Here is what I have learned about meditation.
Benefits I have seen for myself: decreased stress and anxiety, and ability to respond to most things in a calm manner. Also decreased irritation and anger.
There are studies coming out all the time proving that meditation causes physical changes in the brain. E.g., if you meditate ten minutes a day for three weeks, an MRI will show changes to your wiring.
Here is how I meditate:
The most difficult thing about meditation is dealing with distraction. Sometimes I sit for just ten minutes, and nine minutes in, I realize I've been thinking about work the entire time.
When this first started happening to me, I thought "This is hard. I can't do this".
But then I continued to practice, and I went to many meditation classes, and I've discovered a distraction solution which works for me.
Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that to become an expert at something, you had to practice it for 10,000 hours.
I think he probably just made up that number, but it inspired me to come up with a rule for meditation.
"To become a meditation master, you must be distracted 10,000 times."
Each time you get distracted, instead of punishing yourself, you should be celebrating that you NOTICED that you were distracted, and that you have the OPPORTUNITY to refocus on your breath.
This precise refocusing is like doing pushups for your brain. You are building a habit to transform interruption into calmness. The more you do this, the better you will handle all types of interruption in daily life. It will become automatic. When someone cuts you off in traffic, rather than getting angry, an experienced meditation student will just be calm.
Please share your meditation stories with me, as I would like to learn from other's experiences.
See also my Buddhism list and reducing pain.