(Before entering into the following exercises, it should be noted that I am not a licensed meditation instructor or a medical professional of any kind. These are just a few meditations I learned in school that have been helpful for me.)

For Relaxation:

Basically the point of this meditation, and most meditation in general, is to clear the mind of its natural inclination toward a linear, logical thought process, which, with any luck, leads to a state of relaxation and heightened awareness.

The idea is to concentrate on one specific thing (an "object of focus")and to fix your mind on that one thing, not allowing any other thoughts to enter your mind. If thoughts sparked by background noise, muscle spasms, etc. enter you mind, do your best to work back to your object of focus. A good way to deal with a “noisy mind,” is to promise yourself before meditation that you will deal with everything that is on your mind after meditating, but for now, you must clear your mind.

So, with that said, the object of focus in this meditation is both a number and one’s own breathing. It is a very simple, but very effective meditation.

Sit in a comfortable position. Crossed legs are fine. If you feel comfortable doing so, a half-lotus or full-lotus posture is said to be more effective, but the important thing is that you are comfortable and your back is straight. Often a certain hand position is preferable, but just resting your hands on your knees, palms up, is a good, open position.

Close your eyes. Sometimes, you may choose to concentrate on some object or picture that aids in relaxation and meditation, but closing your eyes usually makes it easier to concentrate on the meditation instead of what’s going on around you.

What you’re going to do is count backward from twenty, taking a breath each time you count a number, silently, concentrating all our attention on that number. If you get to five and then start thinking, “Oh crap, I forgot about that assignment I have to do for tomorrow,” start over at twenty again. It may take quite a while for you to get all the way to zero with a quiet mind, but it will be worth it.

So, take a deep, slow breath in, and concentrate on the number 20. Then breathe out slowly. Take another breath in, thinking only of the number 19. Continue this until you get to zero. Remember: if anything distracts you, start over again at 20. When you reach zero, open your eyes, but do not immediately begin moving around again and talking. Sit for a moment and experience what you are feeling. Notice how quickly your mind begins to fill with thoughts again.

This exercise can be done any time you need to chill out. It doesn’t take very long to do, and I have found it quite beneficial. The more often you do it, the fewer numbers it will take for you reach the feeling you accomplished from the first time. If you begin to associate a certain hand position with the meditation, you can eventually reach a point where that hand position alone will be able to send you into that state of relaxation and awareness.

Another relaxation meditation involves a more visual element. In this one, with your eyes closed, picture yourself on the bottom of the ocean, just kind of floating peacefully. Relaxed.

As soon as any outside thought enters your head, picture it as a word coming out of your mouth. As it exits your mouth, watch as it is placed inside a tiny bubble in front of you. Then watch as the bubble floats up to the surface of the water and with it, the thought you have placed inside.

At first, you may have a lot of bubbles, but slowly, there will be fewer and fewer of them until (with any luck) you find there are none at all.

You may remain in this state as long as you feel comfortable, but, as with the other, you should ease out of it, rather than jumping straight into something else.

For Concentration:

There are a lot of variations on this meditation. It is useful if you are stressing out before an exam or something of that sort. It should allow you to ignore the little things plaguing your mind, and let you concentrate on the task at hand. It tends to relax you, as well, just because relaxation tends to be a side-affect of sitting quiet and still for a minute or two.

Once again, posture is important; your back should be straight. Sitting is generally more effective than lying down, if only because you are more prone to falling asleep if you are lying down. If you are a person who doesn’t fall asleep in the middle of the day, this shouldn’t be a problem. But, otherwise, it’s best to sit up with your back straight.

What you do in this meditation is think of a room with which you are very familiar. Bedrooms tend to work well, because there are usually a lot of details, but any room that has a general feeling of comfort and familiarity for you will work.

Once you have decided on the room, imagine yourself standing in the middle of this room. Try to recreate, in your mind’s eye, every detail of the room as it looks from where you are standing. Look in front of you. Concentrate on every object you can see in front of you.

You may move your focus around the room in any way you see fit, following any direction or pattern that is comfortable for you, but try to cover every square inch of your room. Just follow your eyes wherever they lead you, but wherever they take you, concentrate on everything in your view and really look at every little detail of everything.

If there is a particular object that is difficult for you to see at first, dwell on it for a moment or two until you see it very clearly. Let your mind’s eye and your thoughts lead you around the room. Notice the position of everything in the room.

Once you have worked your way around the whole room, including the ceiling and the floor, stand back and try to see everything at once, as though you were actually standing in the room. If there is anything that is still hazy, concentrate on that one thing until it is clear, then go back and try to see the room as a whole again. When you have stood for a few moments in your room, slowly open your eyes. You should feel an increased sense of clarity and attentiveness, and you should be more able to concentrate on one specific task or idea.

Use this visualization whenever necessary. It tends to take longer than the first two, so make sure you have allotted yourself enough time to do it thoroughly.