How to Calm a Restless Mind

December 13, 2016

We live a frenetic rhythm. There are many demands that compete for our attention and the list seems to get longer every day. We cannot deny that stress and anxiety often make up part of our existence. We cannot go back in time, but we can discover a way to find calm, to calm a restless mind.

Buddhists say that the mind can be compared to a monkey. Just like a monkey jumps from branch to branch, always in a state of agitation, the mind incessantly jumps from one thought to another, which leaves us agitated and confused. But why is our mind so restless? How can we calm it and find peace of mind?

“Silence is a source of great strength.”

-Lao Tzu-

Woman's Head in Fish Bowl

The story of the elephant and the fly

A disciple and his master were walking through the woods. The disciple felt disturbed by the fact that his mind was in a constant state of agitation.

The disciple asked his master: “Why are most people’s minds restless and only a few of them possess a tranquil mind? What can be done to calm the mind?”

The master looked at the disciple, smiled, and said, “I will tell you a story.”

An elephant was standing by a tree and eating its leaves. A small fly came and flew up to him, making an unpleasant buzzing sound near his ear. The elephant flapped his ears to scare it away, but a short time later, the fly came back and the elephant once again shook his ears. They did this over and over again many times.

After many failed attempts to scare the fly away definitively, the elephant turned to it and asked, “Why are you so agitated and so noisy? Why can’t you stay in one place for a while?”

The fly responded, “I am attracted to what I see, hear, or smell. My five senses scream at me over everything that happens around me and I cannot help myself. What is your secret, elephant? How can you stay so calm and quiet?”

The elephant stopped eating and said, “My five senses do not direct my attention. I have control of my attention and I can direct it where I wish. This helps me immerse myself in what I am doing and therefore to keep my mind calm and focused. Now that I am eating, I am totally immersed in eating. In this way, I can enjoy my food and better chew it. I control my attention and not the other way around, and this helps me to be calm.”

Getting rid of the inessential

To maintain a calm mind, we must not get distracted. Getting rid of the inessential is the key to focusing on what really matters. By being aware of the present moment, we can find peace and calm.

But how can we get rid of the inessential? What is essential and what is not? How can we hear the answer within ourselves among so much noise? In reality, the first step is quite easy: we must simply stop and remain silent. In this lack of action, we will start finding answers.

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson-

Meditation to calm a restless mind

Meditation is an excellent tool to calm a restless mind. Meditation reduces the incessant hustle and bustle of the mind. In fact, concentrating on breathing is much easier than it seems and it allows us to have a more profound awareness of tranquility.

meditating woman beding over

With practice and persistence, it is possible to develop the ability to find that tranquility through meditation no matter what is happening around us. Learning to meditate will allow you to calm your mind at work, in public transport, in a stressful situation no matter where, or in the middle of any chaotic environment.

“It is a simple matter of sitting silently, observing the thoughts going through your head. Simply observing, not interfering, not judging, because the moment that you judge, you have given up pure observation. The moment that you say, ‘this is good, this is bad,’ you have let go of the thinking process.”

-Osho-

Cultivating gratitude

The hustle and bustle and noise of your daily life may be due to an underlying feeling of discontent. One way to start improving your sense of joy and satisfaction is to recognize and celebrate all the wonderful things that you already have. Being thankful for what you have can really help you see things in another way.

Simply write down the things you are thankful for right now, ten or more, quick. Do not think too much, simply as fast as you can. Anything is appropriate, from the most superficial or subtle to the most profound or vital things. When you have finished, read your thankful list aloud. All of that will see much more wonderful and it will fill you with joy to find inner peace.