The kind of meditation the Buddha is said to have taught is most closely reflected in Vippassana or ‘insight’ meditation. The technique is extremely simple: no special apparatus or prior knowledge is needed, just a quiet place and a period of time. All you have to do it sit comfortably with a straight back and observe your breath. Nothing more. In time, the practice is intended to bring about clarity and insight into the nature of the self, and that of reality.
Some years ago, I attended one of S. N. Goenka’s famous ten day Vippassana retreats. The Goenka organization is a worldwide group dedicated to teaching the practice of insight meditation. The retreats are tough – many hours of meditation, only two small meals per day, basic communal facilities such as dorms, and a strict code of silence. Attendees are not allowed phones, books, journals or any other form of intellectual stimulation.
The Goenka courses are excellent in the sense that they force you to meditate – there are quite literally no distractions, and one is forced to face up to the many obvious – and subtle – ways in which we try to avoid a practice which is so alien to our restless mind and which forces us to face some uncomfortable realities. But for those not quite ready to take the plunge, there are plenty of online courses available, such as those offered by Wildmind. It is also usually possible to find a local meditation centre offering guided evening sessions.