“Meditation? That’s just sitting still and not doing anything.”

I was incredulous. My business coach, who I’d hired to increase our efficiency, had suggested that I should learn to meditate. The way I saw it, she was asking me, the guy who didn’t have enough time in the day to get enough done and was drowning in a unique combination of too many evening wines and enough coffee to sink a ship, to do less.

Nice; do less and achieve more. I’d failed high school maths, and even I knew the numbers just didn’t add up. But she was a good coach and knew that if she didn’t argue with me, and if she wasn’t changing my mind, then she wasn’t helping me to achieve any change.

“Six minutes, can I ask you to spare a measly six minutes?” She shrugged as if refusing would be tantamount to lunacy.
“Fine,” I said, like a teenager who was being forced to mow the lawn. “What do I have to do?”
“I just want you to sit still for ten minutes, and pay attention to your breath.”
I waited, but after a few moments, it became apparent that was the end of the sentence. “Are you serious?”
She nodded patiently. “Just pay attention to your breath, and realise there’s nowhere else for you to be for six minutes.”
“That’s it?”
“It’ll do to begin with.”
“How do I pay attention to my breath?” 
“Try noting. Every time you breathe in, think ‘breathing in.’ Every time you breathe out, think, ‘breathing out.’”
So I found myself sitting on the couch that evening, with no distractions, the television was off, I didn’t have a notebook in front of me and I felt very uncomfortable — this wasn’t how I lived. I closed my eyes and felt my breath as it created coolness on the inside of my nostrils. “Breathing in,” I thought to myself. “Breathing out.”

A week later, my coach sat down with me again.
“How’s it going?”
“I’m obsessed,” I said eagerly. “I’ve downloaded an app to help me track my meditation.”
“It was helpful?”
“Not in the traditional sense, I mean, all the things that stress me out are still there, but I feel more detached from them, less involved emotionally. Things that should impact my day, don’t. Also, I’ve slept better for the last week than I have in ages.”
“Good now we can start.”

I didn’t mean to hire a meditation coach — it wasn’t how she promoted herself (in fact, she didn’t promote herself at all,) but it was one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever received. The most incredible thing about meditation, however, has nothing to do with its numerous tangible benefits — less stress, more awareness, better sleep — it’s that meditation is available to everyone, everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the office, on the train or with the kids. You can pause, and pay attention to your breathing — the singular constant in our lives, and the reason we function at all. Meditation isn’t so much a discipline, as it is a small break, some perspective, and a reminder that compared to breathing, nothing is really important.

Originally published at medium.com