There is great wisdom in the Irish proverb Cuinnibh an cnámh is leanfaidh an madra thu – Keep hold of the bone and the dog will follow you. This proverb may echo down from a time when the domestication of wild dogs into guard and hunting dogs was a momentous advantage to the survival and development of human society but its message of controlling the situation, is no less true today. In fact, to tame our wilder emotions and thoughts we can employ similar tactics. Rather than being pursued by the dogs of your dark moods why not train them. Why not take control.
This is not that we will feed those snarling wolves in the hope they may one day change their response to us. No, we will show who is boss, who controls the food supply, whose side it is best to be on. We can domesticate our wildest fears and our darkest moods – we just got to train them in line – how ever slowly or painstaking, and in the end will have fine hounds and productive lives together.
Like the best ancestral wisdom there is not just cleverness to it, there is strategy in it; you take control of the bone and you take control of the dog. If we can take control over our triggers and upsets then we can hold the power of them, not them over us. The great thing is taking control can be a skill easily learned. We can utilize something as simple as conscious breathing to not just seize control but strength the grip.
Exercise. Breath control.
At the beginning we looked at how attuning to your breathing can be both grounding and a circuit breaker on stress and distress. Ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience reveal that a more ‘conscious’ or ‘mindful’ approach to breathing, deepens serenity and positive experience. It is not that you have to exert more in your respiration, it is simply that you observe it and by bringing your alert presence to following your breath – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale – you not only bring your attention into the natural peace of your inner being but build a framework of neural pathways that help better control your responses to your outer world too.
Breath is not just life; it is control over the vicissitudes of life. Sure, we can take a deep breathe to halt the thought signalling but by breathing as a meditation we can take ourselves out of the situation or triggering moment into a more controlled moment. By taking notice of the breathing as a moment to moment experience, we enter the now not the fray. The more we enter the now the easier we can enter it when we need to. That’s the portal to taking or regaining control.
Take a moment now and consciously breathe.