The basic idea behind meditation is that it is an exercise that teaches you to accept things the way they are. The way it does this is that when you meditate, you actually practice accepting things the way they are, and like anything, the more you practice the better you get. Gradually you become more accepting of things. When you meditate, you try to do two things. First, you try to pay attention to the breath going in and out of your nose without controlling it. You just watch it. If your mind wanders and you start thinking about something else, when you notice that your mind wandered, you bring your attention back to your breath. The second thing that you try to do is to accept how you are doing. If you can barely pay attention at all, you just accept it without getting annoyed. This sounds easy but itís incredibly difficult because it is contrary to the way weíve thought our whole lives. When you try to do something, if you do it well, you are happy. If you do it badly, you become unhappy. Even though it doesnít really matter how well you are doing, just by trying to pay attention, you will want to do it well out of habit. You may accept how you are doing for a little while, but inevitably something will come up in your mind that you donít accept. You may become bored, or tired, or uncomfortable, or you will want to feel differently than you do. You just have to try to accept these feelings. Of course you wonít be able to do this. Meditation is an exercise where by practicing, you get better at what youíre practicing. Itís like working out. You practice lifting weights and gradually you get better at it. In meditation you practice accepting things the way they are and gradually you get better at it. If you meditate regularly, you will become more accepting of how your meditation is going. This will carry over into your life and you will become more accepting of things in life. The more you meditate, the more accepting you will become.
You might wonder how being more accepting of how you pay attention to your breathing will have an affect on the rest of your life. This is the best analogy I can give. Letís say someone couldnít deal with losing at anything. If they lose at basketball, they throw a tantrum. If they lose at chess, they get furious. If they lose an argument, theyíre pissed off for an hour. Now letís say that person tried to accept when they lost at basketball. Whenever they lost at basketball they would do whatever they could not to get angry, and gradually they learned to deal with losing at basketball. You would think that if they then lost at chess, they wouldnít get angry. Itís the same with meditation.
Becoming more accepting of things not being the way you want affects so many different aspects of your life. You become more accepting of things not going the way you want in life and people not acting how theyíre "supposed to" act. These are the main causes of anger in life so you become less angry in circumstances that tend to make you angry and less angry in general. As you become more accepting of things not going how you want, you start to feel more like, "Whatever happens, happens. Iíll deal with it." This helps get rid of the natural fear of the unknown which tends to keep people from having a full life because theyíre afraid of the negative possibility of new experiences. In the same way, it helps get rid of peopleís fear of change. As you become less fearful of the unknown, you become less fearful of the future being different from how you want. And when you arenít afraid of the future, you can enjoy the present more fully.
In addition, you become more accepting of your moods. When people are unhappy, angry, or just donít feel how they would like to feel in any situation, they tend to get annoyed or upset by the way the way that they are feeling. This makes the situation worse and it becomes more difficult to come out of the "bad" mood. So when you become more accepting of your moods, you tend to come out of bad moods quicker. Overall, you become more relaxed at your core because your whole attitude towards life gradually becomes more relaxed. You also become more accepting of who you are so you won't try as much to act like something you're not. This leads to a gradual transformation where you begin to feel like you are becoming the "real" you.
As I said before, you also become more accepting of your faults so you become more honest about yourself which makes people respect you more. Because of their ego, many people aren't willing to admit faults that they have instead blaming things on other people. Pretty much everybody does this to some degree. Accepting the fact that you do something that is wrong is the first and arguably most important step to changing that behavior.
The world is populated with people who sometimes do things that are wrong. Even the people you care about most aren't perfect. The more you accept people for who they are, the closer you feel to them. Gradually you start to feel compassion instead of anger. This makes you feel more connected to the people you care about as well as people in general. This doesnít mean once you start meditating you wonít get angry and just feel compassion for everyone. It just means that gradually some of the anger will be replaced. Itís a long road. But if you practice, thereís very little chance that you will say, "My life is better, but it wasnít worth the effort."
You might ask why you should use your breath as the object of your attention. One reason is that your breath is both conscious and unconscious. You can control it or let go of it. In meditation, you try to let go of it but you will often find that you are controlling it. This is further practice in trying to do your best at something and then letting go of the outcome. Because in life, you canít control the world, you can only do your best work to get things to the situation you want. In the end, the more you let go of the outcome, and accept the things that are out of your control, the happier you will be. Itís like that old saying, "Give me the serenity to accept the things I canít change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
The second reason that you use your breath as the object of attention is that your breathing is directly related to your mindset. When you are relaxed, your breathing is relaxed, when you are nervous, your breathing changes. There are so many nuances in the way your breath changes related to your thinking. So by paying attention to your breath, you are indirectly looking at your mind. And by practicing accepting how your breathing is, you are indirectly practicing accepting the way your mind is.
Taken from articles on meditation, guides to meditation, personal experience, and articles on peoples beliefs of the wonders of meditation