It has been almost 11 months or more since Covid 19 broke out of China and the world we experience became something we termed the new normal. Although many may look to the vaccine to allow us to go back to life as before, the reality of stress remains. Even if Covid 19 leaves us today, we will still be beset by stress from work and the rapid change from climate change to our world in terms of food and job security. With so much uncertainty ahead, how can we face change with serenity? There are 2 ways you can calm your mind in the midst of a storm.
How To Be the Eye Of The Storm?
We have witnessed a record hurricane season this year where we have seen meteorologists run out of names for tropical storms. Although the storms can cause devastating damage, the inside of the storm is calm.
Just as our mind could be hurrying to accomplish this or that, there is that inner calm that exists within us. This inner calm is an awareness that knows what is happening and does not participate in the activities of the storm. Rather, it watches as an observer like the eye of the storm.
Calm Your Mind With Focus
Calming your mind with focus is the act of meditation itself. When we sit down in formal meditation, we bring our attention to our breath. For most people, they focus on a particular spot where they can feel the breath sensations – such as the abdomen rising and falling, or at the tip of the nose. The latter is much subtler as meditators pay attention to the air touching the nose.
There is a narrow focus in this practice. The meditator focuses his or her attention on only a narrow spot. S/he strives to bring attention to this spot whenever thoughts arise in the mind and attention is lost. Beginners will find this exercise difficult. The first would be you may find yourself lost in thoughts and yet not know it. Or you may find that you want to control your breath.
For beginners who tend to control the breath, it may be better not to focus your attention on a narrow spot but to expand your attention to the breath movement in your torso.
You can call this first way of pacifying your mind a form of distraction. Instead of distracting the mind with more thoughts such as watching TV or listening to music, you are attempting to rest your mind with only one thought – your breath. When you have sufficient experience with this narrow form of distraction, you will find your mind calm itself in certain stressful situations.
It is highly recommended that you start to move your attention from one part of your body to another after training to pay attention to one spot. This way, you learn to pay attention to every part of your body. This method is also known as body scan meditation.
Pacifying Your Mind With Awareness
The second way to calm your mind is with awareness. This method is aided by the first way.
After practising body scan meditation and becoming familiar with it, your awareness might be wide enough to start noticing your feelings and thoughts. If you look closely, you might realize that your feelings are closely linked to your body. You can’t feel unless you have a body. You might also start to notice that your feelings are also linked to your thoughts. Without thoughts, you may not have many feelings.
If you want to know your thoughts, you can first look at your feelings. If you want to know your feelings, you need to be sensitive to your body. Therefore, it is important to develop body scan meditation.
When you start to learn to become aware of your body, feelings and thoughts, the first thing would be not to be involved with their activities. See the sensations in your body, feelings and movement of thoughts as the storm. While the awareness that knows these sensations is the eye of the storm when it is uninvolved.
As you allow awareness to watch instead of participating in the storm, awareness itself starts realizing that nothing lasts. Pain in the body does not last. It may change from dull pain to sharp pain. Feelings do not last – you feel anger and the next few moments later, it goes away. Thoughts are even worse. One thought replaces another so rapidly, you may not even realize it. Thoughts of pain and pleasure do not last.
The Relief Of Knowing
Relief is experienced more in the second way to calm your mind than the first. The first way is a form of escape via distraction. The second way – having awareness see for itself that nothing in your experience lasts, you start to let go.
It’s like breathing. When we hold our breath, we feel stress and tightness. When we let go of our breath, the next breath comes to us – naturally. The body naturally experiences stress with pains and aches. But knowing the pain never lasts, you stop wanting to change things. If there is a relief for the pain such as medicine it would be good to get it. If there isn’t, you will be less affected by stress compared to not having experienced your uninvolved awareness at all. Awareness will know that even good feelings and thoughts do not last. Like having our favorite ice cream to please the body – we soon tire of it and what is enjoyable becomes a form of pain.