“You have to select your thoughts just like you select your clothes every day… If you can’t master your thoughts then you’re in trouble for life… Stop trying and surrender…. Sit there and still your mind and watch what happens…” Richard from Texas, Eat Pray Love
The minute you begin to meditate and calm your mind, suddenly a thousand thoughts come rushing into your brain, bombarding you with things to do, remember and think about. You try to fight it, to put a stopper on your mind’s door, but the silence is deafening and you begin to notice all the small details of the world – how hot it is, the tiny patterns formed on your tiles, the dust particles as they slowly float around before your eyes. You become upset that your mind is wandering and command yourself to snap out of it, feeling the tension building, suffocating you in the back of your mind. You check your clock; not even a minute has passed and you feel you’re going crazy. And just as Julia Roberts did, there is nothing else left to do than to smack your forehead against the ground and think, “Kill me…”
Meditation is an internal state of relaxed awareness; a peaceful, infinite, inner space. That’s easier said than done, really. How in the world are you supposed to quiet yourself when you’ve got a million things to worry about? Truly, your busy-ness is a big hindrance to your attaining that perfect serenity. So, how can you quiet your ever racing mind? Here are a few tips:
1. The Setting
For those more advanced at meditation, it is easy to fall into the rhythm anytime and anywhere; for beginners, on the other hand, it would be best to set your perfect meditation space. Pick the quietest, most relaxing place that is free from distractions. It would also be good to personalize your space, filling it with inspiration and calming elements. In addition, choose a time of day when you are unhurried and generally free. Hurried thoughts are less likely to follow you into a serene environment.
2. The Mood
Just like any epic event, it is important to set the mood – the lighting, music and ambiance. It all depends on what makes you the most comfortable. For beginners, it would be best to try a place with moderate lighting and undisturbed silence.
First, release all tension from your body; holding tension causes the mind and body to become uneasy and restless. The best posture is that of relaxed alertness, that in which you are relaxed but remain fully present. Whatever comfortable position you choose to fall into, make sure that your spine is upright with your head up; a slumped body will welcome a wandering mind and can turn your ‘meditation session’ into a ‘sleep session’.
Breathing is one of the leys to meditation and is a great way to anchor yourself in the moment. Pay attention to your breath streaming in and out as you breathe normally. You may also try counting your breaths at intervals. On each exhale, do a count – One, two, three, then four. ‘One’ will be your home, your presence; that way, when you find yourself suddenly at twenty-six, you can simply return to ‘one’ and you’re back.
5. Patience, Young Padawan (Student)
Do not expect to fall into absolute serenity right off the bat. It takes several trials and errors before you find what works best for you. Also, know that thoughts will stray and race in your mind; do not lash out at yourself or your mind. Be patient.
As said before, thoughts drifting through our consciousness will inevitably happen. Instead of scolding your mind, gently acknowledge and take note of your thoughts. Observing them will help them pass through quicker and will keep you from lingering too long on a thought.
7. Good Vibrations
While meditating, thoughts and problems cannot necessarily be dealt with immediately. Instead of trying to push all thoughts out, send out loving thoughts and good vibrations to yourself, loved ones, people around you and even the situation you are thinking about. Doing this allows you to come back to your stillness less judgmental about allowing your mind to wander.
The imagination is something cultivated from childhood; then why not use it? When thoughts rush in, use the imagination. There are several ways to do this: First, imagine your minds as a puppy; whenever it strays, call it back lovingly. Second, imagine your breaths as waves and your thoughts rushing out with the tide of each wave. Third, create a mental haze. There are times when there a just so many ideas whirling about your mind; here, it is best to imagine them whirling faster and growing bigger, until no individual idea is visible through the haze.
Emotions may sometimes be connected to our thoughts and memories. To address this, focus on the ‘body feelings’ — the ache in your chest, the lump in your throat, the rolling and tightening of your stomach, the draining feeling in your face. Let go of the thoughts and refocus on your body, this way you acknowledge your emotions without lingering on their corresponding thoughts.
10. Here and Now
Lastly, it is important to just be in the here and now. Be present in your body — acknowledge your body’s sensations without naming them, recognize to the surrounding stimuli without thinking of their origin – just be in the moment and relish it.
It is good to remember that meditation is not about an end goal, neither is it really about quieting the mind; rather, it is about paying attention to it. Listen to what your body and mind are trying to tell you; but in order to do so, we must fall silent. Just enjoy yourself and breathe.