I thought I’d address something I used to, and still sometimes do, struggle with – my mind! Or more precisely, the thoughts within it.
It’s also something I’ve been asked a lot about, something I’ve focused on when teaching meditation and something I bring into the beginning of each yoga class I teach.
How do we quieten our mind?
It’s busy in there isn’t it? There are memories that we like and dislike, concerns about possible future events, fantasy stories we are making up for ourselves. The mind likes to be busy!
So let’s not try to quieten it.
Let’s observe it. Let’s train it.
With the kindness and patience that you would offer to a child.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Allow yourself to fidget so you can be comfortable and then settle into stillness. No rush.
Breathe in and out and focus on this inhale and exhale.
Within moments you can guarantee the mind will get fed up of the stillness and wander off to entertain itself….what shall I have for dinner? I must remember to service the car…Oo here comes Tom Hardy, he’s so handsome…..and we’re gone!
So the key to this is to notice that your mind has wandered off. It’s often labelled ‘The Monkey Mind’ for obvious reasons – swinging around between trees, jumping from branch to branch, never still. When you notice that the mind has drifted off don’t scold yourself or judge yourself, instead, with the kindness and reassurance of an adult to a child, bring its attention back to the breath…’inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale’ etc.
This will probably happen again and again and AGAIN!
It doesn’t matter.
The fact that you are noticing that it drifted off is half of the job done. It really doesn’t matter if you have to bring it back a hundred times.
However, it’s important to note that we are not trying to squash these thoughts or create an empty mind. They are still there, we are just taking our attention away from them at the present moment. Perhaps even becoming at peace with them.
After a while you may feel ready for the next stage where you notice what thoughts you are having.
When a thought pops into your head try to view it as an outsider looking in, rather than a participant in the thought. This is a skill to practise but is particularly helpful when the thought is upsetting or stressful. Then take a moment to investigate – is this a re-occurring thought? Something that may need to be addressed? Is it a daydream or an unnecessary thought that you can allow yourself to let go?
Once you’ve briefly investigated you can then practise non-attachment – allow the thought to drift away like a cloud passing by in the sky. And then it’s back to the breath. Repeat as many times as necessary!
After a while of practising sitting in stillness, you may notice certain patterns within your thoughts – ones which always appear, or that your own monologue takes rather an unkind tone with yourself. Maybe you realise you’re always daydreaming. It’s a way to learn quite a lot about yourself!
It takes practise to get a grip of this and the best thing to do is little and often. Daily for five minutes is a good, set a timer, sit on a chair and close your eyes. You have nothing to lose.