Anyone remember that scene from the movie “Eat Pray Love” where Julia Roberts travels to India and, during her first time meditating, she looks up at the clock, sees it only moved a few minutes, and opens her eyes to mutter “Kill me now.”
Well, sometimes it’s like that for us. We get some of our best thoughts when our minds are quiet enough for us to listen (that’s why ideas often come to us when we’re brushing our teeth, showering or even dreaming), but sometimes this life just overwhelms us, what with bills, looming deadlines, sirens, noisy neighbors and more.
So how do you quiet your mind when you just can’t sit still? Here are some tips:
1. First, don’t try to force it. That only creates stress. Compare meditation and forcing the quiet mind to this example that we’ve probably all experienced: You need to get up early, but have insomnia. You keep looking at the clock and say “if I fall asleep now, I’ll get 4 hours of sleep…if I fall asleep now, I’ll get 3 hours of sleep…and so on.” Doesn’t work, does it? Rather, take a walk, daydream, do some yoga, read–and THEN go back to it.
Plus, it’s a major misconception that meditation means having an empty mind. It doesn’t–but what it means is that meditation is really about keeping your mind active, with only the things on which you want to focus.
2. Breathe. Try some relaxation breathing techniques. Breathing is one of the best ways to calm the mind, relax and reduce anxiety; in fact, when we’re stressed and anxious, we tend to have shallow breathing. One of the best breathing techniques is from Dr. Andrew Weil and is called the 4-7-8 breath. For instructions, click here.
3. Practice Gratitude. We know, we know, you’re probably saying “Been there, done that.” But here’s the point: You just don’t want to focus on the difficulties of your day, and even the worst one has at least one or two good things about it. Focus on the positive. And get specific “I appreciate so-and-so because…”
4. Write it down. Some people refer to it as “Evening Papers” or “Morning Papers.” The idea is that they write down every single thing that has them worried, concerned or anxious–then they throw out the paper to make room in the mind for the positive. You might want to develop your own scheduled “papers,” to coincide with your mediation.
5. Connect with Nature. This circles back to our earlier comment about taking a walk. Or maybe just sit in a park or outdoor area–barefoot, and with your feet on the ground. Try to do it barefoot, so you connect with the Earth, which is one of the most powerful energy sources. When you connect, you absorb all the Earth’s positive electrons–and that puts you in balance, gives you an overall sense of well-being and helps you stay grounded. We call it “Vitamin EL.”
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