Meditation practice involves developing three skills: concentration power, sensory clarity, and equanimity. That's it. And we develop those skills as with any other, by practicing them. That's all you need to know and you can turn to the guided meditation practice section and begin the journey that never ends. But you probably want me to say more.
The Three Skills
Concentration Power is the ability to focus your attention on whatever you deem relevant for as long as you want. This is one of the most fundamental of all human skills. Without the ability to focus your attention where and when you want it, it is doubtful that you can learn much of anything or even function as a living being. Conversely, the stronger your concentration power, the better your ability to learn and function. So no matter what you are trying to do in life, improving your concentration power will make you more effective.
Concentration power can be thought of as existing across two dimensions: spatial and temporal. The spatial component is the range of focus or how big a slice of the incoming sensory stream you choose to cover with attention. For example, you might focus on just the somatic sensation at the very tip of your nose. Near the other end of the continuum you might cover all of visual experience, objective and subjective. Or it could be anything in between. The temporal component is how long you keep your attention directed at a particular sensory event. For example, if your focus range is all body sensations, you might cover that whole range evenly and continuously OR you might allow your attention to move freely within that range, focusing briefly but intently on each sensory event, OR you might systematically scan through the whole body, and so on.
Concentration power is developed by simply returning your attention to the desired object of focus each time the attention wanders. It is rather like weight training where each repetition of a movement against resistance increases muscle strength. Each time attention wanders and you bring it back, your concentration power gets a little stronger. The wandering and returning is an expected part of the training.
Because many of us are so habituated to applying an overlay of verbal thinking onto every sensory experience, continuously subjecting the manifested self-and-world to a conceptual filter, we come to believe that focusing our attention on some aspect of sensory experience is the same as thinking about it. It isn't. Focusing your attention on some sensory experience does NOT mean having an internal monologue ABOUT the sensory experience. But many people have such a strong habit of living inside a verbal narrative about the world that they can't believe it is possible to have awareness without that verbal narrative. But it is.
If you have a hard time believing that awareness apart from verbal thinking is possible, consider this: when you stub your toe on the table leg, do you need to construct an internal narrative before you feel the pain? Of course not. You are perfectly capable of experiencing pain, and every other sensory experience, without verbal thinking. Or consider this: even if you have continuous mental chatter during every waking moment, there are still gaps between sentences in internal talk. Do you black out during those gaps? If not, then awareness without verbal thinking is clearly possible for you. But the easiest approach is to just trust me for now and soon, with practice, you will see for yourself that awareness and verbal thinking are not one and the same.
Sensory Clarity is the ability to detect and untangle the components of sensory experience in real time. There are two sub-parts to this skill: sensitivity and resolution.
Sensitivity is the ability to detect ever more subtle sensory events: faint sounds, wispy body sensations, fleeting thoughts, etc.
Resolution is the ability to detect multiple components withing a previously unitary sensory experience. For example, the sound of machinery might resolve into a low-frequency rumble with a pulsing intensity and a chaotic rattle. Discomfort in the body might resolve into a dull ache with tension flavored by fear or sadness.
Development of sensory clarity rides on increasing concentration power. Sustained attention allows sensory experience to unfold its richness like the opening of a flower. But it is a bit more than just sustained focus. Within sustained focus there must be a letting go of the need to "move on" to the next event, instead penetrating the sensory experience of the present moment, becoming fascinated with mapping its contours.
Equanimity is deep contentment with sensory experience just as it is in the present moment. It has also been described as radical non-interference with the natural flow of sensory experience, complete acceptance, non-resistance, surrender to the will of God, and so on. It is an attitude of letting go of the need to have things be different than they are in the present moment.
It isn't easy to develop equanimity directly. Since equanimity can be described as letting go of the need to have your experience be different than it already is right now, that includes letting go of the need to have equanimity when you don't. So trying to intentionally "get" equanimity is a bit of a paradox. You can "invite" it in to consciousness by systematically relaxing the body and intentionally dismissing judging thoughts, but the invitation might be rudely ignored. No RSVP or nothin'!
More often than not, equanimity is something you need to fall into randomly during a state of high awareness. Equanimity relieves suffering so if you fall into it during a state of high awareness coupled with some discomfort (physical or mental), your brain learns to seek equanimity in challenging circumstances. The more often you experience equanimity in this way, the more readily available that state becomes.
So the development of equanimity is largely a function of spending time in a state of high concentration and clarity and waiting for the Equanimity Fairy to come and tap you with their magic contentment wand.
See the article "A Deeper Look at Equanimity" for a bit more.
Meditation consists of selecting a focus range within sensory experience, a technique that involves concentration, clarity, and equanimity, and doing it regularly. Regularly means most days. Even five minutes (I KNOW you have five minutes to spare) is infinitely better than none. But twenty would be much better. And forty would be really sweet! You should also try to arrange at least one more intense practice session each year. Ideally this would be a residential retreat of a week or more. But a weekend retreat would do it.