The need for calm
“It’s a mad world!” goes the song. Actually, the world isn’t crazy. We are. The human race, that is. All the problems in the world have been created by people or, rather, human minds. And all our creations – good, bad or indifferent – start in the mind. For the mind to be clear, it must be calm.
Especially at this time of year, it is easy for the mind to go into overdrive and, if we are not careful, we can end up exhausted. We might (frequently, perhaps!) experience the stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off type of feeling. That is a strong signal that the mind needs to pause.
Three easy steps
There are three simple steps that can help restore equilibrium:
- Stop – just pause whatever you are doing for a few moments
- Breathe in – feel the abdomen move as you inhale
- Breathe out – and let your tension go
The breath is like a bridge between the body and the mind. If the mind is agitated, the breathing tends to be shallower and faster and the body is in a state of increased tension. Conversely, we know from experience that when the mind is calm, the breath tends to be slower and smoother. If we can train ourselves to be aware of this rhythm, we begin to have greater awareness of our body and our emotional and mental reactions. It is a common technique to be aware of the breath during meditation but the development of mindfulness extends this practice into activity, which of course is more difficult because we have to engage the mind in actions as well as the breath. The rewards, however, are truly life-changing.
Awareness of breath acts like an anchor. An anchored boat stays where it is even if the wind is strong and the waves and currents of the sea are running wild. Without the anchor, the boat is tossed around and is prey to the whims of the sea. Our minds are very much like that. Without some form of stability, the mind is drawn into endless distractions and is subject to the surges of our emotions, which can often sow the seeds for unpleasant effects later on. They also waste precious energy. Being aware of the gentle movement of the abdomen as we breathe is easy and has the effect of slowing the mind down and of centring the body’s energy at the same time.
Adapted from The Art of Not Doing