Meditation, especially passive meditation, brings us face to face with our subconscious. Not unlike opening up a Pandora`s box full of mischief, if we are not ready to encounter our inner selves, it could end up being a disastrous experience instead of an enlightening one! And the most vulnerable seem to be-people with overwhelming anxiety, who are emotionally or psychologically disturbed, those who have problems accepting reality, people who suffer from acute paranoia and even those who develop delusions of grandeur from the altered states of consciousness that meditation tends to produce.
To avoid such psychosis or simply getting lost in our thoughts and ending up confused and disturbed, it is necessary to begin meditation sessions with formal practice. Different schools of thought prescribe different methods of such preparation, but they all agree on the absolute necessity of concentration exercises preceding meditation. These preparation techniques are as varied as praying, chanting mantras, performing pranayama or even visualizing. Once the mind becomes trained for concentration, actual formless or mindfulness meditation can proceed, such as sitting in silence, practicing self-inquiry or performing devotional meditation.
While Hinduism-based schools of thought insist on a proper sattvic (pure or ascetic) lifestyle as a primary condition to true meditation, Buddhist mindfulness meditation prescribes contemplation on the `Four Protections` and the `Nine Attributes` of the Buddha.
A helpful tip to keep in mind would be that ultimately meditation is all about being at peace with oneself. It cannot perform miracles out of thin air. It does not solve problems magically. It`s simply a technique, which acquaints you with the person you really are. And having gained that timeless knowledge, it is you who will take that first step towards self-transformation. Remember always that the technique of meditation is nothing more than a tool in your hands!