Is there such thing as a quiet mind?
By Rachel Long
As a meditation teacher, I’m always curious to know what’s inspired new students to learn meditation. When I ask students what brought them to learn meditation one reason always stands out.
People tell me they want to learn meditation because:
‘I can’t stop my chattering mind.’
‘I’m always thinking.’
‘My mind never stops.’
‘My head is so busy.’
The truth is we’re never going to stop the thoughts, ideas, memories, images and feelings that move through the mind.
Thoughts are endless and continuous. Even if you were to immerse yourself in meditation on a silent retreat you will still have thoughts. You may find, though, that the thoughts become subtler, quieter and perhaps there is more space between them.
It is the nature of the mind to think and to have thoughts. We will not change this with meditation. (And why would we want to?)
What we can change with meditation, however, is our perspective of our thoughts, how we relate to thoughts, how we respond or react to thoughts and ultimately how we relate to ourselves.
In the yoga tradition, there is an aspect of mind we refer to as the witness. This part of your mind is not the thinking mind.
It’s the part of yourself that watches, the part of yourself that knows that you know and is aware that you’re aware.
The witness, is peaceful, silent, non-judgemental, all-knowing and eternal.
It is the witness aspect of the mind that we want to connect with and develop in meditation. By having a strong connection to the witness we learn to shift our perspective of the thoughts and gain a sense of objectivity.
When we are connected to the witness we are able to examine our thoughts, we can watch the patterns and stories the mind plays out. We see how our behaviour and actions in life arise from our thoughts.
You may have noticed that when the mind is wandering unbridled, it is usually reconciling events of the past or planning for the future. A perpetual mindset of either ‘in the past’ or ‘in the future’ causes us to feel like the mind is always on, and always busy.
When we connect to the witness and we observe the mind, we tap into our moment-to-moment experience. We become present to what is occurring in this moment. When we are present to just this moment there is a sense of peace and stillness. Even though thoughts are continuing we’re not on the endless thought train. It’s more like we’re standing on the platform watching the thought train go by. This is an important skill to learn and, from what I have experienced, one that people who come to meditation desire to learn most.
Inner Silence meditation is a powerful technique for establishing the foundation of witnessing. It also provides a structure by which to examine our thoughts and to get in touch with our inner experience on a moment-to-moment basis. When we do that we become present and we touch that mental freedom we all yearn for.