An offer of Discipline

The skill of turning the mind is a simple one – really just an exercise in controlling our attention in the present moment. Try this: sit comfortably and close your eyes. Focus all your attention on one breath. Notice the breath in, starting from the belly and moving upwards through your lungs. Perhaps a small pause at the top – your chest rises and maybe your shoulders or chin. Then breathe out slowly, sinking down into the space between breaths. Now sit there between breaths – no need to breathe in again yet, is there? What’s your hurry? Notice your heartbeat there. That’s one.

Then slowly breathe in again, and so on. Do this for 10 minutes and count your breaths. Your mind may wander; you might have thoughts such as “this is taking so long!” or have an urge to look at your phone timer. Be aware of these and turn your attention back to the one breath.

Want to change your life? Do this every day for 30 days and then tell me nothing’s different. Track it. I did a simple Excel spreadsheet that I wish I could paste in here but I lack the skill. Basically column 1 is to note what your feelings or emotional state is for that day. Column 2 is the Day (1,2,3 etc). Column 3 is your base stress or anxiety level prior to starting the exercise. Column 4 is the number of breaths taken during the 10 minutes, and the last column is your stress or anxiety level after the exercise. My hypothesis is that over the course of 30 days your base stress or anxiety state will fall in correlation to the number of breaths, and the differential in states will diminish. Try it yourself and let me know!

The point of this is to learn to be aware of your attention, what is demanding it, and choosing what you give your attention to. Now you can test your beliefs, be aware of unwanted or unhelpful elements of your pattern, and if it suits you, do something about it.


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