Quieting the Mind
Calm the Mind from Plaguing Thoughts
We are taught that we need to constantly be doing something! Even when we are sitting down to eat dinner, so many of us, have the television on, receive phone calls, not to mention the now ubiquitous texting. It seems that there is always some type of input coming at us and the speed at which it approaches accelerates with each passing year. When will we say emphatically to ourselves, “It is ok to slow down!”
In an effort to quiet ourselves so that we can appreciate what life is all about, I suggest practicing meditation. An avid yoga practitioner for over ten years, I began meditating one year into my yoga practice to learn how to endure stress and remain sane. Don’t get me wrong, the yoga is certainly beneficial all on its own; however, when yoga is coupled with meditation, one is able to hold onto her joy no matter the situation.
When practicing meditation, an important aspect is one’s posture. Remain erect in your spine. Imagine that you are a marionette, and there is a string pulling you straight up from your sitting bones along the length of your spine and up through the top of your head. Another image that is helpful is to keep your chin parallel to the floor, no need to look up or down. Keeping your posture as straight as possible allows for incredibly deep breaths, healing, compassionate breaths that will expand the interstitial muscles between your ribs. The power that oxygen carries to our cells allows our bodies to replenish at the molecular level and it help us to rejuvenate our minds as well.
“Trembling and quivering is the mind,
difficult to guard and hard to restrain.
The person of wisdom sets it straight,
as a Fletcher does an arrow.” –The Dhammapada (Teachings of the Buddha)
After a few deep breaths, perhaps using alternate nasal breathing, bring your attention to quieting the mind. Begin by closing your eyes and with hands placed on your knees (face up or down whichever is more comfortable) simply visualize the sea. As the tide comes in you are on the in breath, as the tide goes out you are on the out breath (or the other way around—it really doesn’t matter). The visual technique works just like counting to five as it occupies your mind. The thoughts will come. When they do, separate yourself from the thought, say in your mind: “I see you and I am putting you on the train.” Place the thought onto the train (an imaginary one you have waiting) and watch the train leave the station. Return to the visual of the sea. Now, to be frank, the thoughts will plague you some days more than others. It does take a good three months or so to get really good at sending them away and keeping yourself separate from them. This is not thinking time; rather it is simply being /breathing time.
We are Not our Thoughts
Everything and everyone around you most likely will think you are wasting your time with meditation. This is because we have been brain washed by our culture to constantly be active. However, as several Buddhist thinkers are fond of saying, we are human “beings” not human “doings”. To be healthy is to stop and be silent, to develop the ability to listen to what is important, what is inside you.
“It is good to tame the mind,
alighting, as it does, wherever it desires—
Swift, resistant to restraint.
A tamed mind gives rise to ease.” –The Dhammapada (Teachings of the Buddha)
Remember two things: 1) Do not be attached to results and; 2) You are not your thoughts. Each individual has a unique experience in meditation, some see fireworks, others hear voices, and most of us have nothing happen at all. Try not to compare your experience too much with that of another and if you do have an out of body experience, try not to attach to it, since it may never happen again. Meditation is about teaching us to be in the moment, there is nothing permanent about it. So you can easily prove to yourself that you are not your mind since your thoughts arise and pass away rather quickly and you continue to exist. There is much more to our existence than we are able to realize, but there may be glimpses and certainly opportunities to learn how to be more present, more aware, and much calmer, that is for sure!