Does quieting the mind feel impossible?
Have you tried to meditate, but just can’t do it because you can’t quiet your mind?
Do you veg out in front of the TV just to get a break from your mind?
Or perhaps you collapse in bed because you are completely exhausted from all the work the mind has been doing.
Or just maybe you are reading this article because you are making progress on the journey of quieting the mind and you want to learn more.
No matter your reason for getting curious, let’s dive in.
Why is the mind so busy?
The mind is busy for two reasons. First, the brain’s basic design is to take in stimuli from the world around us and make sense of it. Second, the brain is busy because we condition it to be constantly busy.
Here’s what I mean.
If the brain is designed to take in stimuli from the world around us and the world around us is constantly filled with stimuli, then it becomes harder for the brain to quiet and take a break.
Have you ever gone on vacation after a busy time at work and/or home and had a hard time settling in? Relaxing? This happens because our body and mind are so conditioned to take on everything we had going on that it is continuing to operate as though those demands are there, even when they have subsided. The mind has been conditioned and it has adapted to its training to be on alert and to work hard.
The interesting thing is that the converse is also true.
If you regularly took breaks at work or during the day, let’s say for 30-60 minutes every day, by taking a mindful walk, reading, meditating, or otherwise getting quiet, your mind would soon learn how to ‘be quiet.’
Your mind is great at learning!
While this is a strange analogy, the same way a dog can learn to stop at a corner and wait for the trainer to say ‘go,’ no matter how long that takes (if it’s a well-trained dog!), our minds can also learn to be quiet, but they need training. If you have ever trained a dog, you know that the way they learn to sit and wait even when there are bicycles going by, children running, cars moving, is through practice. Quieting the mind is a practice.
The importance of quieting and clearing your mind
The most important reason to quiet and clear your mind is a mind on overload doesn’t function effectively or efficiently. A mind overloads when it has more information, stimulation, or data than it can handle in a given moment. The effect is increased distractibility, impulsivity, impatience, restlessness, and irritability.
To put it simply, when the mind has too much to process it begins to short wire and misfire. Even though we may be on overload because we have so much to do, in this state, the mind is much less capable of effectively and efficiently managing tasks. The mind needs a break to recover and restore.
The second reason why it is important to quiet and calm the mind is we are better able to hear our internal guiding system when the mind is quiet. We are so conditioned to believe that our brain does all the thinking when in fact we receive highly discerning information from our gut, our heart, and our nervous system, all throughout the body. We know this because we say things like, “I felt it in my gut that this was not a good idea.” In reality, science has shown that we usually do know things in our gut and heart before we know them in our head, but if our mind is always busy, we can’t listen effectively to the other centers of knowing in our bodies. When we quiet the mind, we can hear more.
“If our mind is always busy, we can’t listen effectively to the other centers of knowing in our bodies.” – Adina Tovell
Three simple steps to condition your mind and boost your mental clarity
So how can we quiet and clear a mind that is used to being busy?
- Decide that you want to condition your mind for quiet and clarity
Nothing can be different or will be different if you do not first decide that you want it to be. You can read 1000 articles on the benefits of meditation or how to quiet your mind, but nothing will truly change until you decide that you want this for yourself and practice. Decide to name it for yourself and feel the commitment in your entire body. Mental self-discipline calls on you to feel it as though it is something that ALL of you wants, not just a rational part of you that read an article. Pause for a moment and see if you are committed to this at a level 10 out of 10.
- Make space and time for the practice
You won’t become stronger unless you make time and find space to practice. When you are committed at a 10, identify a time in your day and a physical space where you will be able to practice. If you cannot always be in the same location, you might try finding background music or a song you always play, or a traveling candle you take with you. It is good to have a familiar token or routine, something that communicates to your brain that it is time for quieting and silence. If you need support and accountability, sharing a practice with a friend or a community can give you that extra boost of commitment.
- Practicing lightheartedly
You know what it means to practice with intention and awareness. You take time regularly, either every day, every few days, one time per week (at the least) to practice. You have the time and the space and you reconnect with your commitment to train your mind. The next step is to practice lightheartedly, which means to be gentle, compassionate, and kind to yourself. Your mind will not quiet all at once and that is normal. Keep patiently and gently reminding your mind of the goal, especially when the mind goes off track and gets busy again. Through commitment and lighthearted practice, the mind will quiet over time. Sometimes it will feel like two steps backward, one step forward, but you will reach the point where you can say “I’ve got this!
If having structure is helpful (and it always is for me!), I welcome you to sign up for a two-week trial of Curiosity CrusadersTM, our innovative program for supporting mental and spiritual well-being, where we offer a time and location for your practice.