A Simple Method to Achieve Peace and Silence in the Mind

There are a number of proven methods for achieving peace and silence in the mind. Some are more arduous than others. The more one works at it, the more inward pressure one asserts to try to achieve this status, the greater the intrusions that force themselves on the mind. This is the result of a rajasic effort filled with desire for a particular result. The Mother suggests a method that releases this pressure, and allows peace and quiet in the mind to come over time with repeated effort, but without being filled with desire and any aggressive method. Peace is the method, and peace is the result.

A disciple asks: “How can we establish a settled peace and silence in the mind?”

The Mother writes: “First of all, you must want it. … And then you must try and must persevere, continue trying. What I have just told you is a very good means. Yet there are others also. You sit quietly, to begin with; and then, instead of thinking of fifty things, you begin saying to yourself, ‘Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, calm, peace!’ You imagine peace and calm. You aspire, ask that it may come: ‘Peace, peace, calm.’ And then, when something comes and touches you and acts, say quietly, like this, ‘Peace, peace, peace.’ Do not look at the thoughts, do not listen to the thoughts, you understand. You must not pay attention to everything that comes. You know, when someone bothers you a great deal and you want to get rid of him, you don’t listen to him, do you? Good! You turn your head away (gesture) and think of something else. Well, you must do that: when thoughts come, you must not look at them, must not listen to them, must not pay any attention at all. You must behave as though they did not exist, you see! And then, repeat all the time like a kind of — how shall I put it? — as an idiot does, who repeats the same thing always. Well, you must do the same thing; you must repeat, ‘Peace, peace, peace.’ So you try this for a few minutes and then do what you have to do; and then, another time, you begin again; sit down again and then try. Do this on getting up in the morning, do this in the evening when going to bed. You can do this… look, if you want to digest your food properly, you can do this for a few minutes before eating. You can’t imagine how much this helps your digestion! Before beginning to eat you sit quietly for a while and say, ‘Peace, peace, peace!’ and everything becomes calm. It seems as though all the noises were going far, far, far away (Mother stretches out her arms on both sides) and then you must continue; and there comes a time when you no longer need to sit down, and no matter what you are doing, no matter what you are saying, it is always ‘Peace, peace, peace.’ Everything remains here, like this, it does not enter (gesture in front of the forehead), it remains like this. And then one is always in a perfect peace… after some years.”

“But at the beginning, a very small beginning, two or three minutes, it is very simple. For something complicated you must make an effort, and when one makes an effort, one is not quiet. It is difficult to make an effort while remaining quiet. Very simple, very simple, you must be very simple in these things. It is as though you were learning how to call a friend: by dint of being called he comes. Well, make peace and calm your friends and call them: ‘Come, peace, peace, peace, peace, come!”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pp. 78-80


The Strength in Stillness

We live in a world that prizes action and that continually impinges upon us with various information feeds and input from all directions. Quiet and stillness, the ability to remain calm without agitation or upset, the ability to achieve true peace in the mind, in the vital and nervous being and in the physical body, are generally not recognised as a true sign of strength. If we try to sit quietly for meditation, we find all kinds of thoughts churning through our minds. If we try to keep the body poised in stillness, we experience endless nervous twitches, discomforts or urges to move, signaling a vital and physical system that does not have the strength to simply ‘be’ rather than ‘do’. Some of this results from a trained attitude of impatience and drive for action, some from a mind that is not trained in concentration, some from nervous weakness, some from physical issues. Whatever the causes may be, as we work toward achieving stillness at each level of our being, we can observe and systematically work to resolve whatever these issues may be.

The Mother notes: “I have seen people, many people, who could not sit still for half an hour without fidgeting. They had to move a foot or a leg, or an arm or their head; they had to stir restlessly all the time, for they did not have the power or the strength to remain quiet.”

“This capacity to remain still when one wants to, to gather all one’s energies and spend them as one wishes, completely if one wants, or to apportion them as one wants in action, with a perfect calm even in action — that is always the sign of strength. It may be physical strength or vital strength or mental strength. But if you are in the least agitated, you may be sure there is a weakness somewhere; and if your restlessness is integral, it is an integral weakness.”

“So, if I tell someone, ‘Be calm’, I may be telling him all kinds of things, it depends upon each person. But obviously, most often it is, ‘Make your mind quiet, don’t be restless all the time in your head, don’t stir up lots of ideas, calm yourself.’ “

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pp. 77-78

Calmness Belongs to the Strong — Quietude Is the Basis of True Power

In today’s world we are confronted by politicians and business leaders who act aggressively, beat their chests, berate others, bully and otherwise exhibit behavior that proclaims “might is right” and therefore, due to their financial power or physical strength, they have the right to control others. These aggressive behaviors are frequently mixed up with racism or misogynistic tendencies where they can pick on those weaker than themselves, and rape, torture and sadistic actions are often part of their repertoire. When someone disagrees with them, they frequently react with anger, outbursts of rage, and attempts to avenge themselves on the person who had the audacity to challenge them. They create for themselves a cult of “strength” and believe that these behaviors show their strength. They have no control over these emotional and vital outbursts and frequently wind up with maladies such as high blood pressure, strokes or ulcers as a result of their abusive behaviors, and they also find in many cases the need to rely on drugs or alcohol to bring their raging energies under control after such outbursts. We see these behaviors everywhere around us, whether it is schoolyard bullying, road rage, physical or sexual abuse activities, manager actions in business or political leaders.

What is obvious to those who reflect for a moment, however, is that these behaviors, while seemingly effective in enforcing dominance short-term, take a serious toll on long term results as well as the health and well-being of both the perpetrator and the victim of the abuse. The Mother makes it clear that the real strength is gaining control over one’s actions such that one can maintain peace under severe conditions and provocations. If one tries this it becomes clear that to maintain peace instead of exploding in anger is indeed a more difficult task, and thus, requires a greater strength. It is also true that this concept is recognised in both the martial arts teachings and military doctrine when they say that an angry opponent makes mistakes and thus, one should keep calm, observe and take advantage of the anger of the other party to capitalize on the mistakes he makes.

The Mother observes: “Quietude is a very positive state; there is a positive peace which is not the opposite of conflict — an active peace, contagious, powerful, which controls and calms, which puts everything in order, organises. It is of this I am speaking; when I tell someone, ‘Be calm’, I don’t mean to say ‘Go to sleep, be inert and passive, and don’t do anything’, far from it! … True quietude is a very great force, a very great strength. In fact one can say, looking at the problem from the other side, that all those who are really strong, powerful, are always very calm. It is only the weak who are agitated; as soon as one becomes truly strong, one is peaceful, calm, quiet, and one has the power of endurance to face the adverse waves which come rushing from outside in the hope of disturbing one. This true quietude is always a sign of force. Calmness belongs to the strong.”

“And this is true even in the physical field. I don’t know if you have observed animals like lions, tigers, elephants, but it is a fact that when they are not in action, they are always so perfectly still. A lion sitting and looking at you always seems to be telling you, ‘Oh, how fidgety you are!’ It looks at you with such a peaceful air of wisdom! And all its power, energy, physical strength are there, gathered, collected, concentrated and — without a shadow of agitation — ready for action when the order is given.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pg. 77

The Necessity for Quietude of the Vital Nature

There can be no permanent settlement of peace in the mind if the vital nature has not also attained quiet and peace. Many people take this as a reason to abandon active life and involvement in society and the world-at-large; yet, this is not a solution. The vital nature is very much driven by the Guna of Rajas, which involves action, passion, desire, and can be highly ambitious or aggressive when it is fully active. Abandonment of this action would be allowing the Guna of Tamas, inertia, darkness, indolence to become predominant. What is required is not the rising of Tamas, but the insertion of light and harmony into the action of Rajas, in other words, the infusion of a Sattwic element into the rajasic force. It is therefore necessary to use the quiet and peace that is entering into the mind, along with the separation of the witness-consciousness from the active nature to provide distance in the viewing of the actions of the vital nature, to begin to influence the vital nature toward one of harmonious, light-filled action rather than the impulsive, often violent motion of the unrefined rajasic nature.

The Mother writes: “Now, one quickly realises that there is another quietude which is necessary, and even very urgently needed — this is vital quietude. that is to say, the absence of desire. Only, the vital when not sufficiently developed, as soon as it is told to keep quiet, either goes to sleep or goes on strike; it says, ‘Ah! no. Nothing doing! I won’t go any farther. If you don’t give me the sustenance I need, excitement, enthusiasm, desire, even passion, I prefer not to move and I won’t do anything any longer.’ So there the problem becomes a little more delicate and perhaps even more difficult still; for surely, to fall from excitement into inertia is very far from being a progress! One must never mistake inertia or a somnolent passivity for calm.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pp. 76-77

Steps Toward Achieving a Calm Mind

Everything comes to the seeker based on his ability to tune his focus and maintain that focus in an unwavering manner over time. Sri Aurobindo, in his book The Mother, sets forth the methodology as “aspiration, rejection, surrender”. Aspiration is the will from the depth of the being to achieve the divine connection. This represents the tuning of the consciousness. Rejection is the process whereby the focus remains fixed on the intended result, eliminating all distractions and static. Surrender is the removal of any contrary will and maintaining the focus over time, so that the divine force can operate constantly and continuously upon the being.

When one applies this overarching principle to the process of attaining to a calm mind, the actual specific methods chosen by the seeker are not as important as the maintaining of the focus, will and constancy. Each individual will find that a specific method or methods tends to work best in their specific case, and thus, will gravitate to one or another approach. Once the seeker finds what works best for him, he should stick with it.

The Mother notes: “One could justifiably add a question: You tell us ‘Be calm’, but what should we do to be calm?… The answer is always more or less the same: you must first of all feel the need for it and want it, and then aspire, and then try! For trying, there are innumerable methods which have been prescribed and attempted by many. These methods are generally long, arduous, difficult; and many people get discouraged before reaching the goal, for, the more they try, the more do their thoughts start whirling around and becoming restless in their heads.”

“For each one the method is different, but first one must feel the need, for whatever reason it may be — whether because one is tired or because one is overstrained or because one truly wants to rise beyond the state one lives in — one must first understand, feel the need of this quietude, this peace in the mind. And then, afterwards, one may try out successively all the methods, known ones and new, to attain the result.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pg. 76

What Does It Mean to ‘Be Calm’ in the Mind

Attaining a deep inner peace in the being is a process that can begin wherever an individual currently is in their inner life. For someone just starting out, there is no expectation of some sudden miraculous silencing of the mind (although of course, it is possible). Rather, the initial attempts can be modest, providing a basis and foundation for further steps to follow. Quieting the churning of the mind is an early stage that the seeker can utilize to gain control over other aspects of the being. If we stand back and observe our mental process, we can see that all kinds of sense impressions are captured and examined, jumping from one thing to another. Some of these cause more extended thought, or in cases of things perceived as harmful or negative, worry, fear, frustration or other reactions that cause the mind to continually revolve around the concern or issue and not let it go, in many cases repeating the same thoughts in a cycle without exit. Many times the mind will wind up dwelling on some past circumstance, event or experience, or else, it will focus on some future imagination.

Cultivating the standpoint of the witness observing the action of the mind is a first and important step. There are also a number of recommended methods to bring a measure of quiet to the mind, some of which are set forth by Swami Vivekananda in his lectures on Raja Yoga. He discusses at great length the way sense impressions, thoughts and feelings disturb the quiet of the ‘mind stuff’. Observation without attachment is one method he recommends, so that as the mind runs, the observer remains free and does not grasp onto any of the running thoughts. Another point he provides is the connection of the breath to the thought. By consciously gaining control of the breath, the mind can become quiet. Sometimes a mantra is used to push out all the conflicting thoughts and bring coherence to the mind-stuff. Once the mind is freed of the extraneous disturbances, the mantra is simply released and the mind is quiet.

All of these are preliminary processes of achieving a quiet and attentive status in the mind. Further stages can develop that lead to the silence of the mind, the descent of a deep peace in the mind, etc. The first stage of the calm and quiet mind is an important milestone as one begins the yogic path, as it provides the foundation needed to take further steps and eventually gain mastery over not only the actions of the mind, but also the vital nature and its forms of disturbance.

The Mother observes: “Someone has asked me what I meant by these words: ‘One must be calm.’ It is obvious that when I tell someone, ‘Be calm’, I mean many different things according to the person. But the first indispensable calm is mental quietude, for generally that is the one that’s most lacking. When I tell someone, ‘Be calm’, I mean: Try not to have restless, excited, agitated thoughts; try to quieten your mind and to stop turning around in all your imaginations and observations and mental constructions.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pp. 75-76

Developing and Integrating Calm and Peace in the Being

If we remain constantly in active motion and react to all the sense impressions and pressures that impinge upon us from the outer world, it is difficult to achieve a status of calm or peace. One of the values of sitting regularly for a time of quiet reflection, meditation or concentration is just the ability to step back away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and cultivate an atmosphere of serenity around us. Once this atmosphere is well-established, it can automatically aid us as we take up the daily life and meet our daily challenges and provocations.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “One can go forward even if there is not peace — quietude and concentration are necessary. Peace is necessary for the higher states to develop.”

“It is quite natural that at first there should be the condition of calm and peace only when you sit for concentration. What is important is that there should be this condition whenever you sit and the pressure for it always there. But at other times the result is at first only a certain mental quiet and freedom from thoughts. Afterwards when the condition of peace is quite settled in the inner being — for it is the inner into which you enter whenever you concentrate, then it begins to come out and control the outer, so that the calm and peace remain even when working, mixing with others, talking or other occupations. For then whatever the outer consciousness is doing, one feels the inner being calm within — indeed one feels the inner being as one’s real self while the outer is something superficial through which the inner acts on life.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pg. 75

Purification of the Nature: Negative and Positive Approaches

Ordinarily, when we reflect on addressing impurities in the nature, whether in the mind, the emotions, the vital nature or the physical body, we tend to fixate upon the weakness or limitation we have identified and work to directly control, change or suppress it. This is what may be termed a ‘negative’ approach to purification. A positive approach consists of building up the psychological force of peace which, in and of itself, prevents many of the disruptions that we otherwise would want to change or remove from our nature. The deeper the peace, the less the outer impulses can disrupt and disturb at all. Cultivating peace in the being is a progressive process over time. There can be a conscious effort to not react to the impulses that ordinarily would create a disturbance, and this may aid in the opening to the higher force as it descends from above and fills the being with the true peace that resides in those higher planes.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “It [purity] is more a condition than a substance. Peace helps to purify – since in peace disturbing influences cease and the essence of purity is to respond only to the Divine Influence and not to have an affinity with other movements.”

“If you get peace, then to clean the vital becomes easy. If you simply clean and clean and do nothing else, you go very slowly — for the vital gets dirty again and has to be cleaned a hundred times. The peace is something that is clean in itself, so to get it is a positive way of securing your object. To look for dirt only and clean is the negative way.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pg. 74

Cultivating Inner Peace as the Basis of Spiritual Sadhana

Given the reactive nature of the external being, the mind, the vital, the physical body, there is generally a lack of peace and we are driven from one response to another as circumstances, events, sense impressions, etc. impinge upon us. Development of an awareness that is separated from this external being is an enormous aid to creating a platform for cultivating peace in the nature. The separation of the witness-consciousness from the active nature is one such technique that is recommended by Sri Aurobindo. The initial object in this case is to develop a space within oneself, and an inner awareness that is able to observe the actions and reactions that take place in the external being without engagement or desire of any kind. It has been likened to watching action on a motion picture or television screen. One sees and understand what is taking place, but is not directly ‘involved’ in the action. This standpoint can develop a strong and unshakable peace which eventually can be utilized to extend into the external being and bring about a calming and quieting influence in the outer being.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is true that through whatever is strongest in him a sadhak can most easily open to the Divine. But…peace is necessary for all; without peace and an increasing purity, even if one opens, one cannot receive perfectly all that comes down through the opening. Light too is necessary for all — without light one cannot take full advantage of all that comes down.”

“It is in the peace behind and that ‘something truer’ in you that you must learn to live and feel it to be yourself. You must regard the rest as not your real self, but only a flux of changing or recurring movements on the surface which are sure to go as the true self emerges.”

“When the peace is deep or wide it is usually in the inner being. The outer parts do not ordinarily go beyond a certain measure of quietude — they get deep peace only when they are flooded with it from the inner being.”

“They [peace and patience] go together. By having patience under all kinds of pressure you lay the foundations of peace.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pp. 73-74

Equality: the State of Inner Peace in the Face of Provocation

How do we typically respond to the situations that we meet in the world? We want to fulfill our desires, have our wishes and ideas carried out, and have a modicum of control in our lives. When things do not go as we wish, we become frustrated, angry, resentful or otherwise upset. On the other side, when we get what we are seeking, we experience happiness, joy and enthusiastic participation. Many have pointed out that neither joy nor sorrow, positive or negative events or circumstances, are always present, but that they tend to ebb and flow and interchange with one another, so that every life meets with its “ups” and its “downs” in the course of life. In a world of uncertainty, our comfortable lives can be easily upset by war, storms, economic disruptions, or hostile acts perpetrated upon us or those with whom we are connected. To borrow from the author Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ The same holds true for the yogic practitioner, who sometimes has outstanding experiences and at other times, meets with intense opposition and conflict.

There is such a high level of violence in the world because humanity has not learned how to deal with the issues that confront us every day. Domestic violence, road rage, temper tantrums and angry outbursts, are all part of the daily life for many people and hardly given a second thought. When things we perceive as positive happen, ecstatic outbursts of joy can occur. Philosophers throughout history have raised the issue and some, such as the stoics, have counseled maintaining an even temper in all circumstances. Others tell us to hold back our outbursts and restrain our desires and our anger. Those who attempt this approach frequently find that they are not solving the reaction, but bottling it up, suppressing it, with sometimes negative impacts on their health and well-being including high blood pressure, ulcers, etc.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother counsel that the needed poise for the yogin is to maintain a state of inner peace and equality to all the touches, positive and negative, that one experiences in life. This is not an outward suppression of reactions that are then allowed to boil inwardly, but a true solving of the reactive nature such that there is neither an external outburst nor an inner seething that builds up. Anyone who has attempted this will easily recognise the difficulty involved in this accomplishment. It is a first foundation for yogic growth and development and requires substantial inner awareness to maintain calm. People generally tend to see strength in the use of brute force both physically and psychologically, yet in many cases, this comes as a result of the inner weakness. True strength lies in the ability to not let the touches of life negatively impact the psychological balance of the nature nor distract from the focus of the life.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Equality means a quiet and unmoved mind and vital, it means not to be touched or disturbed by things that happen or things said or done to you, but to look at them with a straight look, free from the distortions created by personal feeling, and to try to understand what is behind them, why they happen, what is to be learnt from them, what is it in oneself which they are cast against and what inner profit or progress one can make out of them; it means self-mastery over the vital movements, — anger and sensitiveness and pride as well as desire and the rest, — not to let them get hold of the emotional being and disturb the inner peace, not to speak and act in the rush and impulsion of these things, always to act and speak out of a calm inner poise of the spirit. It is not easy to have this equality in any full perfect measure, but one should always try more and more to make it the basis of one’s inner state and outer movements.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pg. 72