“Silencing the mind” is something made common among those who talk about meditation. It may be the single most common correlation that comes to mind when meditation is mentioned. A seemingly impossible and laughable task for most.
Although silencing the mind is the ultimate goal of meditation and the part that benefits us the most when dealing with stress and anxiety, it shouldn’t be the goal you seek out when beginning your meditation practice. It’s something that will come naturally in time with perseverance in creating the habit of simply attempting to practice.
In the meantime, there are plenty of simple and practical practices you can begin doing that will help you get there without the feeling of “doing it wrong.” Don’t fall into that trap because if you’re trying at all, you’re never “doing it wrong.” Trying is the practice.
Mindfulness is being hyper-aware. Aware of your senses, your thoughts, your environment, and everything else within and around you that creates this existence. We’re not trying to “silence” the mind as much as we’re trying to actively control it.
You don’t have to sit a certain way (although there are real benefits to posture) or have silence to start practicing. You can just as easily begin practicing on a crowded bus or while waiting in line at the DMV. All that’s required is your conscious awareness and the intent to focus and control it.
Check-in with all of your senses. What do you hear? What do you see? Notice the colors and the textures. How does the air feel on your skin? Feel the solidity of the surface beneath your feet.
What thoughts are popping up? Notice them as they come through. What’s seeking your attention? Does it deserve your attention, or is it anxious chatter? Feel free to set it to the side for a moment so that you may pay attention to the details of your surroundings. Check-in with your posture and your breathing. To simply notice all of the ways existence is taking place in this solitary moment.
The goal at this moment is to purposefully exist in this world that has so much to enjoy. It can take as much or as little time as you like. The to-do lists will be there when you’re ready to pick them back up. Right now, we’re creating space to take a step back and look at the whole picture so that we can move forward without haste to make the best decisions.
In this way, we “silence” the mind with purposeful thinking instead. Crowding out the chatter with our intentional mindfulness. Choosing to place our thoughts on the calming effect of being fully present at the moment.
Noticing your thoughts and bringing them back to where you decide for them to be, rather than allowing them to run amok, is the work. It is the practice, and it gets easier and more automatic the more you do it until one day, you notice that your mind is as “silent” as it’s ever been and how blissfully calming it is to have reached this state.