Thank you for your kind replies
I guess my other question would be, how does one know when one has found the right meditation technique?
What are the qualities that I should look for?
I have tried techniques which make me feel very calm and relaxed, others make me feel blissful (an kind of exciting tingling sensation - that is not quite the same as the relaxed/calm state), some don't seem to do an awful lot for me.
If you are headed for deep concentration meditation, there are some sign posts along the way. The background mental chatter slows and fades. One can become aware that chatter is about to occur and return to the meditation object before it actually occurs. A sense of single minded focus arises. Less and less effort is required to maintain that focus and it becomes self sustaining.
The meditator may notice that body hairs are standing on end here and there.
Occaisional small jolts of wellbeing may occur, then a sense of wellbeing in an unsteady surging flow. This in turn steadies to an uninterrupted flow of well being, followed by a powerful surge in intensity - bliss. And welcome to the first jhana!
Now the first thing that happens here is we go OH WOW the first jhana and forget everything that got us there, and fall out of it. But the novelty soon wears off, and a new quieting process begins. Distracting mind chatter is pretty well gone at this point, but there remains the periodic arising of intentional thoughts like "I will maintain this state" "This is where I want to be" "That is a distraction coming: return to object". This sustained thought is the next thing to go. But the mind is not yet empty. Although much quieted and still enjoying bliss, one becomes aware that initial intentions, directions that were set like switches at the outset, are still operational. One gleefully realizes that due to the self sustaining nature of the meditation, such intentions are no longer necessary, and may be abandoned. So having left these applied and sustained thoughts behind, one enters the second and third jhanas respectively.
In time one becomes tired of powerful uninterrupted bliss, or at least curious about what lies beyond. You see it's impermanent and a steady diet of anything can get monotonous, even bliss. So one quietly sets bliss aside, or waits it out. This completes the first phase of the journey, and one enters the fourth and last material jhana, which is, if I am not mistaken, the same as calm abiding, but I'm not terribly sure of this. It certainly is very calm and very pleasant. Ahead lie the four immaterial jhanas.
This all gets so very interesting and absorbing that one can quite forget the purpose of it all. But it is all about ending suffering, cuz we are Buddhists and that is our purpose. A funny conundrum arises, where in order to use the states attained, we need the very intentions we have abandoned! Well fortunately we don't really need them. The answer to the conundrum is observation. There you are, let curiosity carry you forward. Investigate what arises, look at whatever comes up, and one can learn by seeing without conceptualization. In this state, insight can arise and these insights can be taken back out into the world with you, and used in the ending of your suffering and that of others.
So as you can see, there are quite a few signposts along the path of concentration meditation.
re reading your question, in terms of qualities: energy, clarity and alertness are desirable. I'm not terribly clear on how qualities interact with practice, so I will only say gently avoid very heavy sleepy trancelike states. It's ok to enter them and use them as signposts but then back up a step or two and maintain energy and clarity. If you find this leads to monkey chatter mind, back off a step or two and relax in the sleepy trance direction - but only a small step or two. In this way you can maintain yourself between the extremes of chatter and dopiness.