Those who are following my posts regularly might have read my earlier posts on meditation, karma yoga and mind control basics. In this post i will also be taking inputs from my above mentioned posts to list the various tools and techniques that you may need to be better master your mind. Mastering the mind is an easier said than done activity. It requires a lot of dedication, effort and discipline. I feel that the tried techniques mentioned in this post might help in someway or the other to handle your mind better while going about the day to day activities.
” The mind is fickle. It won’t obey you. Every time the mind misbehaves, use your discretionary intellect to bring it back to the equanimous position. ”Bhagavad Gita
We are used to the constant chattering voices and thoughts in our mind. The thoughts can range from lust, anger, hatred, jealously, ego etc. If you give in to these negative thoughts it can make you to stumble in life. As mentioned in one of my previous posts, we are conscious of only 5% of our cognitive activities. The remaining vast majority of our thinking goes on subconsciously. Everyday the moment we get up in the morning, the thoughts in our minds starts to run. The phrase used to define the restless mind is the psychological metaphor “Monkey mind”, derived from the sanskrit word “Kapicitta”. Even in the Buddhist principles, the term “Monkey Mind” is used to refer to being unsettled, restless or confused.
Below, i would like to provide a few techniques to tame your monkey mind and reduce the mental chatter.
Be Goal Oriented
” A man is but a product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes. “Mahatma Gandhi
As we all know that a goal oriented or a focused mind can achieve a higher level of success. However, the fact is that majority of your thoughts and actions are on autopilot. Because when you are not even aware of your own habits, routines, impulses and reactions, you no longer control them but they control you. Being goal oriented helps to avoid distractions and unwanted habits and channelizes your mind to achieve the objectives that you have set for yourself. In the process of achieving your objectives, though there might be distractions but since the higher goal is set in the mind you will be pulled back to the path of attaining the objectives.
Mindful Breathing Exercises
” Calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath. “Patanjali
In yoga we have the pranayama technique that is centered around breathing. When we just attend to our breath, it brings us to the present moment, increases our self-awareness, and brings a sense of calm. Pranayama goes a step further than a simple awareness of the breath, using specific rhythms and techniques to bring us numerous benefits on the mental, emotional and physical levels other than calming the mind and improving focus. It is suggested to learn pranayama from an experienced yogic teacher.
If you are looking to soothe your senses during a stressful work day, try out some of the breathing techniques like the box-breathing method (inhale for 5 seconds – hold breath for 5 seconds – exhale for 5 seconds – hold breath for 5 seconds) for a few minutes any number of times in a day, 4-7-8 breathing method (inhale for 4 seconds, hold breath for 7 seconds, exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds) four or five times continuously atleast twice a day.
” Isolation of the mind from the sense organs. “Patanjali on pratyahara
Pratyahara in simple words refers to the withdrawal of the five senses from external objects and focusing it inwards. The word ‘pratyahara’ stems from the Sanskrit prati and ahara. “Ahara” means “food,” or “anything we take into ourselves from the outside.” “Prati” is a preposition meaning “against” or “away.” “Pratyahara” means literally “control of ahara” or “gaining mastery over external influences.” It may also be defined as one pointed attention in whatever task that you are doing.
In this hectic world, we are bombarded with a barrage of sensory impressions. Fortunately, pratyahara can be used as an effective technique to control the mind. Perhaps the simplest way to control your impressions is to cut them off, to spend some time apart from all sensory inputs. This can be as simple as sitting to meditate with your eyes closed and focusing on the thoughts or the breath. In a matter of time the racing thoughts will slow down and eventually vanish. In case of an experienced person, it can done even with eyes open by focusing on a single object.
” When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a candle in a windless place. ”Bhagavad Gita
In the earlier technique ,i.e, pratyahara the focus was switched from the external objects to the inner self. As per Patanjali’s yoga sutra, the techniques dharana or concentration, dhyana or meditation are the next steps to the pratyahara. In dharana, you are concentrating your attention internally on an object of meditation that can be anything like the breath, mantra, mental image etc. This is easy to work on during your meditation practice.
The dhyana stage of the meditation can be one of the most challenging parts of the yoga practice to attain. It can be defined as a steady uninterrupted flow of identical thoughts. Sometimes we end up just practicing focus, never reaching that steady mind, but instead, repeating a mantra or using a focus object like the breath to help slow the whirling of the mind. In this way, you can see meditation as a one pointed focus, or a practice of dharana. As per scientific studies, it is a known fact that a person who regularly meditates can focus his mind better. Please check the “Further Reading” section below for my earlier post on meditation if you want to know more.
” Consistent positive self talk is unquestionably one of the greatest gifts to one’s subconscious mind. ”unknown
In the process of going about your day to day activities, there might be times when the mental chatter is too much to bear with. These are times during which you can use the technique of self talk that might provide some help. The mental chatter may be about anything like provocation, anxiety, todo task, something irrelevant, resentment etc.,
Stop for a moment and listen to understand what your monkey mind is saying. If it is something of help to you, note it down to attend to it ASAP. If it is some provocative or negative thought, then reply to yourself that it is not appropriate. Once it feels that it’s been allowed to voice itself, it will settle down. However, there is a great possibility that the negative thoughts will repeat again and again, this is where self talk helps the mind to bring it to the present moment rather than go after the racing thoughts. Repetitive self talk would be needed to pull the mind away from the negative thoughts.
” I write in a journal daily. This extraordinary ritual has revolutionized my mindset, transformed my heartset, and generally influenced my life exponentially. “Robin sharma
By establishing a regular journaling practice, you’ll be setting aside a window of time each day specifically to address your monkey mind’s concerns. Many successful people journal their racing thoughts for about 10 to 15 minutes in the morning everyday. My personal opinion is that it can be at any time of the day for a few minutes when the thoughts are racing through. It can be a journal or any medium that you are comfortable to note down your thoughts. Once you have given the monkey mind its time frame, the thoughts will slow down but it may try to distract you again. Try to focus on your task without giving attention to the distracting thoughts.
Prayer or Mantra
” Worrying doesn’t change anything, prayer does. “Unknown
Interrupt your monkey mind and distract it by reciting a mantra. When you recite or listen to a mantra you draw in your scattered attention and focus it on a word, phrase, or sound that may be anything like a simple “Aum”mantra. By repeating a mantra, either to yourself or out loud or by just listening –you’ll be listening to something positive, instead of the negativity being spewed by your monkey mind. This helps to reset your mind to a certain extent.
Further Reading :
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