I don’t think we realise most of the time just how busy our mind is. It’s like when you leave the radio or TV on in the background – you don’t notice the noise after a while, until you turn it off and you notice the quiet.
The mind runs a commentary on whatever’s going on, or whatever you’re doing, so it tells you the story of your life: ‘I’m just sitting down for 5 minutes because I’m tired. I won’t need long before I can get going again – don’t want to sink into lethargy – lots to do – although I wish I could just stop sometimes.’ Your mind also does past and/or future at the same time – like having two different channels running simultaneously! ‘ I did quite a lot today, but I didn’t finish my list of tasks. And I must remember to phone so-and-so, and what shall I have for dinner?’
It’s amazing that we don’t go a bit crazy with it constantly playing in our heads – or maybe we do!! And it isn’t usually very kind in its commentary, and sometimes it is downright mean and twisted in its reasoning.
So once in a while, it’s great to be able to switch it off and have a rest, but this is not as easy as switching off the radio and TV. I remember learning a meditation where you count the breath up to ten, and them start again from one. I told the teacher I just couldn’t do it: I’d get to about three and then be distracted by my thoughts. He laughed and said that was normal – you just start over when you realise you’ve lost it again. I still find that I rarely get to five, years and years later!
And once in a while, I realise that the noise in my mind has shut up, apparently on its own – so what has that effect on it? For me, something moving gently with a natural rhythm seems to work. It may be a sound or, more often, something I’m looking at. Examples would be: the sound and sight of waves breaking on the shore; leaves on a tree moving gently in the breeze; a candle flame or a real fire; the tick of an old-fashioned clock. If I stay paying attention to it, the rhythmic sound or sight seems to lull my busy mind to sleep for a while. It’s as if the noise gradually fades away until there’s nothing left.
And a little while of that quiet feels so restful, so refreshing!
So what allows you to have a break from your own busy head? Experiment, find out, and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet.