughts while you meditate. Rather than getting upset or thinking that you have failed, simply bring your awareness back to the present moment. The key to meditating is being aware of your thoughts and gently bringing your awareness back to the present moment. Rather than getting carried away by the random flow of thoughts, you want to become the observer of those thoughts while you stay present in the moment. Eventually, with practice you can learn to rest your mind in the gaps between thoughts.
Bottom line tips: start meditating for a minute or two each day... even the busiest among us can manage to find that time. Remember that having thoughts while you meditate is normal! Simply bring your mind gently back to the present moment.