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How to quiet your mind is one of the questions I’m asked most frequently as a meditation teacher. In this post, we’ll explore how to slow down the thoughts so we can experience deeper mental peace.
I mean, it makes sense that this question would concern people, especially given the restlessness of our minds in a world full of stimulating technology, ubiquitous advertising, and endless fragments of information.
But remember, quieting your mind is not the only goal…
First and foremost, you must understand this point before moving forward:
You don’t need to completely silence your mind to have a successful meditation.
Yes, the ultimate goal is to get to a point where your mind is silent. But it takes practice to retrain your brain to concentrate. For now, bring your attention inward and begin to pay attention by watching the stream of thoughts that runs through your mind.
You can’t expect the mind to be silent when it has spent decades wandering off wherever it wants – that’s unrealistic.
If you believe you should be able to silence your mind without time and effort, you will not succeed because your expectations are too high. You have to train your mind and that takes time, patience, and discipline. Practice makes perfect.
So, when your mind wanders, avoid reacting or getting frustrated. Understand that it is all part of the process and come back to the breath.
Be firm and disciplined, but never angry or reactive. Sometimes, all you can do in meditation is come back to the breath again and again, but it gets easier with time and practice.
In the beginning, if you’re meditating every day, that is enough and it will help you build the habit. Let go of perfection.
This is probably the greatest misconception about meditation. So many people have told me they “can’t meditate” because their minds are too busy!
That is the whole point. Our minds are busy, but it is not a reason to not meditate. If anything, it just means you need to meditate more.
You don’t need to silence the thoughts entirely, but begin the process of teaching yourself to notice thoughts and return to the object of meditation.
One huge reason why the mind is so restless in meditation is because we succumb to negative thinking. We criticize ourselves and judge our practice, which can lead to frustration and restlessness.
Maintain a positive attitude and you will avoid restless thoughts that disturb your mental peace.
When you start meditation, smile for a few moments. Research shows us that smiling brings an immediate sense of joy.
Another great way to stay positive is by starting with a gentle, loving prayer. If you have higher beliefs, you can pray with devotion to your Higher Power. If you are a secular meditator, you can still say a prayer of gratitude and appreciation.
Try and avoid that serious, stern mindset that so often happens when you start meditating. It only leads to more mental restlessness. If you start with joy, you will find that joy multiplied in meditation and the mind will begin to slow down.
Most people think that meditation is a relaxation exercise. Of course, this is partly true. But meditation is primarily a practice of deep, alert concentration that leads to inner stillness. The relaxation exercises should come first. If you fail to relax before meditation, you may find your mind and body are too restless to enjoy meditation.
So take the time to practice relaxation exercises before you sit. Gentle yoga is effective because it releases physical and mental tension. It also brings the awareness within as you focus on the breath and the body.
You can also practice breathing exercises. One of my favorite exercises is incredibly simple: regular or measured breathing.
To practice, start by sitting down and closing your eyes. Then we inhale for a count of four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and then exhale for four seconds. This simple exercise quiets your mind and begins the process of concentration.
Finally, a body scan is another great way to prepare. You can learn all about regular breathing and the body scan here in the meditation starter pack.
Our bodies can be restless, and when you sit to meditate, that restlessness begins to manifest. The desire to shuffle around, itch, and rearrange your body into different positions can be difficult to work through.
Try your best to sit completely still. This is challenging at the start, but if you find yourself fidgety, you could try this:
Set a timer for one minute, and for that one minute, try to sit completely still. If you are successful, the next time, set the timer for two minutes. Work up in this way to increase your ability to sit still.
When you move during meditation, you disturb the stillness of the mind. Like ripples disturbing the calm surface of a lake, movement disturbs inner peace.
If you can sit absolutely still, you’ll find your meditations deeper and more enjoyable.
Finally, it is important to get enough physical exercise. Exercise helps the body to relax and makes it far easier to sit still.
There are many techniques that you can use to quiet your mind. One of the most simple and powerful techniques is using a mantra.
A mantra is an ancient technique where you repeat a simple phrase or sound in the mind as you breathe in and out. This phrase gives the mind something to do, and helps you to concentrate the attention.
The mind may continue to wander, but if you can just watch and not get frustrated, you’ll find that it begins to slow down. Then you will begin to experience the deep stillness that lies behind all the mental noise and activity.
If you want to learn the hong-sau mantra, download the 5-day meditation challenge. It has a guided meditation every day and we explore the mantra on day three.
Sometimes when we meditate, the mind refuses to slow down. I find especially when I’ve had a busy or stressful day, my mind tends to remain active during my evening meditation. It needs time to process and it is not able to do that when it has been active and stimulated all day.
So in meditation, it all comes up.
To be clear, this is not a bad thing. Sometimes, the mind needs to process its experiences. By meditating, you are giving your mind the space to do this, instead of further stimulating it with television or social media.
If you get angry, frustrated, or feel that you have failed when your mind is busy, then you are not doing yourself any favors.
So, what can you do?
Well thoughts come in two forms: mental images and mental talk.
Between every mental image, there is a black space, and between the mental chatter, there is silence. Find that gap/space and enjoy it. As you breathe in and out, and as your mind wanders, notice the gap between thoughts.
When you do this, a few things start to happen:
First, you stop obsessing about stopping your thoughts and become a little less attached. You begin to allow yourself to think, which leads to better meditation.
Also, you begin to notice the thoughts when they arise so it becomes easier to find that gap.
Finally, when you focus on the space, it expands, and the mental chatter subsides.
Of course, sometimes it still continues. Try to accept wherever you are and practice non-attachment to outcomes.
And whether your mind begins to slow down or not, the most important thing is that you meditated – that is the biggest success.
I don’t always recommend audio and one should use it sparingly, because true meditation is best done in silence, so you can delve deep into stillness. Audio can be a little distracting.
That being said, it can also be helpful, especially for beginners. The first thing you can do is find some meditation music on YouTube. Make sure you listen to a little beforehand to make sure it is relaxing and that you like it. Play the music quietly using headphones and see if that helps you to relax and quiet your mind as you meditate. When I was a beginner, I found this very helpful.
You could also try listening to a guided meditation. I recommend that you avoid finding a variety of meditations from different teachers. If you mix up the kind of meditation you do, you may get confused, which makes it harder to go deep into meditation.
It is better to find a teacher – or even group of teachers from the same tradition – that you like and stick with them.
There is a twenty minute guided meditation in my free meditation starter pack.
Many people live mindlessly throughout the day, then when they sit to meditate, they don’t know why they can’t quiet their mind. What do we do during the day that can affect our meditation? Here are a few things:
Of course, you probably don’t do all of these every day, but no doubt you do some of them regularly.
Don’t expect to completely transform your personality overnight. Try to work on the areas you think are the biggest issues in your life. If you need help with this, check out my post on how to live a spiritual life.
For me, I overuse technology, I overwork, and I worry about little things that shouldn’t matter. What about you? What can you start working on today? Please share below.
And as you go about your day, now and again, take a moment to center yourself. Take a few deep breaths, smile, and come back to the present moment. Even if you only do this once or twice throughout the day, it will help your evening meditation.
One of the most important things you can do to quiet your mind is make sure you meditate every day. It’s so easy to miss a day here and there, and then one day turns into a few days, which quickly becomes a habit.
By meditating daily, you’ll find that you become more adept at meditating and more able to control your state of mind. That doesn’t mean you are able to control your mind entirely. But your mind becomes quiet more quickly, and you have a greater ability to notice thoughts that arise and let them dissolve.
There is a 30-day printable calendar checklist free in the meditation starter pack. I highly recommend you print it out and start checking it off. If you can do 30 days in a row, you have done most of the work to form the habit.
This is not a specific technique, but rather a mindset.
See your spiritual practice and your meditation as a kind of workout. Every time you come back to the breath, this is one repetition. Every time you are able to notice your mind wandering and bring the attention back to the breath, this is a success.
This technique helps us to understand what we are trying to achieve. We don’t need perfection, but want to exercise those muscles of concentration.
You can also practice this throughout the day. Begin to see your life as a spiritual gym. Every time you come back to the present moment, don’t condemn yourself for getting lost in thought. Instead celebrate it as a success when you return. Every time you use that muscle of concentration, you strengthen it.
This is a subtle shift in mindset that can transform your understanding of meditation and the spiritual path.
Quieting your mind is not an easy task. Even people who have been meditating for decades still have days when their minds are restless.
The key is to keep doing it, keep practicing, and have faith that meditation is transforming your consciousness, little by little, every day.
Join the 5-Day Meditation challenge below and you will be well on your way towards building a successful meditation practice.
Do you have any favorite strategies that quiet your mind? Let me know in the comments below!
Related Post: Meditation Tips – Top 10 Tips To Boost Your Practice