“You focus on your breathing, and thoughts will come as they always do,” Ms. Harazduk says. “The idea is not to push them away. It’s to become mindful of them and let it go and come back to your breathing.”
Transcendental meditation, she says, tells its practitioners not to focus on any such thoughts.
Aur Gal, director of the Maharishi Peace Palace in Bethesda, says meditations generally fall into two categories. Concentration techniques focus the mind on a particular object or thought. Contemplative techniques take that perspective, but let practitioners ruminate on the object or thought in question.
“In both, the mind is kept on the surface thinking level of the mind,” Mr. Gal says. “That is why concentration is so difficult. The nature of the mind is to move.”
Transcendental meditation allows the mind to go where it naturally wants to go, he says, “to the more subtle levels of awareness.”
Marcia Corey, a naturopath with the Washington Institute of Natural Medicine, says every method of meditation has value and reaches the same goal.
“You’re focusing on clearing your mind so you can become more attentive and aware,” says Ms. Corey, who as a naturopath is trained in such noninvasive techniques as herbology, acupressure, muscle relaxation and exercise therapy. “It eventually gets you beyond yourself. It opens up your mind to taking control of your life, of understanding your life.”
Some people are able to do that by paying attention to their breathing, while others pay attention to a spot or a sight beyond themselves, she says.
Our increasingly complex world makes meditation a much-needed respite in our lives, Ms. Corey says.
“This is an ability to keep the mind calm. It helps to react in a calmer fashion to everyday situations,” she says.