If you have ever consciously tried to be still in life you know the feeling: it doesn`t take too long and you begin to feel an itch here… an uncomfortable folding of your clothes there… discomfort in one of your limbs… the possibilities are endless and the pulling of the mind is strong.
If you have ever made the effort to stay still during these arising feelings and sensations, you may also have noticed something else: whatever it is, that was calling your attention in one moment, will fade when you have ignored it for some time – only to be replaced by another distraction. This little game of the mind will keep going for quite some time. However, if you manage to stay still, and if it is a good day, the pulling of the mind may eventually cease and leave you to just be.
These experiences bring us three very important insights.
One: the mind will try to pull our attention away at first – we need to learn how to be still.
Two: if we practice and manage to stay still, not giving in to the pulling of the mind (we don`t scratch, we don`t fix our clothes, we don`tchange our position, we don`t get up and leave), the feelings and sensations will first begin to wander, then eventually cease.
Which leads us to the most important insight of all: we are the ones who are in control. We alone decide what is important and what has an impact on us in life. Which, applied to what we encounter in our daily lives, has the potential to shift our energy towards an uplifting, positive outlook on the world that will help us to be content with what is, instead of focusing on what is not.
There is one little story that had a huge impact on me when I was first becoming a yoga teacher. I completed my first teacher training with Sivananda in an Ashram on the Bahamas. It was an intense time full of changes and shifts and the Ashram life came with some restraints. One of them was the amount of free time that was granted to us. The days were packed full and we had just the right amount of time to eat, rest and complete out homework with not a minute to spare. I had met a man not long before making my way to the Ashram and was crazy in love. We only managed to talk a few times during this month for a couple of minutes. After one of our talks I got up and noticed that my body was covered in mosquito bites. I had not even noticed the myriads of mosquitoes that had found their way into my tent during our talk.
That same evening, I settled in for our daily 20 minute evening meditation. Only a few seconds into the meditation I noticed a mosquito buzzing around me. My mind was instantly alert. And then it struck me: it is now, in the stillness, that I give my mind the permission to pull my attention away. I felt instantly challenged and managed to stay still for the remainder of the time. Which left me with a few bites but some crucial insights that were worth every itch.
The next time you feel being pulled away, try to see if you can stay still and observe what happens. It will be a rewarding experience.