Here are some brief instructions on how to meditate from the Zen Mountain Monastery. It is a concentration practice, which are usually viewed as foundational meditation practices. In various Buddhist traditions once concentration is strengthened it is complemented with awareness practices, also known as mindfulness meditation.
Begin rocking the body back and forth, slowly, in decreasing arcs, until you settle at your center of gravity. The mind is in the hara, hands are folded in the cosmic mudra, mouth is closed, tongue pressed on the upper palate. You’re breathing through the nose and you’re completely experiencing the breath. Keep your attention on the hara and the breath.
We begin to steady and stabilize the mind by counting the breath. We practice by counting each inhalation and each exhalation, beginning with one and counting up to ten. Inhale—at the end of the inhalation, count one. Exhale—at the end of the exhalation, count two. When you get to ten, come back to one and start all over. The only agreement that you make with yourself in this process is that if your mind begins to wander—if you become aware that what you’re doing is chasing thoughts – you will look at the thought, acknowledge it, and then deliberately and consciously let it go and begin the count again at one.
The counting is a feedback to help you know when your mind has drifted off. Each time you return to the breath you are empowering yourself with the ability to put your mind where you want it, when you want it there, for as long as you want it there. That simple fact is extremely important. We call this power of concentration joriki, or spiritual power.