Using Movement to Still the Mind
Developing the ability to breathe naturally and connect with the peace and stillness that is within all of us is obviously a worthwhile pursuit, but for many it is easier said than done. The mind is continually wanting to move from one thing to the next, making it difficult to experience unity and contentment with the present moment. Given this movement of the mind, it makes sense that the mind will initially find it easier to feel comfortable while occupied – entertained or supported by things changing or moving. By simply taking your awareness to what is moving and changing around you, the mind slowly becomes more present and focused.
Just as you learn to change gears in a manual car from fourth down to first and then to neutral, so too can you apply the same skill to focus the mind. Each time you do something, there will be a natural movement or progression of events that will follow. With practice the more your awareness notices any changes occurring internally or externally, the more it becomes interested and connected with the present moment. The more time you spend experiencing the subtle or not so subtle shifts of the present moment, the less scattered and restless the mind becomes. Which in turn prepares the mind to be able to connect to your still centre point within.
For the use of a practical example lets call time at work being in fourth gear – trying to focus on the task at hand while interacting with your surrounding environment. Exposed to many different factors throughout the day, which may require effort and patience.
Lets call a Hatha yoga class where you practice postures, third gear. Performed on a mat, here your environment is regulated to allow for more attention on what is happening in you. Through linking the mind with the breath and the movement of the body our focus is allowed to turn more inwardly. The mind is trained to be occupied by the sound and the feeling of a deeper, longer breath and the feeling of joining this breath to the body’s movements. Generally extending and lengthening as you inhale and releasing or consolidating as you exhale. As this three-way relationship improves, the more subtle the minds ability becomes to experience and witness movement or change.
After you have finished applying effort to doing something, be it at work or on the mat, there is a natural space that follows in order to let go and recharge, we’ll call this second gear. Similar to going up a hill, followed by the natural momentum that carries you on the way down. With less intensity or energy going out, this is a very ripe time for the mind to naturally let go a bit and become more still. So simply by focussing on something more relaxing the mind slows down some more. Some examples of this are watching TV, going for a walk, having a cup of tea or pottering around the house. Things are still happening and moving, but at a much slower pace. If the mind can remain aware of the present, but soften its focus a little, it experiences quite a nice unwinding and simplifying. Like yawning to get more oxygen, this time in second gear allows for a more effortless connection with your inner world because you have done something to earn it.
Before becoming sleepy in the evening, there is a key time to further still the mind or shift into first gear. At some point a natural opportunity to be physically still will occur, either lying down or sitting comfortably. It is here that the present moment can develop a finer and more subtle focus. To close the eyes and watch the movement of the natural breath, feeling it rising and falling, you are supported by a movement that is independent to the external world. As the mind wanders off, by simply bringing it back to watching the breath, it slowly becomes still. Allowing the energy to be retained instead of lost through the endless thinking.
As you become more familiar with first gear, gradually moments appear with no thoughts or need to watch the breath, simply awareness of the experience of just being. We can call this ‘neutral’ where the thinking mind has returned back to its point of origin, which is that of energy and intelligence. This state of just witnessing, without thinking is directly connected to feeling at peace, centred and still.
Just as driving in the appropriate gear balances the rev’s of a car, so does the requirements of each situation support how active or passive the mind needs to be. The more familiar and proficient you become with changing up and down accordingly, the more comfortable and steady your journey will be. Ultimately if we are ready to act when life requires us to, it is easier to take the space when it presents itself.
As the mind becomes quieter and the breath more balanced, the still point that is awareness shines through. More and more this is the backdrop to whatever is experienced. This is the destination yoga is taking us too.