One of the problems with learning to meditate is that there are a lot of abstract ideas. It's hard to follow advice when it consist of things such as loosen your thoughts. How do you do that? What tells you whether it's working or not?

Two major hurdles that most practitioners face are not knowing what to do and not know if they've succeeded.

A meditative trance usually feet normal. If you're expecting otherworldly experiences from the start, you might get discouraged. That's assuming you can even follow an instruction as vague as 'release your attachment'.

Have you experienced either obstacle? If so, keep reading. I'm about to share a simple exercise that is measurable and puts you into a meditative trance.

When you focus on your breathing, your attention draws inwards. If you do not enter a trance, then you've at least set the stage for it. In time, your meditation practice can consist of nothing but mindful breathing. When starting out, though, it helps to go beyond it.

The next step is to deepen your breathing. Use your diaphragm and the muscles around your core to steadily inhale and exhale. Aim to keep the flow of air continuous. Smoothly draw the air deep into your belly.

If you find it difficult to breath like this, then you probably have tension in your abdomen. Spend the next few weeks practicing. Keep your posture good and your stomach relaxed as you breathe with your diaphragm.

For anyone used to gulping shallow breaths into their chest, this alone is worth the time. You'll think clearer and have more concentration than ever before. You'll simply feel better.

And there's more.

Once breathing like this is automatic to you, aim to slowly extend each breath. It should be easy to add a second to each inhale and exhale.

If you feel short of breath or tense, then trust me when I say that that is not the point of this exercise. Chances are that you're tense or trying to slow each breath by too much. Dial it back and relaxed. Slow your breathing in an easy way.

This may take practice. If so, then take the time. The slower you build up, the faster you'll reach an optimal breathing rate.

What is the best rate of breathing?

About five to eight seconds to inhale, then the same time to exhale.

If you can breathe at this rate, deeply and in a relaxed way, then that's great. If not, it's something to aim for. Because if you can breathe this slowly and steadily without training yourself and without feeling low on air …

… then you're almost certainly in a meditative trance.

Your breathing and mind are linked. If one is this calm, steady and relaxed, then so will the other be.