Have you ever noticed that your mind hardly ever stops talking? “So what?” you might say, “that’s normal isn't it?” Sure feels like it, right?
And have you ever noticed that your mind is rarely in the present moment? It’s usually in the past or in the future – lost in stories frequently laden with some level of disquiet and completely identified with its comments, interpretations and judgments. As the heart listens to such mental chatter, uncomfortable emotions are likely to arise. Over time we may feel increasingly vulnerable, anxious or despairing and wonder why? We’re trapped in a narrow range of automatic reactions because our autopilot thinking is taking us to unhelpful places we’re not consciously choosing.
These habits of mind are common but often not all that helpful.
The good news is that we can take a break from the activities of the mind and reduce the mental disquiet.
When we do this, more calmness will enter.
It just takes a bit of cultivation.
The following is a good practice to adopt regularly throughout the day as well as when you’re feeling overwhelmed or when thoughts are racing.
Each step might take about one minute.
Notice with openness and curiosity, what is here in this moment without judgment –
What thoughts are passing through your mind?
What emotions are arising?
What sensations are you noticing? Where are you feeling them in your body?
Re-direct your focus to the breath, bringing awareness to the sensations of the breath as it moves through the nostrils, expanding the chest and the belly. Let go with the out breath.
Expand your awareness to include the entire body (noticing the whole body including the breath).
Congratulate yourself for taking the time to invest in yourself.
Move into the next moment of your day guided by your values.
Here are some more suggestions to cultivate stillness in your life:
- Set reminders and build a little time in your day to step away from technology for a minute or two and sit still somewhere.
- Look at objects without naming them. Just look as if seeing them for the first time. Bring an openness and curiosity to the looking without mentally labelling what you see.
- You could try meditation or simply sit somewhere pleasant. Just as you might watch leaves moving along a stream in their own time, watch the thoughts passing through your awareness.
- Find a park and lie on the grass watching the movement of the clouds. Observe any thoughts or the quietening of the thinking mind as you watch.
- Imagine that part of you that observes your thoughts is a bit like the sky that holds all kinds of changeable weather—sometimes sunny, sometimes a little overcast, sometimes stormy or cyclonic. We may forget that above the clouds is the infinite blue sky. But it’s always there: Holding all that arises: Unharmed by what passes through: Available to us in each and every moment. Notice how awareness is always available to you, able to hold all that arises, unharmed by what passes through.
- Find time for relaxing.
- Take tea in the morning or afternoon. As you drink tea, just drink tea. Notice its smell, the feel of the cup, the movement of your arm as you bring the tea to your lips. Notice the warmth of the tea; its flavour; how the fluid moves across the mouth; the movement of your throat as you swallow.
- Take a stretch– mindfully staying in your body, noticing the sensations of the movement in your body as some muscles stretch; how relaxed other muscles feel; the breath moving in and out of the body.
- Go for a walk. Bring your attention to the movement of your body, the muscles, the shifting in the balance as your body moves forward, the feel of the pavement/ground under your feet. Notice the temperature of the air, the smells, the sounds, the sights.
Remember to take care of yourself.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.