It's the breath. It has to be. Our very lives start there, and end there.
Take a moment to stop reading. Are you breathing? Of course you are. In, out, every day without thinking. It just happens.
If you want to know where your mind is at any given point in the day, check out your breathing. It is a direct reflection of your mind. If you want to change your mind, change how you breathe.
Good luck doing the reverse. Go ahead, try to command your busy mind to stop thinking. Stop worrying. Stop doing. Seriously, close your eyes. Notice the thoughts? Now command them to stop. How'd that work for you?
Where is your mind right now? You may be reading the words on this page, but I'll bet that you are also considering what you are going to eat for lunch or dinner, who you need to email, your next meeting, your next move. Whatever that may be.
Rarely do we live in present-moment awareness. As much as pundits proselytize about the benefits of such focus, rarely are we able to be right here, right now. In today's society it is a charge that has become increasingly more difficult, if not virtually impossible. We have a multitude of devices vying for our attention. (Full disclosure – I'm on a flight right now typing on my laptop and listening to music on my tablet. If my phone could be turned on, I'm sure it would be.) We actually have become quite adept at multi-tasking. It's almost seen as a badge of honor in today's oh-so-productive society. Many people are proud of how much they can do at one time. But, how focused are you on what you are even doing? In a distraction heavy era, how, how can we possibly focus on one thing for any extended period of time?
Well, you could hop on a flight. I hear from many colleagues, students and friends how much they fear the possibility of allowing cell phone use on a plane. Like them, some of my best, most focused, productive and creative work happens when I am locked down to a seat many thousands of feet in the air. I'm a captive audience. Captive to my own creativity and thoughts. It's also a time I like to meditate. I'm sitting. I'm quiet. I can usually go in to shift attention from crying babies behind me, "chatty Cathy's" in front of me, or any other cacophony of sounds that often accompany a flight. If not, I'll put on my headphones and just listen to some of my favorite music.
So, in absence of a flight, or a flight of quiet people, how do we shut it all off? Back to my original statement – go to your breath.
Become curious about it. Watch it. Analyze it. Get as interested in the breath as you would the latest tweet, photo of your favorite actress sans makeup on Instagram (OMG!!! She's still SOOOO pretty!), or headline from your favorite newsfeed.
Really, think about it. Or don't. Isn't that the fascinating thing? We don't have to think about breathing, yet it still happens. In, out, in, out. Day-in and day-out. What sparks us to breathe? Contemplate that for a few moments.
Why do you think you feel so good after yoga? Yes, maybe it's because you stretched a bit, got twisty, turny and maybe a bit sweaty. But ultimately, the thing that leads you to that blissed-out, Gumby-like state, flat out on your mat in Savasana at the end of class (I'm hoping you stay for that. Even more so, I'm hoping your teacher gives you at least 4 minutes of that sweet gift) is… you guessed it: your hour of concentrated, focused, directed and, hopefully, consistent and smooth breathing. Guess what? You don't need to physically move to do that. Just breathe.
The breath is the gateway to the mind. The mind produces our thoughts. So, if you can begin to breathe differently, you can absolutely change your thoughts. Change your thoughts and you can change your actions. Change your actions and you can change your habits. Change your habits – and you can ultimately change the direction of your life. You have control. You create the world you live in. You, and only you, are the master of your domain, so to speak. If you want a life of less pain, more freedom, joy and prosperity, don't look to win the lotto. The greatest abundance of wealth is right under your nose… literally.