There is more to the Buddhist Path than meditation alone. However, if one is seeking enlightenment it is central to it. The principle concern of the Buddha was for us to open our own eyes to the reality of our existence in the world and to do what is necessary to be forever released from all forms of suffering. This awakening can begin through meditation.
Much of our daily life is played out thoughtlessly, without awareness, on auto-pilot. We act but we don’t always look at our motivations or the consequences of our actions. As a result, suffering, unsatisfactoriness and stress are brought into our lives, and our relationships become tainted by anger, hurt and jealousy. Our self-image also becomes distorted. By training the mind through meditation we develop greater awareness, we can begin living consciously and changing our relationship with the world around us, as well as discovering our own true nature. Importantly, we become kinder, more compassionate, joyful and balanced people.
There is also more than one way to meditate, so the choice of a single technique or a combination of techniques is up to each individual. However, it is best to avoid mixing in more than one approach per sitting. The suggestions here are based on the teachings of the Buddha in the Pali Canon, and have been in use ever since and are part of a living tradition. If you feel that techniques that have helped others are also reasonably likely to help you, that is enough to proceed.
Time spent meditating is quality time. Starting out, one could consider a 20 to 30 minute session each day, then gradually increase it as circumstances allow. Eventually after many months, two daily sessions of 30 to 60 minutes would be beneficial.
The benefits of meditation will start appearing soon after taking up regular practice. In time, with patience and belief, these will blossom into real wisdom and incredible calmness and joy. Truly mastering a form of meditation will take a number of years for most people.
It is true that there are many ways to meditate, and many schools offering different approaches. Whatever choices one makes, it is essential to put in commitment, discipline and effort, since nothing worthwhile is achieved without these. So, while being gentle, be persistent too.