The word has a formality to it that has likely deterred many who could benefit from this practice. And to add to the confusion, there are those who insist it must be done in a certain way or with a particular intent, legs crossed just so, forefinger and thumb touching, tongue to the roof of the mouth, breathing rhythmic, in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Perhaps that ideal is something to work your way toward, if you are interested in learning the formal techniques of meditation. Or maybe you just need to take a little time for yourself in the day, to relax, put the mind off to the side, connect with spirit and open to receiving guidance and inspiration. And maybe you don’t have a lot of time.

Some people are plagued by their thoughts and worries, controlled by their minds. What if your mind, held hostage by fears and doubts, was in the driver’s seat, taking you on a wild ride every day of your life? What if you thought this was normal, accepted it as the way things were? What if this stress were affecting your health?

I meet a lot of people, within the course of a normal workday who fit this description to some degree. The meditation techniques I will offer here are designed to be functional, not formal. Feel free to modify them to suit your needs. There is no right or wrong way to do them. Let your feelings guide you.

3- Minute Meditation. Sit in any comfortable position, as long as the back is straight. It is preferable if the body is in symmetry as much as possible. You may want to use a timer. Even if your mind has a strong grip on you, you can do this for 3 minutes (and if you put it on your “to-do” list, you’ll feel even better when you can check something off). Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. You can use “yoga breathing” if you like, inflating the stomach with each in-breath and deflating with each out-breath. Meditation is not about pushing thought away. Thoughts will come. Even the monks have this problem. Simply acknowledge the thought, put it in a cloud, and let it drift off. Another will follow. Repeat the process. Continue to focus on your breathing. The timer will go off soon. When the 5 minutes are up, you will feel calmer. You’ve done it right.

White Light Meditation. Relax as above. When you feel a little calmer, imagine a circle of light opening just above your head (crown chakra). Imagine the light flooding the body and aura, forming a protective sphere around you. This meditation connects you with your higher self and serves as a defense against negative energies. Gradually, you will become more aware of “energy drains.” You may also reinforce this shield throughout the day by breathing deeply and seeing or feeling the core of light around you.

Head-Heart Meditation. This one aligns the head and heart chakras. It’s good for when you feel emotionally out-of-balance, need to trust your intuition, or have a decision to make. It also gives the mind something to do so it won’t “drift” so easily. Relax as above. When calm, imagine a quarter-sized ball of light coming from the middle of the chest (heart chakra). Bring this light about a foot in front of this area. As you breathe in, bring the light up to an area about the same distance in front of the lower middle forehead (third eye chakra). As you breathe out, the ball will go back down to the heart. Repeat this for several cycles of breath.

Release Meditation. To release the energy of a person or situation. Relax as above, using the breathing to get to a space of calm. When you feel ready, picture the person’s face or a symbol you’ve chosen to represent the situation you wish to release. Open the heart chakra (middle chest area) and imagine a ray of light radiating outward, toward the image. See the image dissolved in the light and send it off into the atmosphere. This process will only take a few seconds. You will feel the energy rise and fall. When you have more than one person to release, sometimes the next face will just pop up after you’ve cleared the last one. Repeat the release process. A good time to do this release is in the early evening after work but well before bedtime. If you want to make this more formal, do it at the full moon or when the moon is waning (going from full to new). You can also light a white candle or make a circle of 9 (the number of completion) tea-lites. Just as the process of release or forgiveness is usually not something achieved in a single action, you may want to consider doing this meditation for 45 days.

Walking (or Awake) Meditation. Perform any task meditatively, focusing on your breath and the motions your body is making. Be fully aware and present. Rather than trying not to think, observe your mind. This is most effectively done while doing a task you would normally do “mindlessly” such as a household chore, walking or driving. Driving is an especially good activity to perform mindfully rather than in a trance, which is the way most people drive.

Listening Meditation. This is being fully present to another person in conversation. Again, this meditation begins with being aware of your breath and fully conscious of being in your body. Be very present with the other person. You may find yourself naturally mirroring some of his/her movements. Actually, this is an N.L.P. (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) technique that enhances connection. There are, of course, times when this meditation is easier to engage in than others. When you already feel a strong bond and an agreement with what the other is saying, it happens more naturally. But the best time to practice this is with someone who presents more of a challenge to listen to, or when you may not agree with what’s being said. Just listen, breathe, be present. Honor the person underneath the words. Honor the soul within the person.