How to Quiet the Mind

It is a virtually universal experience. One sits for meditation, trying to quiet the mind, and the thoughts keep surging and seem to have more intensity than before! Every sensation seems to provoke some activity in the mind, pent up issues or concerns take that time to come to the fore, emotions arise, thoughts abound. One gets the feeling that there is no peace coming in the meditation.

We then try all kinds of different methods to bring the mind under control. Focus on a bright point, like a candle flame, or focus on one’s breathing, chant mantras, visualize a form for worship, — there are numerous methods that we try to use to bring peace to the mind. Sometimes we try to simply force the mind to stop its rounds. We soon find that suppression is not the solution!

And this is just for when we sit for meditation. The rest of the time this round is actually going on in the mind constantly and we simply treat it as background noise or a commentary on our daily lives. There is no peace or silence either in meditation or during the active life.

Over time, we may find, however, that if we do not fight the thoughts coming, but simply move our attention elsewhere, and when we get distracted, gently move our attention back to the object we are focused on, we can achieve a measure of peace and quiet in the mind. Sri Aurobindo has his own recommendations for how to still the constant churning of the thoughts in the mind.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “For the buzz of the physical mind, reject it quietly, without getting disturbed, till it feels discouraged and retires shaking its head and saying, ‘This fellow is too calm and strong for me.’ There are always two things that can rise up and assail the silence, — vital suggestions, the physical mind’s mechanical recurrences. Calm rejection for both is the cure. There is a Purusha within who can dictate to the nature what it shall admit or exclude, but its will is a strong, quiet will; if one gets perturbed or agitated over the difficulties, then the will of the Purusha cannot act effectively as it would otherwise.”

“The more the psychic spreads in the outer being, the more all these things [the mechanical activities of the subconscious mind] fall quiet. That is the best way. Direct efforts to still the mind are a difficult method.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Mental Noise, pp. 30-32

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