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Today’s post is a series of tips on how to quieten the mind in meditation, relaxation, going to sleep and in everyday life. Some will be useful some will not! Try them all if you wish; it’s difficult to really know if something will work unless we experience it as fully as possible.
Allow the body to become quiet: Discipling a very active mind that has been like this for years, or decades through trying to control the thoughts is extremely difficult. It can make more sense to begin by disciplining the body, becoming more mindful of your physical habits – go by the adage of “how we do one thing is how we do everything”. Some ways in which we can practice this are to speak less; aim for 50% less. By doing this you begin to choose your words more carefully eliminating unnecessary fillers and making conversation because you feel you have to. Make less movement with the body, this is not about moving or exercising less it’s more about unnecessary “efforting”. For instance if a lot of effort is put into merely standing up perhaps try Alexander Technique or a yoga class. The side effect of these practices is that you will have more energy… Notice tendencies to moan and groan when performing a task or getting out of bed in the morning, at the very least move yourself into neutral. All these small movements towards quietness of being have a significant impact on the mind. Remember everything is interrelated.
Following are tips for sitting in meditation/relaxation or for quieting the mind for sleep.
Relax the mouth and tongue: When we have a lot of internal chatter and persistent thoughts we tend to sub-vocalise; this is when our tongue continues working as if we are actually talking out loud even when we are just thinking. When we open our mouth slightly this slows sub-vocalisation and we find it more difficult to think, or at least to think quickly and coherently. To do this, open your mouth fully, stretch the mouth and jaw muscles for a few seconds to release surface tension then almost but not quite, close the mouth, leave a small gap and allow the lips to relax fully.
Picture an endless sky: Think of a vast, blue sky, imagine this sky filling up your mind. When thoughts arise see how small they are against the backdrop of the sky. Or you may prefer to think of a night sky filled with stars where your thoughts melt away into the vast darkness or shoot away like a star.
Detachment: Say to yourself “I have thoughts but I am so much more than my thoughts”. (This statement can be worth meditating on in itself when we have begun to experience the mental stillness or expansion that comes with a regular practice)
Mental imagery: See thoughts as energy that have shape or are actual things such as butterflies, birds or clouds. Actually picture the words or letters of your thoughts as, say, butterflies; watch them lose colour and fade to grey then flutter away. If imagining them as clouds then perhaps see them drift into the distance, dissipate and disappear. Play around with images until you find you can do this instantly each time you are distracted by thoughts.
Bringing the mind back to now: Picture yourself standing on a bridge above a railway line. When you find your mind has become distracted see the thoughts as a train that has travelled away from you. Simply bring your mind back to where you are standing on the solidity of this bridge in this present moment.
Mental commands: When a worrying thought appears say a word such as “delete”, “stop”, or “cancel, clear”, if you need to do more, imagine the words being washed away by a shower of water, a beam of light or a flash/explosion of light or fire from the centre of the thought.
Quantum Entrainment Method: Ask yourself “Where does my next thought come from?” Watch for the thought arising. You’ll likely find that all thoughts just disappear, that nothing is there, even if just for a second. When we’re not used to even a second of nothing this is remarkable – and restful!
Do a reality check: When anxious our minds often take a leap into catastrophe and very negative thinking. The mind is creative and powerful and often tells stories that aren’t true. When you have a very fearful or angry thought, ask yourself, “Is this absolutely true?” Breathe deeply as you are asking yourself this, as if you are breathing out the thoughts and the emotions below the thoughts.
Release the critic: When trying to meditate agitation will often give rise to self-critical thoughts. A simple question: Do the judgements about self make you more or less anxious? The answer is almost always, more. When you notice the self-criticism, interrupt this by stating firmly, “May I be kinder to myself.”
Find a Mantra: Many meditation disciplines involve a mantra (Transcendental Meditation, TM, being the most well known), usually this is a phrase in Sanskrit. You can of course take the mother of all mantras – the Om/Aum sound or take a positive word in English. Allow this mantra to fill your mind. Do whatever appeals, remembering that this can change whenever you want.
Mudras: Another Indian Yogic practice is a to adopt a mudra, these are hand and finger positions utilising electrical impulses and energy conduits within the body, similar to the meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are many mudras for different states of being and specific mudras that accompany certain mantras. There is a wealth of information online, in books and in yoga classes if interested in this subject.
Finally, and most importantly, please be kind to yourself. If it’s difficult to switch off or to concentrate simply accept this. In fact just being with the difficulty without trying to change it is mindful meditation in essence.
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