Quieting Your Thoughts - A Mindfulness Based Therapy Practice
Updated: Nov 20
"A quiet mind married to integrity of the heart is the birth of wisdom." -Adyashanti
Quieting the mind is both a human need and a form of self-discipline. Learning to step out of analytical thinking allows us to become more reflective and objective. It helps us see deeper dynamics that are contributing to our suffering and keeping us stuck. It also helps us relax and let go of built-up stress or emotions. Constant thinking reinforces unhealthy patterns. It is important to know that there is a quiet space already within us – we simply have to learn how to free our minds and come back to it. The following is a mindfulness based therapy practice that I teach my clients:
Mind Training: When you begin your practice, you can expect that your mind will not want to cooperate. It will likely do what it always does, but you will be more aware of it in that moment. It can be helpful to choose an anchor to focus your mind while you are training it to become quiet. For example:
Focus on the rise and fall of your breath
Count – for example: 1 on the in-breath, 2 on the out-breath, then repeat
Choose a word to repeat in your mind over and over (e.g. calm or soothe)
Focus on the sounds in the background – birds chirping, rain falling, etc.
Put on some gentle music (no lyrics)
Bring your attention to something visual – watching a lit candle on your table or a tree outside your window
Sit with a cup of tea or coffee and pay attention to what it feels like to be in that moment and that activity only
Before beginning the activity, take some time to pause and check-in with yourself: How are you feeling? Do you notice any tension in your body? Are you thinking about anything? Take a few deep breaths. Now bring your attention to the anchor you have chosen. If your mind begins to wander, simply notice it and then bring your attention back to your anchor. Do not judge or try to control your thoughts – just let them be what they are and gently come back to the anchor. Continue this for 15 minutes. If you can, take time to appreciate what it feels like to be in the present moment.
How often do I practice? Start with 15 minutes per day. If this feels too long, split the time up and practice for 5 minutes at a time, then 7 minutes, or whatever you can handle. Give yourself credit for taking any time at all. With practice, you might notice that you desire more and more time, and you will begin to value the awareness that you develop by living in the present moment. This will increase your desire to live consciously in most things that you do. While it may not be possible to be fully present in every activity of every day, it is possible to keep your awareness from shutting down. If your awareness remains open, you are less likely to go back to destructive or unhealthy patterns – you will experience inner freedom (the power to choose what is deeply right for you in each moment).
What are some challenges I may face?
1) Unrealistic expectations: your practice is not going to produce immediate emotional relief, nor will it solve all of your problems. It takes time to develop new patterns and to change the way we use our minds. Be patient with yourself – this is about the process, not the destination. The benefits of your practice will be subtle and unfold over time.
2) Distractions: life throws all sorts of curveballs at us. There will always be an excuse to postpone your practice. Set aside time each day, and stick to your schedule. Remember that you are worth the effort, and you can go back to your distractions when you are finished.
3) Resistance: if you notice yourself avoiding, or continually postponing your practice, you may want to reflect on why this is happening. Perhaps you are afraid of what you might begin to see. Maybe the discomfort of certain emotions feels too much for you to handle. Or perhaps you are fooling yourself into believing that it is easier to live in the past or future, rather than in the present. Do not judge yourself for your resistance. This is a very normal part of the process, because you are not used to using your mind in this way. Remind yourself why you are committed to your practice, and seek help to work through any challenges.
4) Wandering mind: you may notice that your mind is constantly wandering, thinking, ruminating, judging, interpreting, list making, or doing other things while you are trying to practice. Please know that this is okay. Do not try to control your thinking. This is not about failure or success. Notice your mind as it wanders to something else, and then bring your attention back to your practice. When your mind wanders again, notice it, and then bring your attention back. Continue to do this over and over. With commitment, you will eventually train your mind to stay in the present.
What did you notice about your mind and thoughts during your practice?
How did you react or respond when you noticed yourself thinking?
What does it feel like to let go of control and allow things to be as they are?