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Getting to know, and start practicing meditation?

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I've been interested in meditation and self-realization for a long time and now that summer's here i have more time to read about it, get to know it, and practice it! What do you recommend to get started?

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Hello and best wishes for your learning meditation. There are many approaches, and none work better than the approach you design yourself.
It does not matter if you use a mantra, hypnotic exercise, prayer or relaxation exercise, since they all basically accomplish the same goal - slowing down your mental processes enough to concentrate on a specific topic or item.
It is best not to try problem solving with your exercises. I recommend starting with relaxation exercises. Sitting comfortably, with arms and legs uncrossed and relaxed, eyes closed and then focusing on the scalp mentally, causing a warmth and tingling to be felt. This is accompanied by relaxation of the muscles in the scalp.
Slowly extend the sensation of warmth and tingling to the temples, face, ears, neck, throat, shoulders, arms down to the fingertips, again from the shoulders into the chest and upper back,, down to the low back, abdomen, pelvis and hips, thighs, calves and feet.
This can take as little as 30 seconds or up to a few minutes. The gain is in the trying and with repetition, it occurs more quickly.
Holding the sense of relaxation as long as possible is also a matter of practice.
The hectic pace of life can trigger overstimulation of the brain, causing the mind to ramble and lose focus. A brief respite with relaxation can reset your mechanisms and let you get more pleasure with less stress.
I have been treating patients with pain syndromes for years, and find this simple approach a great aid.
PL

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No offense to the other person who has answered, but I say get professional instruction. Meditation can be very powerful, if you do things without guidance you could have very mixed experiences. I say this out of experience!
There's a lot of good techniques out there. Personally I favor Sahaj Samadhi, Yogananda's Kriya, or TM. These should all be available in major metropolitan areas. There are also many good Buddhist centers that teach meditation in major metropolitan areas.
Go with something you feel good about -- let your intuition guide you! And if you don't get results, it just means you haven't found the style that truly is for you.
Good luck to you!

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The first answer is great. I'll just add that the book "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh gets to the heart of meditation in an accessible, gentle way. And, if you were brought up going to church, his book "Living Buddha, Living Christ" is beautifully enlightening about the parallels between the Christian and Buddhist traditions.

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http://www.rda-enterprises.com
http://www.rda-enterprises.com/index.php?main_page=page&id=4&chapter=3
The links above take you to an awesome site for learning to meditate and more...

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