This article by us came out on September 20 in the Times of India, the largest newspaper in the country. Another article we wrote for them a few years ago had more than a hundred thousand views and three hundred comments. It is a wonderful way to reach large numbers of readers. I thought you might enjoy reading this new one.
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Years ago, when we were first starting our Ananda community in California, we had very little money, and I decided to start a little business making incense as a way to provide an income for our members.
With long hours and countless details vying for my attention, it was difficult to calm my mind and stay focused in the present. A thousand thoughts kept calling out, “What about me? I’m important too!”
Worries seemed to be my entire mental diet. As I sat trying to meditate one day, an image came powerfully to my mind. “Time is like a river on which you are floating. You can never occupy more than one place at any moment. Just focus your whole attention on where you are right now, and let the river take care of itself.”
That image had an uncanny power to help me stay focused. Whenever I found my attention wandering to worries, I would visualize the river and find that it helped me come back to my center.
Meditation can help us center our attention, but we must be deeply relaxed before its effects can take hold. There exists a direct link between breath and mind. The science of controlling the mind through breathing techniques is one of India’s great gifts to the world.
You’ve probably noticed that whenever you attempt a task that requires deep concentration, such as threading a needle, your breathing automatically slows, or even stops. The next time your mind tries to run away from you, try breathing your way to calmness.
A fellow disciple was in charge of training recruits for the San Francisco police department. A technique he taught the rookies was to control their breathing before they attempted to take control of a tense situation. He demonstrated the importance of breath-control with the following true story:
During a drug raid, he chased a man up a stairway in a darkened building. At the top of the stairs, he turned and found the suspect pointing a shotgun at his chest. The man was high on drugs, and he knew that one false move could be fatal. While gazing into the man’s eyes, he began breathing deeply while affirming mentally, “Be calm, be centered.” After a few moments he slowly held out his hand and asked the man to give him the gun. The man’s shoulders slumped as the tension went out of him, and he surrendered without violence.
There are many breathing techniques that can help us relax the mind. For example, “regular breathing” is extremely helpful at the start of a meditation. Simply inhale slowly, counting to eight. Hold the breath for the same number of counts while concentrating with deep calmness at the point between the eyebrows. Then slowly exhale for the same eight counts. Do six to nine rounds as you start to meditate. You can increase or decrease the count according to your capacity, but keep the inhalation, retention, and exhalation equal.
Regular breathing can help us greatly in a variety of situations. Whenever you are feeling stressed and nervous, do a few rounds of regular breathing: I’m sure you will notice an immediate calming influence. You can rarely think yourself out of a negative or anxious state, but you can often breathe yourself out of it.
In the light,