“The Mind creates bondage and the mind creates liberation” – Sathya Sai Baba
Feeling at peace and having a clear mind are much sought for abilities and qualities today. This article wants you to give some practices beyond yoga, pranayama and kriyas on the mat to calm your mind that are very effective.
Calming your mind works together with your consciousness. You need to become aware of your thoughts that you are thinking and how they make you feel. Then you can change your thoughts and feel different or decide to have no thoughts.
There are three main practices to influence your mind: open awareness, focus/concentration and no thoughts at all. All are necessary and fulfill a different goal:
- With a non-judgmental open awareness you become conscious about the content of your mind; you practice to be the watcher and to feel peaceful no matter what is going on in your mind and on an emotional level.
- With focus and concentration you actively change your thoughts according to your goal; this could be feeling good, changing your perspective or focusing on a task.
- A quiet mind, or no mind, often comes when your thinking and feeling are aligned and peaceful. As a practice, you can decide to practice to have no thoughts.
Throughout your day usually these three forms of dealing with the mind come together. You practice on the mat to feel peaceful, to be present with whatever arises in the moment and to gain fresh energy. You then know how to deal with thoughts and uncomfortable feelings as soon as they arise during your day. You will have the tools ready to switch to a positive state immediately or take a note to deal with it later.
Open Awareness Practices
Open awareness practices are all practices where you sit and become aware of your thoughts without judgment. It is the mind’s job to think so don’t judge yourself for thinking.
In this type of meditation you have no task or goal during your meditation. You simply guide yourself gently back to being the witness once you become aware that you are on a thought train. You notice whatever is coming up with a benevolent disinterest.
Even though you have “no goal” in this kind of mediation you usually feel refreshed and energized afterwards. If you do not judge your thoughts and feelings that are coming up you are closer to your Self and this connection refills your energy reservoir.
Take a mental note when you are sitting and there are reoccuring distracting thoughts that need a closer look later.
Focus and Concentration Practices
Here you have all the conscious practices that deal with focusing your mind on a particular subject such as focus on your breath, a mantra or an affirmation. Many practices in yoga fall into this category and I will not describe them here.
Usually you feel refreshed after these kind of practices as well because you gave your mind a task that let you forget your usual mind chatter, e.g. counting your breaths, or because you filled your mind intentionally with positive content such as mantra singing.
Blending Open Awareness and Focus
The following list lists some of my favorite practices of how to change the contents of your mind consciously. Some of these are described in detail in Dr. Joshua David Stone’s Book “How to release Fear-Based Thinking and Feeling”:
- Making lists and follow through: If something is troubling you, make lists to deal with the issue and make decisions about what to do about the issue; then follow your plan through
- Blessing thoughts and emotions: If there are disturbing thoughts notice them, see them, acknowledge them and bless them. Most of the times this is enough so that they change or leave you
- Pray: If you believe in a higher power, pray. I love the quote of Edgar Cayce “Why worry if you can pray?”
- Switching from automatic pilot to conscious thinking: Practice to notice throughout the day if your thinking is on “automatic pilot” and return without judgment to controlling your thoughts
- Changing perspective: If you have returning negative thoughts write them in a little notebook throughout the day and have a look at them in the evening. Most negative thoughts are a wakeup call that there is another perspective and that you have to change your thinking about a specific matter. By finding this hidden positive perspective you are taking all thoughts seriously and they fulfill their purpose. In this former article you find a list of negative ego thoughts and their corresponding spiritual perspective. Anthony Robbins calls negative emotions action calls, e.g. the feeling of frustration would be unlived passion.
- Asking your Higher Self for advice: Sitting for 20 minutes in silence with a question for your Higher Self usually gives you fresh insights and energy. You only need to think about your question in the beginning and then turn to open awareness for 20 minutes. Another possibility is to ask a question before you go to bed at night and interpret your dream when you wake up the next morning. Dreams are always meant to help you and convey a positive message for you.
- Surrender, intentions and alignment: If you believe in a greater power surrender the coming day. Set an intention in the morning that you will be of benefit during the day and happy for the wellbeing of all. Align your thinking, speaking and feeling.
- Communication with self and others: With this inner alignment it is so much easier to communicate well with others rationally instead of emotionally and to decide what is wise to communicate. For conscious, rational communication I recommend nonviolent communication practices, the talks of Matt Kahn on Youtube and the “WANT-Training for Effective Living” by Dr. Pat Allen that bases on transactional analysis.
- Solve your problems: Solve your problems in real-life at once. Having less issues in real-life causes a more peaceful mind.
Quiet Mind or no Mind
For many people it sounds impossible to have no thoughts of all. Start small and take a few breaks during the day practicing to switch off your thoughts. If open awareness practice is to watch with a light heart what is there on TV and concentration practice is to switch the channel of your thoughts, then having no thoughts is switching the TV off. It is possible; it needs a light heart, an intention and a few minutes per day to practice.
The practices here were a few examples. Do each one of them with a light, curious heart. The main purpose of practicing is to feel happy and to be more effective in the world.
There are so many practices and each practice fulfills a certain purpose for a certain period in your life. Just as you change your practices will probably change with you. Find those practices that make you feel happy and which are highly effective for you.
This article finishes with one of my favorite quotes:
“The very fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. All that is necessary is getting rid of the false notion that we are bound.” – Ramana Maharishi