What are we trying to escape?
Intense thoughts, actions, emotions and stress fill our lives. All anxiety, fear, frustration, anger and stress come from our thoughts. Vacations to “get away” from the intensity and stress for awhile appear to be the only relief. Unfortunately, the choice is often a theme park or trip designed to stimulate and excite us. What are we trying so desperately to escape? Responsibilities, duties, deadlines, pressure. Although our biggest need is to get away from thoughts and emotions, very few of us have found that release in our annual “vacations!” Stress is the hidden killer in our society. In record numbers, people visit therapists, take anti-depressants and sleeping pills, and in desperation, sometimes even commit suicide.
It is possible to reduce our stress by learning how to control the mind and breath. Slowing sensory input, calming the mind, and reacting from a state of centeredness means being actively calm and calmly active. Become mindful of each moment. Imagine how life would improve if you were always able to react from a calm and peaceful centre. What if you could respond to even the most difficult or aggressive circumstance with focused peacefulness?
If you have not committed yourself to true emptiness, you will never understand the art of peace.
The breath and the mind are inseparable
When someone offers you a gift, and you don’t accept it, to whom does the gift belong? The answer is obviously the giver. So, if someone tries to give you anger, hate or negativity of any sort, and you refuse it, you remain unaffected. Strive to be peaceful and centred, rather than reactive and impulsive. You might think, “How is it possible to remain calm and peaceful when everyone else is hurried, rude, insulting and aggressive? Life is as complicated and stressful as we allow it to be. Remember that the breath and the mind are inseparable. The condition of one directly reflects the condition of the other. Being angry, frustrated or upset is impossible, if your breath is calm, deep and relaxed. Being calm and peaceful is impossible if your breath is fast and shallow. The secret to being peaceful is to have control over thoughts. Learn to control your thoughts by learning to control your breath.
Develop a calm routine
For most people, the body and mind are naturally calm only during a subconscious state or while sleeping. However, I am suggesting that you spend time each day fully awake, building a mental habit of becoming peaceful. Start with the quieter times of your day, perhaps early in the morning, or late at night before bed. Spend time with your thoughts and feelings, practicing your breathing exercises and other techniques. Enjoy simple things such as reading inspirational works, listening to quiet music, praying or meditating. Work on controlling your breath and stilling your mind. Notice the feeling of true calmness and peacefulness, and then several times during your day strive to return to that state.
Peace and happiness can only happen in the moment. You cannot experience it in the past or in the future. So always strive to live in the now.
As you get better at manipulating your mental and emotional state, you will find that you are able to be calm and peaceful even during difficult times. The value of peaces truly priceless. It allows you to stay in control of life rather than allowing life to control you. In short, take a minute.
Sensei Matt Thurman, Shudokan Black Belt Academy – Aikido Nottingham