I have been reading Eckert Tolle’s book The Power of Now, as part of our book club, and
his insights seem to be resonating with me. I was reflecting the other day, that my mind can be my biggest obstacle in my practice.
The nagging voice in my head tells me “I cannot do the postures”, or “I should come out of the posture early,” or “I have too many tasks to do to be spending time focusing on myself.” So many messages coming and going… kids, appointments, what to cook… you get the picture.
Eckert Tolle has a name for it. He calls it the “incessant mental noise” and he says that it “prevents us from finding the realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.”
For new students, this voice can be overwhelming and daunting, because it seems to be so hard to turn off. Staying “in our heads” is what we’ve always known, and turning it off at will is challenging.
I believe that the “incessant mental noise” is a central reason why so many students just give up their practice. We get so tired of fighting the bantering between our ears that we give up trying. But here it the kicker. Tolle says this: “By giving into our mind, we provide the energy needed to keep the voice alive.”
So what do we do? We know we need to quiet our mind, but how do we do it?
Three simple steps I use to quiet my mind:
Know, going in, that your mind will try to sabotage you. Just recognize that you have the option not to let it. As I like to say in class, awareness is the first step in the journey of change.
Instead of giving in to the banter, bring your total attention to the present moment, moment by moment. Practice bringing your mind back to what is going on right now, this very moment.
When your mind tries again to get your attention (and it will) with the thought… “this is hard” or “this is uncomfortable”, focus on your breath to allow you to overcome the mind’s chatter. By focusing of breath, we begin to learn stillness. When we learn to just be still with the discomfort, the mind will eventfully give up because we have cut off the energy source.
We just need one small success to chart us on a new path of quieting our minds. Maybe, it is holding the posture without coming out of it early. Maybe, it’s just trying the postures we do not think we can do at all. Just finding one step in the right direction is all that is needed to change this cycle.
So today, I will go in to my practice aware that my mind wants to take it over. Instead, I will try to become conscious of the present moment. When my mind does take over, I will bring my attention back to the current moment. I will bring a sense of stillness to my movements and to the posture. I will celebrate this journey knowing that I am quieting the voice in my head and starting to experience the joy of Being.