September 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
Three Techniques for Quieting Your Mind
1. Observe the space between your breaths
This technique came up in one of my coaching sessions. We tend to breathe unconsciously. If we pay close attention to our breath, however, we will find that there is a slight pause when our inhalation turns into an exhalation, and again as our exhalation turns into inhalation. These little pauses are the turning points in our breathing cycle. Our breath has been flowing into our body as we inhale, and is now reversing its flow back out of our body as we exhale. The flow reverses again as we inhale once more, and so forth.
Our breathing cycle and the flow of our thoughts are closely linked. Have you ever been so completely concentrated on something that you found yourself holding your breath? It happens when we are particularly intent on the present moment. Our entire mind becomes focused on one thing, and our breath ceases.
As we focus on those tiny pauses between our in- and out-breaths, we find that our mind quiets down at those points in our breathing. These turning points in our breath cycle will lengthen slightly as we pay closer attention, allowing for a greater pause in our thoughts.
Without holding or interrupting your breath, begin extending those brief silences in your thoughts. Focus on the emptiness in your mind as your thoughts are briefly interrupted when your breath reverses itself. Try not to suppress your thoughts forcefully. Instead, focus on the space in between thoughts and breaths. By practicing this technique, you can learn to quiet the constantly running narrative of thought most of us experience in our minds.
2. Visualize letting go of your thoughts
Imagine that you are holding a bunch of balloons in your hand. As your thoughts arise, imagine placing each of them into one of the balloons. Now focus on your hand holding the strings of the balloons. Imagine letting those balloons go. Off they go, into the sky!
Instead of looking after them or watching them float away, focus on the empty space that is now in your hand. The thoughts have drifted away, leaving only emptiness behind. As you repeat this visualization with your newly arising thoughts (which may well be: “hey, my mind was really quiet just now!”), you will find that you can maintain the emptiness of your mind for longer and longer periods of time.
3. Turn up the volume
Has your mind ever insisted on a particular stream of thought on and on, keeping you from sleep? I personally often find myself blogging in my head right as I’m going to bed. Often, we push unwanted thoughts into the back of our minds. We try to think about something else. We distract ourselves by watching television or reading a book, but the thoughts are still there and are often creating tremendous amounts of stress.
If unwanted thoughts keep turning up in your mind, take a different approach! Your mind obviously needs to express itself. So go ahead – give it permission. Take two or three minutes and focus completely on whatever thoughts are on your mind. Imagine turning up the volume on those thoughts. Give them your full attention.
Focus your mind on any one thing, and it swiftly gets bored and moves on. By focusing your mind on a particular stream of thought for a brief time, you will find that it moves on rather quickly. This technique is far more effective than trying to distract ourselves or our minds from bothersome thoughts!