You'd have to be living under a rock not to have been recommended mindfulness meditation by someone in the past few years. Big name entrepreneurs swear by it, whole conferences are dedicated to it, and prominent dissenters have even pushed back against the mindfulness craze (so you know it's really reached peak buzz).

But just because you've heard about mindfulness meditation, doesn't mean you don't still have questions.

Is it just the latest wellness fad or are there real benefits? Do I need to have a particular (probably wacky) set of spiritual beliefs? And probably most prominent in the minds of busy entrepreneurs -- do I even have time to meditate? (Spoiler alert: you almost certainly do.) Here are the answers in brief, with links for further reading if you're still curious.

What is mindfulness meditation exactly?

In short, mindfulness is simply paying attention to the here and now. No particular spiritual belief or special equipment is needed. All that's required is a set of lungs to breathe and a mind to observe them -- and the whirl of your thoughts --without judgment. It's really that simple, but if you want more details, here are a couple of different psychologists offering detailed step-by-step guides.

What are the benefits?

Where do I start? Mindfulness meditation has been touted as the cure for just about everything that ails you. Experts say it can help lower stress levels, increase focus, protect against depression, improve sleep, and help you maintain a healthy weight. It's even been offered as a means to finally  get your inbox under control and increase your profits (yes, seriously).

All this might sound a little too good to be true, but most of these claims are backed by serious  studies done by sober-minded scientists. No wonder so many prominent people, from Richard Branson and Marc Benioff to Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington, swear by mindfulness meditation.

How long do I need to meditate for each day?

How long do you have? Scientific studies have shown measurable brain changes with a commitment of around 20 minutes a day. But as meditation training site Wildmind points out, "any amount of meditation is better than none."  

"Just do it," Wildmind advises. "If you can only manage 20 minutes a day, do 20 minutes. If you can only manage 10, do that. If three minutes is all you have, then spending three minutes is much, much better than not doing so." And you don't have to sit cross-legged on a pillow in a silent room either. Meditation can be slipped seamlessly into even the busiest of days, meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg insists.

"You don't have to leave the world behind, you don't have to do endless retreats, and you don't have to sit six hours a day," she told Inc.com. "It's so accessible." In fact, you can sneak in a stealthy moment of mindfulness by simply giving yourself a few seconds to consciously breathe before picking up the phone or by pausing to fully focus on that steaming cup of tea you're enjoying.

How do I get started?

While keeping up a mindfulness meditation practice is probably easier than you think, getting started isn't incredibly difficult either. There's a huge number of meditation tools and resources available, from weeklong retreats to user-friendly apps.

And, as with daily practice, a little bit of effort goes a long way.  One recent study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that newcomers to meditation reported feeling less stressed  -- even when put in a high-pressure situation -- after just three 25-minute training sessions.  That means you could probably make yourself more focused and resilient  in less time than it would take to get through a Hollywood blockbuster.

Do you have three minutes a day to dedicate to achieving a calmer, clearer mind?

Published on: Jul 27, 2016