Control is usually an illusion created by our egos. We perpetually fill our lives with busy work just to convince ourselves of just how in control of our lives we really are. However, directing the mind and therefore action, is one of the few instances where control is not only real, but beneficial and necessary. Mind control leads to control over action (and the knee jerk emotion that usually causes it), and the quality of our actions shape the nature of our lives and of those around us. Asana practice teaches us how to direct breath and body. Meditation shows us control over the tempestuous mind.
An alternate nostril breathing meditation is a simple way to approach the slippery mind. So. You are sooooo busy, your to-do list is overflowing, and the day only has twenty four hours.
“Who has the time to stop and breathe for fifteen minutes? Ridiculous!” says the ego. The very act of stopping is in fact the first opportunity to overrule the mind. Despite what your mind says, you set the alarm, close your eyes for fifteen minutes, and you start … breathing.
“This is so stupid. I should be doing … (insert task here) . I will never have time to get everything done. I should stop.” But you don’t. You continue to sit: mind/action control.
“Why do I have to breathe so slowly? And why do I have to hold my breath?” The breath shortens, breathing speeds up in response to the thought. But since you are aware of exercising the mind, you slow down your breathing, you lengthen the breath, and you hold it for an additional second: mind/action control.
“I wonder how many minutes i have left? Maybe I should check?” But you continue to do what you have been doing. You don’t change just because the “mind” says so: mind/action control.
And the chatter continues but you stick to the plan, each instance of denying the urge to get up being an exercise in control.
So what does all this breathing have to do with some life altering change? Sitting still despite the urge to get up is merely the first step on the road, the simplest exercise. Learning how to overrule the fickle suggestions created by a noisy mind and mixed emotions is merely a stepping stone, the beginning of change. Today it’s denying the to-do list for the benefits of fifteen minutes of recharging. Tomorrow, it’s not taking the frustrations of your bad day on your loved ones. The day after, it’s not taking personally the frustrations someone else takes out on you. By pausing to watch the thoughts, the emotions that accompany, and the actions further dictated by the ego, we can in fact decide whether we wish to act on them or not. And it all starts with a little meditation. Of course, this all implies that one knows the difference between direction and suppression, a very important distinction.
And who knows, perhaps one day the to-do list may just contain a walk in the crisp autumn air, a nice chat with a close friend, or some nice quiet time … meditating.