Our minds are preconditioned to always be doing something. And more specifically, the mind is always looking to do something in order to gain something. You can't have doing without a desire, otherwise, your body would be at rest, doing nothing because it needs nothing. Whether you are desiring something out of necessity or for personal gain, the root is a very physical desire that can only be experienced from having a body.
This is the ego, every individual body has its own ego. From a scientific perspective, it is the survival instinct that keeps us alive. The primitive brain reacting to internal and external stimuli in order to regulate and maintain homeostasis through automatic and beneficial conscious attention. It is the reason you want, and the reason you take your next breath. Without it, there is no next breath, no next step, and no desire. It's clearly healthy to have an ego, but that's not to say all egos are healthy.
Egos become busy - very, very busy. Especially when paired with someone's intellect. Intellect being the thing that makes it possible to get the things you want. It becomes a question of how much more could you have, instead of what you really need or what is enough for now. The intellect works in this way like a servant to a master, and for the most part, it's not a problem. Until the ego becomes a rather greedy master who must have more and more of what it already has.
Purely out of ignorance, most people go on in this way, never finding satisfaction or rest in their own minds. Feeling totally and completely helpless to the chaos of their thoughts. The obsessive and compulsive chatter in the skull as Alan Watts put it, the monkey brain as science calls it, and the Dharma which Buddhism and Hinduism gave name to it. And yet, the very part of you that you identify as I, me, or myself is closer to that of the master and not the servant. The ego, not the intellect.
And yet mastery over one’s own mind evades so many bodies in today's world. Especially in our world of consumerism. Where it's thought that you can fill your ego’s continuing wanting with so many different things, so many physical things, and so many distractions. The idea is that somehow you will not feel the thing that you already are by preoccupying yourself.
We have to stop looking outside of ourselves for the answer. Everything you think and feel comes from inside-out, not the outside-in. You are not your thoughts, the very idea of “I think therefore I am” is a rat race of useless identifications that are simply not you. Even if you become those things you think you are, you will feel the same as you did when you thought you were not those things. Unsatisfied, longing, and ultimately empty.
Finding stillness is all about recognizing just at this moment, right here, the “you” that is your body is not in any current danger, is not as empty as you may feel, and is not as out of control as you may worry you are. Instead, you are just exactly how you are right now- most likely a body, looking at a computer screen, interpreting a bunch of symbols-like words that correlate to sounds you were once taught to hear inside your head. Instead, you are just a mind listening to the sounds of the environment surrounding you. Making no distinction between what all these frequencies hitting your eardrum could be coming from. Instead, you are just feeling the feeling of your skin and all the moving parts of your body that lie beneath your skin in constant circulation.
Learning to control your mind is really all about learning to feel every part of your mind and being able to recognize the processes and how they show up in your body. Like a fire trying to burn itself, we have to think about thinking in order to find peace of mind. And in doing so, one will find that in order to really start the conscious attention of feeling our mind at play, we must first start by stopping everything we are doing, and find stillness. This is the beginning of meditation and mindfulness, the use of stillness as a means of observation. However one does not need to be sitting in a lotus position on the floor in order to do this.
For this month’s guided meditation, we will begin with one of the most fundamental tools of our body - breath. Breathing is often referred to as the anchor of our body. Breath is more closely connected to our minds than you would think an autonomic function could be. This meditation can be used at any time, in any position, and in any environment. It only requires your conscious attention and a moment of stillness. No matter how long or short that moment may be.
Following The Breathe a Buddhist Guided Meditation
- First, start by finding a moment of stillness - This is going to look different for each body and what is available for the individual. I recommend using a chair, a comfortable stance, or even laying down on the floor. Whatever is most comfortable.
- Then, close your eyes and bring your attention to your nose. Try to feel inside and throughout your nasal canal. You should feel your nostrils flare a little bit while you breathe.
- Begin by breathing in through your nose, focusing now on the sensation of the air coming in through the nose and down your windpipe and then into your lungs. Feel your lungs expand, pulling in the fresh air.
- Next, stay with the breath as it makes its way out of your lungs. Your lungs collapse in and force air up the windpipe and then finally out through your mouth.
- With each inhale, try to breathe lower into your diaphragm, extending into your beautiful belly with each breath. Inhaling through the nose and out through the mouth. Breathe deeper and for as long as you are comfortable doing so. Each time listening and feeling for the path of the wind.
This guided meditation may seem simple and that's because it is. It is available to most people and has a profound effect on the body. From activating the parasympathetic nervous system - the part of your nervous system that stimulates rest and digest - to releasing stagnant energies and emotions stuck in our bodies. More importantly, you will notice that as you focus on feeling your breath, your mind will become calmer and quieter with each breath. As if more space is being created for your thoughts and ideas.
As we work further into stillness, we will use this as a foundation for all our meditations. The simple act of breathing teaches us how to let things in and let things go with no attachments. The deeper we breathe, the more at peace we become both physically and mentally. The more we listen to our breathing, the more we feel connected to our environment and the people around us. Something that can only be started by stopping.