I never noticed how hyper my mind was until I tried to calm it down a bit. For the longest time, I tolerated my mind’s incessant chatter and activity, assuming it was completely normal. My mind swirled with literally constant activity, whether I was reviewing what just happened, trying to remember to-do lists or contemplating what was soon to happen. Even when there was no reason to be thinking and I thought I was relaxed, I found something to consume me mentally. Does this sound familiar? It only occurred to me recently that the mind, like any tool, should be able to rest. In other words, it does not have to ‘work’ all the time. And, only when I actively calmed my mind (using some rudimentary meditation techniques), did I realize what a peaceful and energizing experience it was.
Previously, I wrote about times in our lives when we are forced to focus and control our minds because of the intensity of sports like cycling or downhill skiing. (https://smartersooner.com/2016/07/15/what-exercise-teaches-us/) During intense activities like these, whether we know it or not, we are calming our minds. There is no time for mental meandering / distractions as we are focused on the task at hand, watching the ground and obstructions fly by and keeping ourselves safe. And, during this period, there’s actually a calm or even euphoric sense that adds to the allure of the activity and encourages us to do more of it (biking, skiing, running, whatever). But, what if you could have this calm, energizing euphoria whenever you want it, with or without challenging, focus-intensive activities? What if we could use this technique to find calm when we’re feeling nervous of anxious, to sleep better and to simply feel better? Enter simple meditation…
How does one calm the mind on command? It’s actually quite easy. Here’s what you do:
1) Sit (preferably upright in a comfortable chair) in a quiet place where you’ll be undisturbed for 10 minutes or so.
2) Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing, only. Focus on your inhalation and exhalation, and notice that your mind is quiet for a moment. Sense that feeling and distinction of quiet – meaning there’s not mental chatter and you’re only focusing on your breath. It’s a very simple, but clear distinction when the mind settles, even for a moment.
3) When a thought arises (standard chatter), just acknowledge it and let it pass. Thoughts will bubble up regularly. Don’t worry… that’s normal and just let them pass (don’t fight them). When each thought passes, return to the focus on your breath again and you’ll find that mental silence again. Repeat…
Follow this process for 10 minutes or more. Notice how it feels so much more calm and peaceful. Be aware of how different this mental calm feels to your normal default mental noise / chatter / business. Don’t worry if you find lots of thoughts attempting to interrupt your meditation. This is perfectly normal… just let them pass. The more you meditate, the better you’ll become at extending the periods of chatter-free calm. The most important thing early on is to notice the distinction between an active mind and a calm mind. And, to supplement your own efforts, I highly recommend using some simple, guided meditations available free online. You can find dozens of them and here’s a couple that I’ve used:
Calming the mind provides both short and long term benefits. There is so much data on the power of meditation – from celebrities (Jerry Seinfeld swears by it), athletes, executives and just normal people. You will definitely be Smarter Sooner if you incorporate some sort of meditation into your routine. Try it. See how it works for you. Do it on a plane, sitting in a waiting room, on your sofa when you have free time… anytime, anywhere. The power is in your mind.