One month of ... Daily 10-minute meditations

by Deborah Agulnik, The Guardian, November 4 2008

London, UK -- In my seemingly never-ending search for a less stressful lifestyle, a friend tells me that a 10-minute meditation session each day is all you need for peace of mind. This seems too good to be true; is meditation really that easy? And can it really stop me waking up at 4am worrying about work, the recession, everything?

I get a "teach yourself meditation" book (How Meditation Heals, by Eric Harrison) from the library. It's Buddhism Lite - skipping nirvana in favour of the more humble aim of quietening the mind and achieving relaxation. The 10-minute meditation, it tells me, will calm me down and put my physiology in balance - the mental equivalent of Gordon Brown's £500bn stabilisation package.

As instructed, I set up a meditation station in the corner of my bedroom. It only needs to be the size of a doormat. As a nod to spirituality, I unearth a small Tibetan bell - a flatmate's gap-year relic - light up a musty joss stick circa 1982 and sit cross-legged. All I need to do now is set my alarm clock, concentrate on the rise and fall of my breathing and let all thoughts float away.

It's all going swimmingly for an eighth of a second - until I start thinking about how nice a mint Aero would be and my mind flies off on a chocolate odyssey. Eventually I remember I am meant to be meditating. I drag my attention back to watching my breathing. I last about two breaths before my mind veers wildly off course again. The book reassures me this is normal and to persevere.

Two weeks later it is noticeably easier to let my thoughts go. Freed momentarily from the frenetic chatter inside my head, my body starts to relax and feel heavy. Some days are easier than others, but when I do achieve "stillness of mind", the pay-off is a warm, peaceful feeling. Trained to try to think myself out of problems, it is a revelation that not-thinking might be the answer. Three weeks in, however, I start to miss the odd day and it gets more difficult to make myself do it each time.

I realise that after the initial enthusiasm it requires serious discipline to keep going.