Two Ancient Secrets to Quiet the Busy Mind

In a world of technology and never-ending stimulation, we are constantly bombarded with information to process. From news to entertainment, games to social media, family to social lives, and work to hobbies, we never have a moment to consider turning our minds off. It is no wonder we have a difficult time finding peace of mind, let alone dealing with stress and anxiety.

But this is nothing new. Our five senses are enough to keep us busy processing input in even the most mundane conditions, and processing all that input gets our minds amped up.

So, what’s the answer?

Shut it down. But…

Easier said than done.

Thousands of years ago, humans had the same problems—yes, even without iPhones. So, the wise men of the day started figuring out some cool ways to fix the problem. Initially, these were secret teachings passed only from teacher to worthy student.

Secret Number One

Well, it is pretty apparent when you think about it. Remove the stimulus.

In yoga, this is called pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. We begin the practice when we sit quietly and focus on our breath. So, if we stop the input, we can slow down the processing.

The tricky part is habituation. This is an endemic part of our culture that is hard to escape. We are constantly attracted to more stimulation, and breaking that habit is difficult. This is even more reason to come to your mat, cushion, recliner, or wherever you see fit to quiet the busy mind.

Begin this practice by accepting that it may be a challenge. The mind is powerful and controlling, which may seem impossible initially. Relax; it will take time. Accept every new thought that comes up and then let go. If you are afraid of letting go, make a list on paper and tell yourself that you will return to it after meditation.

Start your practice by removing stimulation from your environment. Use an eye pillow and lie down or sit in a darkened room. Put earplugs in or play soothing music in the background to drown out other stimulation. Be in a place that is not too warm or cold.

Practice, practice, practice. Soon, you will be able to disconnect from the stimulation around you and let it pass through and by you without reaction.

More on Pratyahara

Secret Number Two

The second secret is more challenging than the first but equally important for meditating and quieting the monkey mind.

The yoga sages call it dharana, or concentration. Once we have removed stimulation, we can focus our minds on a singular thing. Ideally, it would be internal, such as the breath. But beginning with something tangible can be very effective. It could be a flower, a rock, a picture, or a steady gaze to reach a stage of nothingness.

Concentration may initially be analytical or even emotional. Finding connections with the object or allowing the object to elicit feelings is a great place to start. As the practice evolves, you dissolve the interaction with the object until it is only a tool to withdraw from all interaction and leave the mind clear of all activity.

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Pratyahara and Dharana are two challenging limbs of yoga but significant steppingstones to unlocking the secrets to quieting our minds and finding our bliss!