[I wrote a version of this article, Quieting the Mind, in 2015 on the IHReiki Blog – https://ihreiki.com/blog/quieting_the_mind/ – I’ve revised and enhanced it below]
The awareness around meditation practices, mindfulness and the benefits of such practices is definitely growing.
However, I hear comments like these fairly often:
“We need to learn to quiet the mind”
“You need to learn to meditate and quiet your mind”
“Despite meditation often, I can’t seem to quiet my mind”.
This gives me pause, and makes me realize that even with something like meditation, which is meant to bring us to freedom, we can be a prisoner of our own beliefs.
Can you really quiet the mind?
Much has been written about how our mind is like a monkey, jumping from one thought to another. Or, how, in the course of a day, we can be bombarded by 40,000 thoughts or more.
And undoubtedly, anyone who has attempted meditation, knows that the simple direction of “following the breath” isn’t easy, because, in no time at all, the mind has wandered and got ensnared in some chain of thoughts. And surely, at some time or another, we all have experienced the serious frustration with this. I’d daresay that even those of us, who have been practicing meditation for years can still find ourselves in this very situation.
Indeed, can one really quiet their mind?
Quieting the mind, as a goal, seems like wrestling with air, like catching flowing water with my bare hands. Seems impossible, to me.
This notion of trying to quiet the mind, has signs of resistance written all over it. i.e. The mind, as it is now (noisy), isn’t what it should be (silent). And that I have to push against it, do something to change it. Whatever we resist, persists. Is it any wonder then, that even in meditation practice, the mind is still noisy, and cluttered with thoughts?
Have we been going about this the wrong way? With the wrongful belief that we have to conquer our mind, and browbeat it into submission and quietness?
I wonder if there’s another way to look at this! A way which doesn’t require my success in meditation, to emerge after a battle with my mind, where I work hard and wrestle it into submission, and emerge with a quiet mind!
To me, it starts with recognizing one quality in us called “attention”. We use this word quite commonly, like: “Pay attention to this”. Attention is like focusing on, or rather tuning into something. So often, our attention is in the thought processes in the mind, or what I see as the “I” process. And our experience of life follows what we’ve paid attention to. More of the “I” process.
In practice, I’ve noticed that when I move my mind’s attention, consciously into my heart center, I find the stillness that I’ve been seeking to already be there. i.e. Even as the noisy mind, the clamor of the “I” process is active, also active at the same time is the stillness in the heart center. And when I’ve moved attention to the heart center, my experience of life in those moments, is that of stillness and peace and expansion and more. If I let attention slip away from the heart center, it snaps back, almost by default, to the “I” process and its noise. And the consequent experience of life in those moments, is that of fear, anger, pride and myriad such instruments of suffering that exist as an artifact of the “I” process.
Training myself to move attention to the heart center and let it rest in the stillness that is already there, to me, feels a lot more easy to do. I’m not wrestling with wispy, intangible thoughts. I’m not fighting with illusory artifacts of the “I” process. I’m merely training to move attention to that which I’m seeking anyway, the stillness, which is already present in my heart center.
For a moment, I’m not saying that this is easy. But it is simple. It may be a more effective approach. It is easier to do than fighting to quiet my mind. With this approach, I’m not resisting the nature of my mind in my human form, which is, by default, noisy. I’m choosing instead, to training my attention to rest in the heart center, and in the silence, the stillness that is already there.
What I put my attention on, expands. And the reason for this is that energy follows attention, and the arc of that flow of energy is through the focal point of attention. Practicing to transfer my attention from the “I” process that is the mind, to the silence in the heart center, eliminates the battle of “Quieting the Mind” altogether.
It is like tuning into the heart center and loving the sacred music of silence that is always on there, rather than tuning into the “I” process and hating the mind’s noise!
Though it is simple, this approach may not necessarily be easy, especially when you start out. For this, we offer The Peace Practice, free, online, live meditations on weekdays, to cultivate the art of resting attention in the silence of the heart. At the time of writing this, we have done over 100 consecutive weekdays of practice together. Join us on weekdays, at 7am or 10am Eastern Time in USA, and cultivate silence in your life. It is open to people with all levels of meditation experience.
Meditation practice need not be a battle of quieting the mind. Meditation practice can simply, and directly be the art of resting attention in silence. After all, real meditation is being as you truly are, that ever-present silence within.
Realize your real nature. The book, “Awaken: An Experiential Exploration of Enlightenment” can help with guidance on the direct path to awakening, namely, Self-Inquiry.