The hardest part about meditating seems to be making time to do it; getting on the cushion. I should know. I've been consistently not getting on a cushion for about 16 years now. What you do when you get there is a matter of personal preference, but from time immemorial there's been a general consensus that meditating is good for you.
Philosophers, Buddhists, Christians, atheists all do it, but what is meditation? For those who can't (or won't) sit cross-legged on a cushion there's good news; it's nothing to do with where you are or how you're sitting. Meditation is simply focused contemplation.
Sure, folks often reduce sensory stimulation when they meditate to make their setting easier to practice in and this is why meditators often do sit still (on cushions) in quiet rooms. But the bit that's doing them real good is concentrating the mind on one chosen object. That's meditation and it can be done wherever you are, whatever position you're in and for however long you've got.
The object of your contemplation could be the breath, a philosophical or poetical point or even just getting in direct contact with your current experience. 3 minutes or 3 hours? It all counts as 'real' meditation.
As we concentrate our mind on our chosen object and try to keep it there, unmoved by all other distractions our inner and outer worlds may throw at us, we reap two rewards; we cultivate the skill of concentration and we'll learn something about ourselves which is otherwise nigh on impossible to pick up on as we rush headlong through the day.
When concentrated, our minds work in a calm, unified way. This gives us a chance to experience peace and the benefits that brings.
With just minutes of meditation, the insight we gain into ourselves (how we currently think, feel, what's going on for us right now) gives us an awareness we carry through the day and onwards to our interactions with others. Being just that little bit more aware of what's going on for us means we'll make better choices along the way.
So meditating is good for you, and it changes you. Latest evidence suggests that just 20 minutes a day for three months will change your brain through the wonders of neuroplastisity (the brain's amazing ability to grow and strengthen new neural networks as we practice and hone new skills and ways of thinking), leaving you hardwired for increased peace and happiness in the future.
Parent of small children? CEO of a major corporation? Neither? Both?! Most of us are time poor so let's not make things complicated or let anything get in the way of the benefits of meditation. Do it here and now, no cushion required.
This article will appear in the March edition of Open Up magazine and is accompanied by a bespoke mediation for you to have a go. Get in touch if you'd like me to email you a copy of the meditation for you to try in the comfort of your own home...or wherever!