Meditation means awareness or 'a cessation thought process'. What ever you do with awareness is meditation. Things such as watching yourself breathe and listening to the birds sing. As long as these activities are free from any other distraction of mind, it is an effective meditation.
Meditation is derived from two Latin words. 'Meditari' meaning to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the mind. 'Mederi' meaning to heal. The Sanskrit derivation 'medha' simply means wisdom.
Meditation is a state of consciousness when the mind is free of scattered thoughts and various patterns. When you meditate you have the opportunity to to become aware of your old patterns and habits of your mind. Meditation offers you a means to cultivate a new, more positive way of being.
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind, but can often be confused or misunderstood. For example when people say "gardening is my meditation" or music, or art.
Buddhist techniques encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm to seeing the true nature of things. Classical Yoga states that to attain true meditation you must go through several stages. After personal preparation, you must attain physical position, breath control, relaxation, contemplation and finally, absorption. But that does not mean you have to perfect any one stage before moving on to the next. Integral Yoga is a little of all the stages combined.
There are also many places that teach meditation, although some only focus on only one aspect. Some only teach concentration techniques, some only teach breathing techniques, etc. With regular practice, the energy of your body and mind can be liberated and your quality of consciousness can be expanded.
There are countless meditation practices that have been developed. All of them taking different approaches, the foundation of them all however, is to cultivate a calm and positive state of mind.