Monkey Mind

No Thought vs. Quieting Your Mind

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

More than a decade ago, when meditation was just a mystery to me, I thought the whole idea of meditation was to silence the mind. I didn’t get it. How could I have no thoughts in this very busy head of mine?

A few years later, after spending time in silent meditation retreat, I knew what the answer was: I couldn’t. As human beings we think. That’s just what we do. And we do so often. All the time as it turns out.

What I have discovered (and continue to discover) is through meditation I have the tools to quiet the chatter a bit. As soon as I notice them, I can stop following them and just observe, become curious. It is through curiosity that I gain insight. It is through insight that I am able to change thought patterns. It is through changing thought patterns that I become happier, more content, and centered.

I’m not saying that quieting the mind is an easy thing. In fact, it can be one of the most difficult, and takes a lot of practice. For me, it has changed my life – the way I respond to situations, the way I relate to others, and way I relate to myself – and so it is worth the effort. It is through my meditation practice that I have cultivated this inner quiet. Sure, my mind can still run amok, but through my practice I can notice, observe and question.

As I’ve said many times in the past, it’s all about present moment awareness. So when I notice my thoughts running away from me, that’s when the awareness happens. I focus on my breath, because the breath is always present moment, and that’s all it takes to stop that train. That gives me the space to become curious about those thought, to really examine them.

There will always be distractions, that is thoughts and emotions and sensations and sounds. That is a given and out of your control. What you can control is your response. Here are some tips on minimizing inner and outer distractions while meditating:

Get more sleep
Eight hours of sleep is a good rule to follow for most, but there are individual differences. If your thinking gets dreamy and you fall asleep whenever you sit down, it’s a warning sign you need more slumber.

Exercise and eat well
Your mind works better when you keep your body fit. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily and eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and some healthy fats.

Sit up.
Just sitting up straight can help keep your mind from sinking. Tighten those abdominal muscles to support a straight back. Relax your shoulders and draw them back so your neck and head fall into alignment.

Make yourself comfortable
Good posture feels good when you get used to it. Pay attention to your body. Shift positions if your foot is starting to fall asleep or if your legs need more room.

Take deep breaths
Breathing fully from your diaphragm helps carry more oxygen to your brain and makes it easier to manage your thoughts. It’s one reason why meditation sessions often start with breathing exercises.

Turn off your phone
Turn your phone off when meditating. You can check your voice mail later for any calls you need to return.

Let people know when you are meditating
Have a regular schedule, and let those close to you know that this is a time you won’t be available.

Create a peaceful atmosphere
Clearing away clutter can help you quiet your mind, as can surrounding yourself with things that bring you calm.

There is no wrong way to meditate. If you are sitting with intention and awareness, the mind will become quieter. And, like anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

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