There are many things upon which you can focus when you meditate. Candles can be powerful and soothing, but not always available or advised (e.g. while on an aeroplane!). An image of the Buddha is encouraging – although I find this image is not the best for me. The rising and failing of your chest suits some people as a focal point. Hearing yourself saying OM with each breath out can be good. I have tried all of these (and more) and when my mind is racing, OM can help but my general preference is to focus on the movement in and out of my breath.
Why? It is always with me. It can signify letting go. I can focus on it anywhere, including while above the clouds over the South Pacific.
Some imagine that meditation is meant as some sort of “out of body” experience (and sometimes it is one), but the point is to create a mindset that you are able to maintain when not in meditation practice, making your whole life more centred, grounded, insightful and peaceful. By focusing on my breath in mediation (actually, the feeling of my breath moving in and out of my nose), I am later able to enter this meditative state relatively quickly while focusing on my breath on the train, while sitting on a park bench or anywhere else that I wish.
Meditation is also part of mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions, including Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and can be used with counselling to help clients become more grounded and to see their fleeting thoughts come and go, realising that they are more than just their thoughts.
When I want a change, I can still meditate with the Buddha, a candle or – as in this case – with both.