“Do you know, that moving toes are a sign that the mind is in constant movement?”, my husband said lately to me, while sitting on the terrace and watching the kids on the trampoline. “Aha”, I remarked, looking down at my toes, which still dithered, even though, he just reminded me of it. I never realized I`m doing this. I always knew, my mind is quite active, but now I have the proof.
My thoughts are rising in and out like waves on the ocean. I think about what to cook for dinner, dictate myself the shopping list, plan the summer vacation or think about the next school meeting. If I´m not pondering about family related issues, I wonder which writing topic to pick next or which Yoga class I should tune into.
It feels like standing in the middle of an 8-line highway, watching the cars passing by in both directions. The beauty of a quiet mind a faraway dream.
But why should having a quiet mind help us in our daily lives? What benefits do we get, stilling the ever-present thought stream?
The goal is Awareness
If you google meditation, the first thing you find is that meditation is a practice, where an individual uses a technique (e.g. mindfulness or focusing the mind on an object) to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. (Wikipedia)
To me it´s like standing on a bridge crossing a highway and watching the cars passing by underneath. Have you ever tried to count the red, silver and white cars, while the stream of cars is constantly moving? Let alone picking out a number plate? It´s hard to focus on one single object, while being distracted by hundreds of other things.
Same with the mind: often, we are distracted and therefore unconcentrated. We become less and less focused on the thing we are actually doing; let it be a work task, having a conversation or cooking dinner. We always try to combine things. Cooking and listening to a podcast. Chatting to our kids or partner, while reading the newspaper or even worse scrolling through the phone. Preparing a slide show and simultaneously checking the emails. It is no wonder, the outcome of whatever we do is deficient.
But who is giving us these constant distractions and trying to perform three things at a time? It´s our mind. It´s the roaming tendencies of the mind, the source of all our distractions.
Mastering the mind, is one´s sole purpose
I´m a Yogi and if you take Yoga seriously, it´s not only about asanas (body movements) – you HAVE TO read the Yoga Sutras. The manual of “Yogic Living”, written by Patanjali, an Indian savant and Yogi. I don´t want to go too much into detail, but mastering the mind is the central goal of the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the key of our existence should be in understanding our mind and mastering over it. Unveiling its mystery. He says “only a clear, calm, one-pointed, friendly mind puts all the treasures of the world at our disposal. But a mind that has become dense, agitated, scattered, confused and unfriendly, robs us of our most fundamental privilege: our indomitable will to excel and achieve what only humans have the capacity to achieve. Unveiling the mystery of the mind.”
I think it´s quite amazing, how these old scripts (it´s been assumed that Patanjali lived between the 2nd and 4thCentury AD) are as actual as ever. His Sutras give clear instruction, how to become master over the mind. Turn inward and practice to sit in silence. Get away from all distractions and stay focused in the present moment.
The Yogi´s call it Samadhi, the perfectly still, clear and tranquil state of mind.
But how can we bring our mind to rest for a moment? Are there special techniques? Maybe a sound, a smell or is it only possible while entering the comfort of a deep sleep at night? The theory is very simple: just pause for a moment, sit and watch the thoughts flow in and out. In reality, it can be very challenging to do exactly this: nothing.
The trick is to accept the silence.
The beauty of sitting in silence or meditating is the stillness – once you can hear it. Stop the constant chatter of your mind, until silence unfolds. No moving toes, no noises from the outside. What remains is just you. The inner world in harmony with the outer world. We have to train ourselves to accept the silence and not work against it.
How can we accept the silence?
It is not about trying – the more we try, the less open we are: we get angry about the fact, that there is no stillness. Even more thoughts are rushing in. The key is to relax. Relax and observe. No judging of what comes “to the screen of the mind”. Accepting a feeling of restlessness and unease in the beginning. The common understanding is that meditation needs time. Time and practice. The more frequently you turn inward, the more relaxed you are able to overserve what´s happening.
Acknowledge what you have right now
How often do we live in the future, thinking about tomorrow? We resonate about a new career, about vacation plans, maybe about buying a new car or even attracting a new partner into our lives. We assume, that once we have achieved one of those things, we will be at peace. We will be content and happy with the world around us.
This is an illusion. Peace and joy can only be found within. The more we dream of the future, the less, we acknowledge the present moment. Therefore, we will miss out most of the present moments of our life. We only think about, what is to come next instead of acknowledging what we have right now. We have to start with the present.
If we seek for more peace, abundance or even something simple as a clear structure in our day, the answer is found in stillness. Of course, meditation is no universal remedy. Some people have the best ideas, why going to the rest rooms, others while taking a walk in the forest. It´s not about the where, it´s about how to let go and accepting stillness for a moment in order for something new to come. To look for what is really necessary in our lives right now.
I´m regularly meditating for 2 years now and as you see; my toes are still moving from time to time. It´s the overall benefit, which keeps me going. I have noticed, how my reactions have changed: in situations where I am triggered, I am now more able to control my temper and act instead of react. Watching the thoughts rushing in and out. Just be aware and do not completely identifying with them.
The beauty unfolds, once you realize how quiet the mind can be: no can do, no must do – just sitting in the present moment and enjoying life itself.