It is amazing to me even now, that sitting still for five minutes and closing my eyes can have such a profound effect on the rest of the day. What kind of effects? The days I meditate are on an average much more productive, much more satisfying and above all, much more peaceful.
The returns on investing 5 minutes of my time are hundredfold - this kind of profit would be a Ponzi scheme if it didn't actually work.
What do I mean by meditation? I don't mean sitting cross-legged in a saffron robe and connecting with the Supreme Brahman; I don't mean chanting obscure spells in ancient languages. There is no supernatural aspect to this kind of meditation - all it is, is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is being mindful of the present. It is that simple.
"If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present," said Lao Tzu and even though I have no idea if he actually said it or who he is, it is an incredible quote.
This is exactly what mindfulness is about and exactly why it works. It stops you being depressed about the past and anxious about the future and between these dark shadows, there is a liberating light and a freeing lightness.
And all you have to do is:
1. Sit down.
2. Close your eyes.
4. Feel your breath going in and out of your nostrils (or your stomach or wherever you feel it the most).
5. Every time your attention wanders from your breath (and trust me, it will) gently steer it back to the feeling of your breath in your nostrils.
As Dan Harris of 10% Happier says, "Every time you do this, it's like a bicep curl for your brain."
In other words, when your attention wanders, this is not a failure. It is inevitable. It is part of the exercise of meditation that your mind will wander, and you will bring it back - like a bicep curl, when your hand drops, you bring it back up and repeat.
Anyone who has tried mindfulness knows that this is the toughest thing in the world because your mind is constantly racing from topic to topic, from past to future. This is how it functions, this is how it was designed to work. Unfortunately, we are not well-designed creatures and even a 5-second break from this default mental rush-hour will give you an immense sense of calm and peace.
There are many documented long-term benefits* to the practice of mindfulness but I have found that even 10 seconds of doing the practice makes a huge difference to the quality of my inner life. For example, as I finished the previous passage I hit a wall and sat around for 10 minutes fingers on the keyboard, unable to decide how to continue. 5 mindful breaths later and here I am, at the end of the piece, having said mostly everything I wanted to say, and feeling really good about it.
So if you want to try meditating here is what I suggest:
1. Do it for 5 minutes.
2. Do it in the morning.
3. Do it every day.
At the end of the week if you think it's bullshit, by all means, leave a comment (and tag your friends).
* - Google it.
Here are some links to better work than mine on the topic of mindfulness: