Mental Quiet
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Quieting the mind is potentially one of the hardest things to do. The mind just fights back, as it identifies with thought. Thus learning NOT to think can be both difficult and potentially terrifying.  Below are a few techniques I've run across over the years

  • Focus on a flame - Unless you're a fire-manipulator, in which case this exercise becomes something else entirely, the idea of focusing on a flame is that if you're busy observing the flame its movements will give your mind something "interesting" to center on. The point here is learning to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else, and ultimately bleed into pure awareness. This exercise can be changed for anything else you'd like to focus on - watching waves come in, watching clouds in the sky, wind through a tree - anything that you can simply observe and not be analytical about.
  • Broom sweeping thoughts away - This is one of a collection of variations on the theme of pushing the thoughts away. Some find it effective; I find that you spend so much time sweeping that the imagery itself becomes a thought you have to fight. However, the idea here is to make your mind an envisionable entity, and remain outside it, cleaning the "dust" (thoughts) that come your way until you have a clean area and can keep it that way. When my imagery turned to cleaning a litterbox I gave up in disgust, but I know this works for some people.
  • Focus on your heartbeat - Unless you've been trained in biofeedback, in which case this can get dangerous, the idea of focusing on your heartbeat is both that you've turned internally, and that you're focusing on one thing. It's similar to counting sheep, only inward. I prefer to use breath over heartbeat, as accidentally slowing my heart while I clear my thoughts is rather counter-productive. :P However, again this family of techniques works well for many people, myself included.
  • Mindfulness - This is a concept of putting your full awareness into whatever you're doing, and in my opinion one of the most profound and useful exercises in the family. The really neat thing about this one is that if you've got something that you do that you lose yourself in - reading, programming, gaming, music - then you already know how to do this. That gives you a great jump-off point to start from, if you can catch yourself and observe your feelings when you're in the state. If you can get ahold of how it feels when you're in the state, then you can focus on that feeling to try to get there again and trick your mind by attacking the problem sideways.
  • Bachflower Remedy: White Chestnut - This is not for attempting to meditate, but for that condition when you can't do what you want to do (especially sleep) because you've got a broken record going in your head that just won't shut up - and in fact, the gramophone is the very description Dr. Bach gave for the remedy. Again however, this is not for "I can't meditate," it's more for "I can't focus on anything or get any sleep because my mind keeps circling around and around." It's also not for when you're worrying about someone getting hurt, that's a different remedy (it's emotional not mental in nature).

- Jaelle ShadowDancer 9/4/07

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