calm mind

 

"Leave your front door and your back door open.

Allow your thoughts to come and go.

Just don't serve them tea."

Shunryu Suzuki

 

Our thinking mind is a great gift. With it we solve problems, we create amazing structures, develop medicines and have fascinating interactions. But as a culture we have over prioritised thinking over everything else and we fail to see it for what it is. Whether we experience ourselves as our thoughts, or go to a deeper level of experience, ultimately, calming and finding peace from the constant chatter of our thoughts is the first place to start on the journey into Calm Mind. 

 

Through this practice of Calm Mind we then find that we are able to take action in our life from a place of greater stillness, clarity and confidence. This action comes from being able to hear our deepest wisdom, or Direct Knowing, far more clearly, where it’s no longer clouded by all the thoughts that run through us each day. Over time, Calm Mind allows us to begin to be less and less involved and invested in our thinking and ultimately gifts us the incredible freedom which comes from seeing our whole belief system is made up.

In exploring Calm Mind, here are some practices to get you started...

 

Thought Observation

 

Sit for half an hour. Allow thoughts to flow. 

Notice whether you chose to have those thoughts or whether you are being ‘thinked’?

 

Notice whether, generally, are the thought stories helping or hurting?

 

Now that you know you didn’t actively choose any of your thoughts. In what way is that going to change your actual life? How could you step back from the thinking mind a little more and create a pause between the thought and the action? What would be different if you did?

 

If you were to AlwaysChoose to no longer pay so much attention to your thinking, how much calmer might your mind be?

 

 

Balancing where your attention goes

In our everyday moments we have a myriad of incoming sensations, which are all brought together into the world that we perceive. At its simplest, this is made up of our physical sensations, such as sight and sound, and our thoughts. For many of us we have over many years prioritised our thoughts over our other sensations. We can enhance the richness of our experience of life by balancing the volume of these sensations. We turn up the volume of our physical sensations and turn down the volume of our thoughts. 

 

Find somewhere where you can be outside for ten minutes, undisturbed, and comfortable. Sitting is ideal and standing is also fine. If you can't be outside then inside is a good second best.

 

Start by opening up your senses and see what different sensations your attention is drawn to - the sound of children playing, the noise of people walking by, the sensation of wind on your face, or perhaps thoughts of the future. Notice the wide range of sensations. Gently move your attention to fall more onto an external sensation which feels in some way pleasurable or calming, for example the sound of birds singing or the warmth of the sun, and focus on this. In whatever way you know how, allow the experience in fully. 

 

If you become aware that your attention has drifted away from this and onto your thoughts, or some other sensation, simply place it back onto the sounds you hear, or the feeling on your skin, or whatever else you have been working with.

 

Do this for ten minutes each day for a week and at the end of the week, spend some time journaling and reflecting on your experience and what you noticed having done so. 

Here you are learning that you can choose where to place your attention, and in doing so you can become more skilled at turning your attention away from your thoughts, which tend to dominate our attention, and at turning up the volume of the other physical sensations you experience. 

 

 

Another Choice

We are always moving in some way, shape or form. Perhaps our moving is a physical one such as walking or working, but even when we are stationary or still we continue to move through breathing, and in these moments our moving may be more intangible, such as the movement of our thoughts from moment to moment. In seeing what triggers us into movement we can begin to bring more conscious choice to this and have more direction over our lives. 

Find somewhere indoors where you can sit quietly for ten minutes. And simply sit, and wait. Notice what sensations come into your awareness. Notice if you feel comfortable, or at points uncomfortable, perhaps with a sore back, or if you have the need to cough or sneeze. Perhaps you notice the sensation of hunger. Perhaps a desire to simply move and not be still anymore - a wiggle of a finger or twitch of a facial muscle. This can be a strong desire for many of us in a life where we rarely sit still and allow ourselves to be.

 

Notice the thoughts and sensations that cause you to want to do something - cough, sneeze, move, adjust your back, get a drink. Notice what arises that seems to be directing you to move. Is it a voice, a feeling, a desire, another sensation? See if you can allow the sensations and desires to simply be rather than following them through to action. Explore the sensations and desires - their texture, their power - and notice them as separate to you.  

In this noticing, what we are exploring is how these desires run many and regularly, and we quite often simply follow them unconsciously. Many of them are part of our body's natural rhythm, and others are not, such as the desire for something different due to boredom. In doing so we are learning that we can choose to act, or not, with many of these desires. We can have more conscious choice than we may realise. 

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