There's a line from a poem which reads; 'How can I stop my mind being overloaded when the world is so overloaded.' It reminds me of a workshop I taught recently on how to meditate.
The class had to battle with noise from sirens, people and loud music so I told everyone not to try and block out the noises but just acknowledge (i.e. name the sound) and then go back to the breath. I was just thinking that we have every noise possible apart from a brass band, when suddenly lo and behold a brass band started playing on the street outside.
The world certainly tests us, which is why we have to try to work with it rather than fight against it. That goes for noises outside and inside our mind.
Essentially, being still is one of the most challenging things we can do. Take yoga, for example; Savasana (Corpse Pose) has been called the most difficult of the poses because it calls for instant relaxation, but that's not how our mind works. So, you can't just say, "Ok, I'm going to relax, right now because the mind (which is already over-stimulated), will say; "Are you kidding?!".
One Minute Mindful Moment
This is why focusing on the breath gives the mind something to focus on rather than our thoughts.
I often start a class with a 1-minute mindful moment. This involves counting the breath as it goes in and counting the breath as it goes out. After a minute, you usually find people have a breath count of between 14 and 28, which is a sign that the body and mind are not calm. We do the 1-minute mindful breath again and consciously slow down the breathing. After that, the count can be anything between 3 to 10 breaths, which is a sign the body has relaxed. I love this exercise because you see the peace in people's faces when you see how relaxed they have become in just a minute!
We often neglect to ask ourselves how we feel. Yes, we are asked this many times (daily even) by other people, but we often give a knee-jerk one-word answer (Fine, Good, Ok) but we don't redirect the question to ourselves. I tend to do the body scan in the morning - noticing how I feel if there is any tension or stress in the body. Replacing negative feelings of; "I don't want to get up" with "Let's make this a good day." Or, "I feel stressed" with "How can I create more moments of inner peace". How we start our day has a direct impact on how the day will turn out, so starting off with a positive mindset is so important.
Short moments many times
The trouble with stress is that it's built up out of many things throughout our day. So, if you break this continual cycle with short moments to pause (i.e. remembering to breathe as we often hold our breath when we are stressed), then we can inject more calm into our lives. You can bring pauses to moments in your life for example; before you look at your phone, turn on the computer, before rushing off to a meeting. It's all about re-loading the mind with some calm in amidst all that chaos.
Now, who would have thought we would get to a stage where we had to be reminded to breath?