There are numerous ways to meditate, making a flexible practice you can use to meet your specific goals and needs. Meditation can be formal or more casual. Let's look at some common types, starting with a method that may be helpful for those new to using meditation. This list is by no means exhaustive, and you can find more information about these and other meditation techniques via online search.
In this type of meditation, you focus on creating mental images of places or circumstances that are relaxing to you. You can listen to a recording of a guided meditation describing relaxing situations or events to picture in your mind. You can also focus your attention on something meaningful to you, such as a beautiful nature scene or a sacred spiritual symbol, and try to keep the picture in your mind as you focus on experiencing its beauty and relaxation. You can also keep your eyes open and focus on a relaxing item present in the room with you, such as a candle.
I find it helpful to start with a recording of a guided meditation, as your mind will frequently start to wander when first practicing meditation. Having a recorded voice guide you through the process helps keep you focused. As you become successful with keeping your attention on the guided meditation, it may become easier to meditate without being guided.
A great place to get started with guided meditation is with The Honest Guys channel on YouTube, but you can also search for videos with the search term "guided meditation."
When using this type of meditation, you will (silently, in your mind) repeat a calming thought, word, or phrase to relax and prevent distracting thoughts from entering your mind. This can be done accompanied by some soft, non-distracting music. This type of meditation can also be helpful when faced with a stressful situation during the course of your day. For example, when faced with a difficult person, you may repeat to yourself something like, "I am in a state of non-judgmental peace." Reminding yourself of your intention to approach people without judgement and without allowing them to disrupt your personal peace can be helpful when dealing with difficult situations and people.
Mindfulness meditation focuses on being "in the moment." You can focus on what you are directly experiencing during the meditation, such as your breathing. You observe your thoughts and feelings during the process, but you practice on letting them pass without judgement. The idea is to experience what is happening in the present moment (without blocking anything out) and become at peace with it. I've heard it described as "resting" in the present moment.
I try to apply this idea to daily life by accepting things in life without judgement (which of course, is not always easy). I try to accept things I cannot change and try to feel "one" with them. This is a fairly new skill for me, and I will be blogging about developing this skill here on the site.
There is a formal program called "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)" that is often used in health care settings. This program is secular and focuses on helping people cope with health problems.
Transcendental Meditation focuses on allowing your mind to progressively experience higher levels of consciousness. There is a very specific process to Transcendental Meditation (in fact, it is a registered trademark), but the basic process involves focusing on a mantra (such as a sound, word, or phrase) as well as a relaxing posture and a focus on slow breathing.
Transcendental Meditation seems to have a lot of research behind it, but it is learned by hiring a certified Transcendental Meditation teacher to teach you the technique. Before hiring anyone, please make sure you've thoroughly researched the technique and the individual teacher to make sure it is right for you. The official website for this technique is in the introductory video below: