Quieting the Mind in the Real World

We often talk in yoga class, and in the world of creative arts, too, about quieting the mind. So how in the world do we quiet the mind and what’s important about it?

First—and I always like to focus on this at the beginning of a new project or the beginning of the year—quieting the mind means listening to our own voice. And though that might sound incredibly cosmic, it’s truly not. It means that to get anywhere near a path of fulfillment, we have to know 1) who we are, 2) how we’re wired, and 3) what our gifts are. And we’re never going to find that out if we’re blotting out our guidance by trying to please everyone around us, by too much TV or social media, by overworking, or by bowling over our own directional signals with whatever we can get our hands on.

So what’s a quiet-mind practice? Certainly yoga is grand for that. How come? Because we move and breathe with the help of a teacher, and we can shelve our brain for a good hour or so and just follow the guidance offered us. A class tends to bring us into the intelligence of our own body, and our spirit, too, and lets our mind take a break. And because our minds have so much to do these days, that feels like a relief to most of us.

I remember a teacher of mine who told me that the mind is a tool. We pick it up to do a task, but then when the task is done, we’re supposed to put it down. And many of us don’t. We get over-identified with our brain and we forget that there’s other intelligence in our being.

Lots of meditation practitioners believe in focusing on one thing—breath, a candle flame, etc. In other words, we’re encouraged to “empty the mind.” I find this hard to manage on a regular basis, though. What works for me is this: I envision that there’s lid on the top of my head, and I open it and let everything bubble out. I don’t try to stop my thoughts, I just don’t attach to them. “Let your thoughts float by like clouds in the sky,” as my former Buddhist teacher used to say.

But what about the days I can’t sit still? Then I go for a walking meditation. Or I dance. Or I bike ride. Or I hike. And I dedicate the time to the freeing of my mind—to letting it float and unwind and let go so I can listen. And that, after all, is the point of a quiet mind: to be able to hear the nature of our own self, to connect to our un-replicated gifts in this life, and then, to bravely give them.

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