In the Upanishads, ancient Hindu texts, the workings of the mind are likened to a charioteer and his horses. The chariot is the body, the charioteer the intellect, the reins the mind, and the horses the five senses. When the horses, our senses, get distracted, they tug the mind in whatever direction they choose. And even if we have achieved pratyahara, inward focus, we are still plagued by the mind replaying the past and worrying about the future. How do we find stillness and peace?
The first important note is that quieting the mind is difficult. The second yoga sutra states that once a yogi has mastered stilling the fluctuations of their mind, they will achieve the goal of yoga. So start by looking at your mind chatter with curiosity instead of frustration. See it as an opportunity to practice the science of yoga.
Secondly, quieting the mind requires a lifestyle practice. Are you familiar with the book title “Sex Begins in the Kitchen?” Likewise, if we want to quiet our minds in the present moment, much soul care should have already occurred. Be committed to the journey.
Lastly, your mind is part of your body, so take care of yourself. Eat well, avoid an excess of caffeine or alcohol, and surround yourself with people and activities that nurture you. Want a quick litmus test for what is beneficial for you? Gravitate toward what feels expansive in your body and move away from things that feel restrictive.
So, now that we have set the foundation that quieting the mind is a lifetime practice requiring soul and self-care throughout our day what next?
- Begin thinking of your mind as separate from yourself – because it is. It is there for you to explore and interact with the world in ways that benefit you. Take back your role as charioteer, and remember who you are – your soulful self.
- Become aware when your mind is running amok and rein it in. Even if it is daydreaming about something pleasant, come back to the present moment. Your brain loves to operate from your set routines, so create new patterns. Be present.
- Do one thing at a time and avoid multi-tasking: train your mind to be single-threaded and intentional. Avoid going on auto-pilot and ensure your mind, body, and soul are always engaged in the same activity.
- Use intentions to reset the mind. Do you replay things you have done or said? Setting an intention of “I do my best and let go of the rest” may serve you well. Do you worry about the future? An intention “I trust the universe to guide my life” may be just the ticket. Plant your intention when you wake up, go to sleep, in meditation, using a mala, with yellow stickies on your computer – whatever works. And when the mind starts its loop tape of unhelpful thoughts, do a reboot: stop the chatter, state your intention, and move forward fully present.
Compliment your soul care with practical techniques to quiet the mind in the current moment.
- Empty the mind of its current playlist. Write things down, visualize letting them go into the universe, or use whatever method works for you.
- Adopt a curious attitude. Frustration will only make things work, so look at your mind’s activity as a natural function and simply observe it without becoming involved.
- Release stagnant energy and move into your body and breath with yoga practices or other activities that relax you, like music, or walking in nature.
- Eliminate outer distractions, things coming in through your 5 senses. Draw your awareness inward.
- If doable, find a place where you feel at peace. A space reserved specifically for this purpose, or nature, works best.
- Find what works best for you and repeat it, creating your unique ritual. This new routine will retrain your brain: the activities in your ritual will signal the brain that it is now quiet time.
Would you like to work on your personal practice for quieting the mind? Set up a complementary soul coaching session with me!