The word "meditation" can conjure up some interesting imagery (perhaps a lone monk with a shaven head, sitting in full lotus on a mountain top in the Himalayas). Generally, some sort of unattainable idea of perfection that leads to intimidation and procrastination. Often I hear people say, "I've heard meditation is good for you...but I just don't have enough time" or "I can't meditate!"
Meditation isn't a mandatory expectation of perfection in any form. There's no prerequisite to practicing. You literally can begin anytime, anywhere! You cannot fail, even if your mind has been incessantly racing since you sat down. It's simply an intentional process of returning to the here-and-now. Every moment you return to the present, where you can detach from the monkey mind chattering away with all it's noisy distractions (even for an instant), is a victory! "Catching" yourself when you've fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole of thoughts is a huge accomplishment. You become the impartial observer of the inner chaos without becoming consumed by it. The narrating voice in your head that's organizing to-do lists, reminiscing on the past, planning out the future, or even reading this article in your mind, is not actually "you". That voice is the internalized manifestation of years of conditioning from school, family, friends, media, culture, etc. It's a voice that criticizes, categorizes, organizes, evaluates. Which serves a valid purpose at appropriate times, but the true "you" is subtle, neutral, and ever-present.
You can set a timer for two minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, or more! No matter the amount of time, there is an ongoing process of letting go and easing back into the Now. Remember to be gentle in the process of returning your attention back to the present. Meditating can feel similar to dealing with a child who is overstimulated in a new environment. With pure intentions, the child may want to wander off and explore the area, or perhaps have all these exciting ideas they want to share with you. Rather than snapping at the child or becoming frustrated, we sweetly and patiently remind the child (or ourselves, in this metaphor) of our intention with our meditation practice. And so we speak to ourselves with the loving kindness we would extend to an innocent child. It's also a good idea to thank yourself before and after you meditate, to acknowledge the effort it may have required to take this time for you. Although it may seem like effort to meditate, the interesting irony is that once we cease exerting effort, the surrender to stillness occurs naturally.
So why exactly do we meditate? There are many reasons, and reminding yourself of the reasons you personally resonate with will help you stay motivated to continue doing so. Meditation is a method of opening ourselves up to our intuition. In essence, it is a practice of shedding away the layers of what may be weighing us down, and remembering our true nature. The true Self is aware of our body's needs, and once we connect within, we can make decisions that best serve our overall wellbeing. Meditation helps us become focused, clear, and decisive. We start to live in alignment to our purpose, as our lifestyles become more congruent to our values and beliefs. It also helps ease anxiety and depression (because the onslaught of thoughts no longer wreak havoc, rather you gain the ability to reign them in). Meditating can even boost the immune system! We meditate to reconnect, to find peace, to find stillness. We meditate to get to know ourselves on a deeper level. We meditate to energize, inspire, and invigorate. We meditate to relax, surrender, and let go. We meditate to remember our breath. We meditate to heal and extend loving kindness not only to ourselves, but to everyone around us. We meditate to elevate our vibration and expand our consciousness. We meditate to come back to ourselves - to come back home.