For years, I struggled with my mind. It exhausted me.
It would spend endless hours at night — when my body really wanted to sleep — thinking. Endless streams of thought that sometimes made no sense and caused anxiety and depression. Yet oddly, the same “thinking machine” that kept me up at night would falter during the day. I couldn’t concentrate at work. My mind felt like it was overtaken by dense fog.
And after a while, I just assumed this was the normal way of things.
Years later, I began to meditate daily. And that is when so much about the mind, the ego, began to make sense to me.
As the mental chatter quieted down (one of the many benefits of meditation), the fog lifted. I slept through the night and woke up refreshed. My mind started working properly— creating, writing and playing music. The more I meditated, the more the useless mind chatter disappeared.
My mind was becoming a “lean-mean-thinking-machine” that I could use when needed.
When I talk to clients about my mentally overactive past, there is one common question that follows: “How on earth did you quiet your mind?” Usually, the first word to come out of my mouth is “meditation” but there’s more to it than that.
Aside from daily meditation, I keep my mind quiet by following these four simple practices:
1. Mental observations
Here I use my “Hmm… that was interesting” exercise. I try to remain intensely present at all times and cultivate the art of observation without judgment.
When I observe a thought that is not in accordance with my essence, I smile and gently whisper “Hmm…that was interesting”. I use those words as recognition that I have observed a thought or internal voice that is not imbued with higher energy. And then I just let the thought float away without judgment.
2. Practicing self-love and self-compassion
I’m human. I make mistakes and can mess up royally like everyone else. I’m not trying to be the Buddha here. I’m just me. And I love every single particle of “me”, no matter what.
This may seem trivial but you’d be surprised how often the ego uses self-loathing as a means to stay in control. I call it the “I-can-do-better” syndrome. If you can always “do better”, then are you really ok with who you are right now?
3. Slowing activities down.
Well, except for sprinting upstairs. Sprints make me giggle like a little girl! But aside from my speed exercise routines, I really do consciously slow my activities down. I cut my vegetables slowly or take a little longer than usual to brush my teeth. If I have some sort of “deadline”, I make sure to sit down in silence and be still for a little while before beginning work.
You may think that slowing things down is a “waste” of time. Far from it. Doing things mindfully exponentially increases my productivity.
How? Because the mind stays quiet and precise. There is no interference from the pointless mind chatter that characterizes overly active egos. A “precise” mind equals creativity and productivity.
4. “Switching off” mentally at least two hours before bedtime
And I don’t mean I sit in front of the TV… Watching an episode of the Walking Dead could hardly qualify as “shutting off”. This is where I usually do my 2nd meditation of the day. Other times, I just sit quietly with a candle and some relaxing music in the background.
The mind is awesome, but it can also be destructive when not properly tended to. A quiet mind equals overall awesomeness. Try it.