There are few things more exasperating than a busy mind that never stops and won’t let you have a moment of peace. Imagine you are on vacation. Every department in your life is aware that you are on vacation and no one is bothering you. However, the ‘on vacation’ message hasn’t reached your mind department. ‘Wow, that drink was expensive. I need to lose weight. I’m as white as a sheet. What will people think?” There is no point in a relaxing vacation if a person has to deal with a noisy mind. Over the past 4 years, I have discovered that quieting a noisy mind isn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.
1. Accept that your mind is busy
The average mind has more than 50,000 thoughts per day. Considering the number of thoughts we have on a daily basis, it is a good thing that we have noisy minds. Even people who are laid back tend to have a lot of traffic upstairs. It’s important to accept that our minds are busy. When we don’t accept this fact we create an additional layer of suffering by thinking there’s something wrong with us for having so many thoughts. There isn’t. Expecting our minds to not be busy is like expecting today the sun to stay up forever. When you allow your mind to be busy but accept that fact, the busyness loses its power over you.
2. Engaging with the mind is optional
It is not the thoughts themselves that cause us to suffer but our fascination and preoccupation. We spend our time stewing and ruminating in these thoughts and usually giving them a lot of undeserved time and attention especially when we don’t need to. The less you get involved in what the mind gets into, the more peace you will experience.
3. Watch your thoughts from a distance
In order to untangle ourselves from our thoughts and disengage, we need some space between ourselves and our minds. Most of our thinking patterns are habits we take for granted that center around entangling ourselves with our thoughts. Space allows us to notice these patterns and watch the mind objectively – with an attitude of curiosity and non-judgemental acceptance. The simple act of watching thoughts, rather than being entrenched in them, can create a space to view the mind.
4. Give your thoughts freedom to come and go
If you want to tame an angry bull, the worst thing you can do is to tie him up or confine the bull in any way. This only makes the bull angrier. If you want the bull to calm down, let him out in an open field to run around in, and it’s the same with the mind. Thoughts themselves don’t cause problems, they appear in the fray for a moment or two and then they vanish. It is when we try to control them or manage them – through labeling them as good or bad – that we create suffering for ourselves. Let them wander through the field of your mind and they will tire out. Don’t energize them with your resistance.
If thoughts are there anyway, it’s much better to befriend them than resist them.