Do you have an overactive mind? Do you also feel that this stops you from meditating and experiencing calm?
If this is the case, there’s no need to worry. Below we’ll talk about 5 ways you can properly meditate and experience more peace.
The goal of mindfulness isn’t to have an “empty mind”
We have all heard that the goal of mindfulness and meditation is to have a completely empty mind.
However, you may have experienced that there really is no way to “shut off” your mind.
When you’re trying to empty your mind, thoughts occurring can even cause you to be frustrated and wonder what you’re doing wrong or what other techniques you can use to really master this “emptiness.”
The harder you try to stop the thoughts, the faster they come.
Yet, there is some good news. Emptying your mind is actually not the purpose of mindfulness. Here are some steps to attain a realistic state of presence and peace, even with an overactive mind.
1) Accept that it’s impossible to completely quiet the mind.
Brains think whether you want them to or not, it’s their job. We don’t try to stop our ears from hearing or stop our body from feeling; the brain thinking is just a natural state. Accept and appreciate that this is what the mind does.
Perhaps Lao Tzu puts the art of acceptance best:
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
2) Don’t be judgmental of your own mind.
When you accept your mind and all of your thoughts without judging them, the mind will calm down. When you resist your mind and your thoughts, you’re actually causing yourself stress and anxiety and amplifying the distress. However, when you accept your thoughts and let them be, you can be peaceful.
Spiritual master Osho describes as creating a gap between the observer and the mind that is a crucial path to enlightenment.
“It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.
It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher.
And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty.
That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.”
3) Realize that analysis is not the same as action.
When your brain is analyzing things, it is thinking about the past and the future. When you are in action or doing things, you are in the present. When you plan ahead, you don’t need to think into the future or about the past, you can focus on what is happening right now.
According to David Rock, our brain has two different operating systems. One is called the “Default network”, which is active when you think about yourself or other people, it holds together a “narrative”.
The other network is called the “direct experience network”. When the direct experience network is active, several different brain regions become more active. This includes the insula, a region that relates to perceiving bodily sensations.
When this direct experience network is activated, you are not thinking intently about the past or future, other people, or yourself, or considering much at all. Rather, you are experiencing information coming into your senses in real time.
When you focus your attention on incoming data, such as the feeling of the water on your hands while you wash up, it reduces activation of the narrative circuitry. This explains why, for example, if your narrative circuitry is going crazy worrying about an upcoming stressful event, it helps to take a deep breath and focus on the present moment.
4) Focus on the task at hand.
When you meditate in the Buddhist tradition, you use a point of focus like a mantra or your breath.
This gives your mind a focal point and prevents it from doing too much wandering to think about other things.
In your life, because much of what you do is a routine and your mind doesn’t need to engage to help you complete these tasks (like brushing your teeth), your mind is free to think about nonsense. By focusing on what you’re doing, you can actually quiet the mind throughout the day.
5) Keep returning to your focal point.
Of course you will get distracted. Don’t give up! Even if you feel frustrated that you slip back into mental noise, consider it a victory that you can see this as noise and as an opportunity to start your mindfulness again.
Being mindful about what is happening right now and stopping yourself from being critical of your mind may be difficult at first.
However, the more your practice and the more you implement these tips into your life, the more change you will see.
Small changes will become big changes and before you know it you will be able to spend much more time in the present with a much calmer mind.