We can be moving at a furious pace even when we’re not in motion. This activity is usually our mind working overtime, which can cause stress, distress, anxiety, and health problems. The solution then is simple: Slow down the movement of our mind.
But when our mind continues to move, even after our body is quiet, it can keep us from making the effort to be still, which moves us even further away from a calm mind. Our mind keeps chattering once we’ve stilled our body, because our mind doesn’t want us to be still. When we are still, our mind inevitably slows down and is no longer in charge. But our mind, and most especially our petty ego, wants to be in charge; it is not happy when it’s not, so it does everything in its power to keep us moving. And it usually wins.
So then the question becomes, how do we take charge of our mind? You might also wonder, isn’t my mind me? If I’m not in charge of my own mind, then who or what is? Good questions. Put them aside for a moment and consider this: If you were truly in charge of your mind, wouldn’t you just be able to say to it, calm down, relax, don’t worry, stop thinking so much, and other similar things? Haven’t we all tried such coaxing? Has it ever worked?
So now what? Well, the good news is that there is a way to take charge. Rather than fighting fire with fire, pitting will against will, you can learn another approach to relieve the pressure, quiet your mind, and let go of the need for answers.
What is this miraculous way? What do we use, if not our will, to calm ourselves and become masters of our minds.
Breath—it’s really that simple. Almost too simple for our complicated minds to understand and accept.
It may seem like there must be more to it, but the answer is, not really.
It is simply a matter of concentrating and bringing your attention to your breath. The key concept here is concentration. This is where your indomitable will can be utilized. Draw all of your energy and spirit into each breath, and as you do, draw your breath deeper and deeper into your belly-mind. Each time your mind strays, gently draw it back as you would a windblown scarf, and concentrate with all your might and attention on each inhalation and each exhalation. This is not an easy task. Each time, thoughts and sounds and disappointments will disturb you. But there will come a point when you will experience, for a fraction of a second, such full concentration on your breathing that all thoughts and outside interference will halt. This “space between thoughts” is where your truth resides, where your essence is revealed. Eventually, with practice, these moments will get longer, and you will completely lose yourself in the practice of concentrated breathing, deep in your belly. Then you will know why this practice is so valuable. You will experience contentment as never before, and a deep understanding will prevail. But even before this, when you engage in this concentrated breath practice each day, for fifteen, twenty, forty minutes, a number of things happen:
•Your body slows down.
•Your breath gets deeper.
•Your mind follows and begins to slow down (sometimes kicking and screaming, but eventually giving in peacefully).
•Your heart rate slows.
•Anger, depression, and anxiety abate.
•Pain symptoms relax.
These things occur, plus much more. You have the power to manifest these benefits. So concentrate, keep a positive attitude, and breathe your way to serenity.
As you become more aware of your breath, you will naturally cultivate a spirit of gratitude for your breath, because it equals life. Prior to this breath-attention practice, you most likely took your breath for granted, but do no longer. Once you stop taking your life-source for granted, you will extend this same attitude to all other things and people and circumstances. You might have to remind yourself now and then, but if you keep up the breath-awareness practice, then the practice of gratitude will automatically follow.
(from Serenity in Motion)