Meditation is an ancient way of calming mind and body, such that we can see the world clearly and be at peace. There are many meditation techniques, but all use much the same core principles of encouraging the body to be relaxed, but awake and developing a gentle focus (on the meditation object, which can be the breath, body, physical and mental images/object, a short phrase or “mantra”). The mind will tend to wander (so called “monkey-mind”) and the challenge of the practice is to gently recognise that this has happened and return to the meditation “object”. Repeatedly returning to the same thing trains the mind and allows it to settle. Once the body and mind are calmed, states of well-being, joy and “insight” can arise, thereby promoting healing of body and mind.
Meditation is practiced is both religious/spiritual settings and in modern “secular” settings. Many of the techniques commonly practised come from ancient India (the birthplace of Buddhism and Yogic practises) and China/Japan. In recent years, meditation has become much more popular and can be practised by anyone or any spiritual/religious background or none.
Meditation can be practised sitting in a chair or standing, you don't need to be able to get into the lotus position!. A common misconception is that people think their mind is too busy to learn to meditate, but with practice and gentle persistence, it is possible for pretty much anybody to learn.
Mindfulness during daily life is often practiced/developed along with some “formal” (static) meditation techniques, as the two complement one another. Mindfulness exercises involve setting an intention to be awake and “in the moment” during everyday life, and to notice when the mind wanders, then bring it back to whatever activity is being undertaken. There are several mindfulness techniques and as with meditation, the techniques take some practice and perseverance to integrate into daily living. Mindfulness is of prime importance in the Buddhist path although it can be practiced by anyone with any belief system, or none. Along with meditation, mindfulness is a great complimentary therapy and can help with stress, pain and managing chronic health problems.