Have you ever noticed that when you sit down to meditate the mind becomes frantic? No matter how soft a meditation practice you have, when you first sit down and observe the mind it’s all over the place. Then when you want to gently help it settle is seems to run around even more.
Dropping directly from life into a meditation can be a sudden transition for the mind. The mind is usually busy getting things done, remembering what needs to be done and anticipating what may need to get done – it’s driving around the city in a rush to get from place to place. If you’ve ever been in a car that’s come to a full and sudden stop then you know what happens to the mind when you sit down to meditate. The sudden and radical change from hectic business to sudden stillness is a shock.
Pranayama (Yoga breathing practices) are a transitional practice for the mind. The use of formulated, measured and repeated breathing keeps the mind busy and involved. It gives the mind something to do. So now instead of driving hectically around the city we’re asking the mind to drive around the block a few times. The first few rounds may still be fast and furious but then repetition kicks in. The familiarity of driving around the same block over and over again brings the mind into familiar territory – repetition reduces surprises, places less demand on the mind and enables it to relax.
Bringing the mind to stillness is much easier this way. The mind has slowed down making the transition to stillness easier. The mind is also less anxious making it less resistant to the qualitative change from movement to stillness. The transition into stillness is no longer an attack on it or even against its nature. The transition into stillness is now completing that last drive around the block, pulling into the driveway and coming to a soft and welcome rest.