by Justine Manley aka The Shy Shaman
You are sitting on the floor with your legs crossed. The sound of running water streams out of the laptop behind you. You eagerly await your spiritual connection. Completely ready to learn the secrets of the universe through quiet introspection…but your mind has other plans.
Your brain is a pot of squirming worms, each one screaming out a different interesting fact or inappropriate comment. When one finally stops another takes its place and you find yourself desperately trying to silence the worms when you should be focusing on gardening.
This happens to everyone at first. Like nearly everything in life, the only remedy is practice. The “monkey mind” will lessen with each attempt but you must be diligent and take the time to do it regularly. There are several other things you can try to make the process easier.
Using the same fragrance each time you meditate is helpful in conditioning your mind to associate the smell with a calm state of mind. Each time you successfully make a breakthrough you will smell that lavender, ylang ylang or what ever scent pleases your nose most. It will make it easier to reach the same state again if you begin with your incense lighting ritual.
2. Observing the silent breath
Begin by breathing silently. Simply allow your breathing to flow in and out as it wishes. I breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth but you do whatever feels the most natural to you. The only thing you need to focus on is making the breaths completely silent.
Now pay close attention to each breath as it moves in and out and notice that you are watching and listening to something that cannot be seen and that has no sound. Keep doing this for as long as you like.
3. Allow your thoughts
Trying to force the thoughts out of focus is futile. You will reach a point when you can switch them off easily but even then, the occasional straggler still pops up.
A very handy trick I learned was listening to the thoughts as though they’re just random noises, beep bop boop! Ghsjshs jajsjal djdmmoo. Don’t translate them, these thoughts don’t mean anything. Just allow them to pass by the same way you hear bird calls or a kettle boiling. The insight you are waiting for is nothing like these thoughts. It is a deep knowing that you will feel in your core.
4. Use sound as a distraction
If you are still struggling with the mind frenzy, there is another trick you may find helpful. Making a rhythmic sound during meditation is a perfect way to redirect your focus. You can chant “AUM”, “AHH”, “Boogadidy woogadidy”, anything you like at a regular interval.
The words are irrelevant just make them resonate in your chest. When you speak you project sound outward but when you make this sound, imagine the sound waves coming back into your centre instead of out into the world.
Drumming is another great way to do this. Turn a cardboard box upside down, use a tin or just thump the carpet, whatever works. There is no right or wrong rhythm either and you can switch it up during. Drumming is a very powerful tool and concentrating on that sound and the energy behind it is very helpful for thought silencing.
5. Realise that there is no goal in meditation other than meditation
If you go into a meditative state with the intention of achieving anything you will fail. You are learning how to listen and that happens once the inner-voice falls silent.
Enjoy the serene feeling you get from the practice. Enjoy the few moments peace from your talkative ego but know that answers will only come when you are ready and cannot be forced. Don’t let this deter your determination though because when they do come it is one of the best feelings in existence.
You could always ask a specific question and see if you get an answer but asking is pointless because you already know what you what to know. You as the asker already know what your question is and you already know the answer. Just be and if something comes out of it, great! If it doesn’t it’s still great because you are getting better at listening each time you try.
There are many other techniques to achieve inner knowing and stillness. Listen to the world outside of yourself without defining each sound with a name, trace an interesting texture with your fingertips while you follow breath, chant mantras, count beads, it doesn’t matter. The important things are consistency and enjoyment. May the path back to yourself be winding and blindingly beautiful.