How to quiet the mind

written by Erica Quam

Do you ever notice anything about the inner voice in your head? Have you stopped to actually listen to all the chatter?

I've been paying attention to mine over the years and have noticed 4 trends:

  • My inner voice prefers to focus on the past or the future. She rarely lives in the present.
  • She focuses primarily on ME.
  • My inner voice can be super negative!
  • She repeats many of the same messages...over and over again.

What's wrong with this?

Focus on past or future: The past brings up guilt, blame, and resentment. The future brings about worry, fear, or anxiety.

Focus on self: When we're absorbed by the self we have a hard time listening, connecting, or caring about others.

Negative self talk: Living in a state of scarcity...I'm not _______ enough. (pretty, skinny, wealthy, tough, strong, good, smart, or whatever it is you'd like to fill the blank with).  

Repeated messages: Take the message that you just created from above and repeat it over and over and over again. The impact of the repetition is exponential.

How do you quiet the mind? 

All day long, the mind is working. It's wanting stuff, or not wanting stuff. It's thinking about yourself. It's making choices and deciding - right from wrong, good from bad, better or worse. It's judging - yourself and others. 

It's not so much making the thoughts stop. It's about awareness. It's about mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined as "the ability to know what's going on in your mind without getting carried away by it."

Mindfulness helps you focus - in the middle of chaos. This type of awareness helps you keep your attention on the things that are important - rather than allowing your thoughts to get pulled a million different directions. Author Dan Harris says, "mindfulness is like kryptonite for that inner voice in your head."

The brain can be trained. I once had a yoga teacher tell our class that, "you have to train your brain to sit...just like you train your dog to sit."

There are many ways to practice mindfulness - including yoga and mindfulness meditation. There are so many mindfulness health benefits that there's even a magazine. And it's not just trendy...it's effective.

You can simply sit quietly with your eyes closed for 2-3 minutes. Allow the breath to flow in and out. Then begin to observe your thoughts. As the thoughts come in, notice them, maybe even label them as a 'thought' or 'thinking'...and then come back to the breath. And repeat until your 2-3 minutes are up. 

Just like any other training you do, it takes practice. It's not about perfection. It's not something you can will yourself to do. Some days will be more challenging, other days will be easier. You will get better.

Once you are comfortable with 2-3 minutes, add a minute each week. If you do this daily, you will experience changes - some big, some subtle...and all good. The benefits far outweigh the time it takes to do it. What have you got to lose?

Have you ever tried to quiet your mind? What has been challenging for you & what has worked well? 

Share your comments below.