Stilling the busy mind from incessant chatter creates breathing space for the soul to flood in. When the soul floods in, we catalyse our spiritual evolution. The wisdom of Higher Consciousness can then flow through to inspire our every waking moment.
Stilling the mind (or not)
Have you ever tried to still the mind? The conversation we have with ourselves might go something like this...
- “Right! Relax, let go, think no thoughts”...
“I can do this”
“Think of nothing”
“Hmmm, bit of a whirlwind of activity in here”
“Dinner tonight” “what are the kids doing” “green tomatoes” “pink polka dots”
"What on earth am I thinking about green tomatoes for?”
“Oh no, I am thinking” “stop thinking about green tomatoes!”
“green tomatoes, green tomatoes, green tomatoes”
“Seriously? Is that the best I can do? Chill out!”
“Oh wow, that’s cool. I am not thinking”
“Blast, now I just thought that I wasn’t thinking!” “Ok, don’t think”
“So how am I about that situation tomorrow anyway?’
“Stop thinking about tomorrow!”
“Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!”
“SHUT UP! Right, no thoughts”
“Ah, I am letting go now. This is cool, I am not thinking about that appointment I have tomorrow”
“Oh man! I just thought tomorrow again”
“There is no tomorrow”
“Yes there is!”
“So what happened to those green tomatoes anyway?”
Trying not to think
I imagine that there are many more colourful internal dialogues than that one going on, although I am sure you get the drift. Trying not to think, with the same mind that created the thoughts in the first place, by nature, doesn’t usually work! Normally it just gives more energy to process of thought and leads to incessant chatter, frustration and thoughts that we didn’t even know we had in the first place.
Our ability to still the mind is one of the many challenging obstacles to evolving spiritually. If you are struggling to still the mind then, a really helpful key is to stop trying. Trying creates a state of effort and inner tightness which does anything but still the mind! It is more likely to send it into over drive.
Non-denial and acceptance
Instead go right into the heart of the experience of processing thoughts and think of something - whatever arises... This might sound like quite a bizarre suggestion as if I am saying the opposite of intentionally stopping thinking. Well, I am saying that, well kind of. It works on the principle of non-denial, acceptance and true surrender. It assumes that the stillness of the mind is a natural state, already there, which arises from being (i.e. allowing) rather than doing (i.e. trying).
How to still the mind
- First of all, find a quiet spot if you can (or a London tube station at rush hour will equally do).
- Closing your eyes might help. Open eyes can work equally well after a little practice.
- Allow thoughts and distractions to happen. Watch them floating in and out, grating, irritating, frustrating, joyful, whatever they want to do. Just keep watching without getting drawn into any drama.
- Breath deeply. If you find your self absorbing into the thoughts, focus on your breath whilst allowing the thoughts to arise. Don’t judge yourself for having a thought. The thought is not the problem.
- Have you ever noticed the space around the thought?
- Notice the emptiness around the thoughts.
- Observe that the thought is independent of you, like a floating bubble in the sky of your mind.
- Begin to notice how small the thought is compared to the vastness of space around it.
- Attune to the space around the thought.
An empty mind
When we are no longer grasping at thoughts, they begin to pass through us and we find ourselves able to attune to the space between them. It may then be said that we have an 'empty mind' - the place through which true unveiled wisdom can flow.
There is an old Zen story that you might have heard of. It goes like this...
- A student visits the master and accepts the offer of a cup of tea.
The master begins to pour the tea into the student's cup.
When the tea reaches the rim, the master continues to pour, and the tea overflows and spills.
"It's overflowing! You can't get anymore in!!!" exclaimed the bemused student.
The master showed the student that he must embrace learning with room enough for new things to flow in. If he comes full of thoughts, ideas and beliefs there will be no room for more learning. The student must therefore always come with an empty mind to learn of new things."
Here's to an empty cup and the wisdom from your empty mind!