“How do I turn my brain off?”
This is a frequent question.
“Will yoga teach me to turn off my mind?”
The pace and pressure of modern American life is squeezing people into a corner where there’s nowhere to hide from the mind chatter. And most of the solace we take is in stuff that busies our minds further – internet, social media, games, television.
My first answer tends to be “start where you are.” Generally this is a rather unsatisfying answer for most.
In all honesty I don’t have instant answers for anyone. First, I’m a practitioner sharing my practice. I’ve never professed to be a master or guru or “authority.”
But I do have simple answers based on my own trial and error practice.
- * Start simply
* Choose to start
* Start again
Pick something small that’s a distraction or stressor in your life; something that creates a stir or pressure in your mind. Maybe it’s how often you pick up your phone to check it. Maybe it’s that you’re sitting long periods each day. Perhaps you are easily agitated in your car. Find one simple thing and choose to intentionally make a change. Get up every hour and walk somewhere in your office to speak to someone rather than an email or instant message. Do something that calms you when you notice yourself reaching for your phone – smell a candle, look outside at the clouds, ask yourself what are you truly craving for as you’re reaching habitually? Create quiet hot spots in your life where there’s no TV, music or chattery sounds.
These quiet hot spots give us windows into looking at the busy-ness inside our heads. They also give us snippets of peace. In these moments we get to probe for a little clarity.
What thoughts or emotions are dominant in the busy brain? What craving is going on? What disappointments are driving us?
A quiet hot spot can be sitting in your car for three (3) minutes before going into work or after leaving work and do a meditation. It can be stopping for a few minutes, outdoors before going into any building, taking a deep breath and appreciating what you hear, smell and see. It can be splashing water on your face in the restroom and looking at yourself for a few minutes before rushing to the next thing.
Keep it simple with baby steps.
Choose to start
Don’t just make a plan. Choose to start.
Practicing is a choice.
So a quieter mind is a choice as well that we achieve through practice. Sometimes we’re more in love with the idea of what it would feel like to have a quieter mind than actually being in love with the notion of working toward it.
It took a lot of work to create the frenzy of our inner landscape. It will take work and dedication to start to turn the volume down and de-clutter.
That work begins with making a choice to start. Notice when you want to put up obstacles – no time, no perfect location, it won’t work, I feel silly.
Ask yourself do you really want to find the peace? If so, choose to start.
No one learned to ride a bicycle without falling. Not a bicycle, skateboard, ice skates… even walking. We all had to fall and get up and start over.
It’s the same with the mind. I think mind practice is actually harder if that gives you any solace. It can feel much easier to flex the muscles of our body rather than the muscles of our mind. Our thoughts create obstacles like pride and shame, doubt and ego, self-worth and regret. So when we fall from our mindfulness bicycle we believe the thoughts in our mind that says “that was a waste of time,” “this doesn’t work,” “I can’t do it.” That’s when we most need to recommit to Choose to Start and Start Again. The bumpy ride gets smoother.
Then we change gears and terrain and it gets bumpy again and more challenging. And then it gets smoother.
And before we know it we’re leveling up and leveling up again toward a practice of present awareness and mindful loving kindness.
See? It’s not instant, but it’s simple as long as we start.