Meditation is a mental exercise that trains attention and awareness. Its purpose is often to curb reactivity to one's thoughts and feelings, which, though they may be disturbing and upsetting and hijack attention from moment to moment, are invariably fleeting.
There are many ways of meditating and no one right way. One common way is to turn attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase, known as a mantra. Known as mindfulness meditation, it lessens distractability and promotes focusing on, and enjoyment of, the present moment. It can take a bit of effort to keep focused and to develop a regular meditation routine. Nevertheless, research demonstrates that it has many benefits for mind and body.
Meditation methods date back thousands of years, but they have new relevance in the modern world and have gained popularity as ways to generate inner calm. A cartoon from The New Yorker magazine sums it up: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older monk responds, "Nothing happens next. This is it."