Lessons 1 and 2: Just Sit Quietly
Quieting the mind is, by far, the biggest challenge to any meditation practice. Because meditation is about finding those spaces of silence.
So far we’ve talked about simply sitting and not worrying about how quiet you can keep your mind. That was lesson 1 ,just make the time to sit quietly for only 5 to 10 minutes a day. In the second lesson we talked about how to sit. No point in twisting yourself into a pretzel or keeping your hands in prayer posture pressed to your forehead. Sitting on a chair is absolutely fine.
Maybe, with this encouragement, you’ve been sitting on your meditation chair for 5 to 10 minutes every day. The mind wanders easily, as you’ve probably noticed. And time distorts. Five minutes can seem like half an hour. Was your mind telling you what a waste of time it was and how many things there were to do? I still get that.
How to Stop the Mind
It takes a lot of practice to keep it quiet, and even when there are spaces of silence, they don’t last. But with time they get longer and longer and the path to get there, shorter and shorter. Interestingly it takes a lot of effort to sit and do nothing, not even thinking.
“But what about watching TV, Rosie? I can do that for hours.” TV occupies the mind. It immerses it, even. You can zone out. I have a love-hate relationship with TV. I watched tons as a kid. But now, while it’s a great distraction when you just need a break, it quickly becomes a waste of time and a form of escapism. But, I digress, again.
Tools and Techniques
But there are a few techniques you can use to help you on your way. The commonality is that they give your mind something to focus on while you cultivate the silence.
Light a candle and watch the flame. Or use a flameless candle if that’s a worry. The effect is the same. Observe how it dances on the wick, the colors, the wax pooling. It’s a simple observation that gives your mind something to do. It’s relaxing all on its own and useful to calm yourself if you struggle to sit with your eyes closed.
Sit with your hands open, palms up and put a stone or another small weighted object in the palm of each hand. Choose a stone that is smooth with rounded edges. Focus on how it feels, the weight, the smoothness of the stones. Or the shape and texture of whatever object you are using. Again, the mind is occupied by a simple task. If you can’t readily find any outside where you are you can easily purchase them online.
There are millions of guided meditations out there, in different styles. Choose something short, with a meditator whose voice and style appeal to you. Guided meditation keep the mind busy listening to instruction and help you find silence at the same time. Don’t worry about what style it is or if you pick different ones. The goal is all the same: to sit in silence.
My go to: Ryan Kurczak who has fifteen and twenty minutes guided mediations on You Tube.
You can also listen to instrumental music. Choose something you like (obviously!) and stay with that. It will create a habit, associating the music and quieting the mind to sit in silence.
You can repeat a mantra or any other simple phrase. One of my favorites is from Sadhguru that says I am not the body I am not even the mind. Try to coordinate the phrase with your breath, breathing in on I am not the body, and out on I am not even the mind. I’m linking his meditation here. There are several versions, of different length. You don’t have to sit cross legged.
So Hum is also an excellent mantra. Breath on So (pronounced Saw) and don’t worry about pronouncing it perfectly, it’ll be slightly distorted with the intake of breath. When you breathe out say the syllable Hum. Draw it out to match your breath and feel the vibration in your throat. So Hum is Sanskrit, meaning I am That, meaning being part of the all and the all being in each of us.
As the mind quiets, you’ll have moment of absolute silence. They’ll feel like gaps in consciousness. They are moments of peace and happiness. Practice, they will come. Peace.