How to control the busy mind

Do you do things that you don’t want to do? For instance you may smoke or eat too much, you want to exercise more or you have other habits that you think are bad. If you are a smoker for instance, it is as if there is a part of you that wants to smoke and a part of you that doesn’t. We think we are an integrated whole with a consciousness but we are not. We are many different parts that often conflict with each other.

Where are your thoughts on a scale of zero to ten — at this present moment?

This is an exercise that, even if you do nothing else, will help to quieten your mind. Whenever you think of it during the day or if you wake up at night ask yourself this question. Whenever you ask it you are, as it were, outside of your thoughts. You are not in any of the multitude of thoughts that are going through your mind. You will also become aware of times when the thoughts are at their most intense and when they are quietest.

Suppose you have to make a decision in the near future. For example you may have been offered a job in another state or town and you will have to say yes or no, or you have to give a decision on buying a new house. Most people go over and over the scenarios in their mind, often to the point of insomnia. This intellectual analysis is usually of little help. It can be worse than useless as the mind simply goes over the same tracks repeatedly.

This conscious going over events cuts the mind off from information that can be gleaned at other levels. Imagine a whiteboard which has been wiped clean and then someone makes a small mark on it. The mark is immediately visible. However, if the whiteboard is crammed with marks the new mark may go unnoticed. This is like the mind. If the mind is clear new thoughts that come from inspiration are clear, however if the mind is crammed with thoughts the new inspiration gets lost in the noise.

Besides insomnia, the busy mind leads to anger and frustration, road rage and many other ailments of the twenty-first century.

The conscious mind is like the surface of an ocean. We go up and down with the waves. Sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes it’s rough. Sometimes it’s so rough we have to baton down the hatches and weather the storm. The unconscious mind is like going below the surface of the ocean, that vast area which we are usually unaware of. Everything you’ve experienced is in that unconscious mind. Think back to when you were in school or college, all the information you have acquired over the years but thought you had forgotten. You may have been in a restaurant or a similar situation where there was a conversation going on at an adjacent table. You were not paying attention to the conversation but it still went into your unconscious mind. Even conversations that you were unaware influenced you and sometimes the effect of information that is subliminal is more than conscious information.

Imagine if you could tap into the wealth of untapped knowledge and abilities in the unconscious mind.

Daniel Tammet is a savant. A genius in some respects but lacking some abilities that most other people would take for granted. He holds the European record for reciting Pi from memory to 22,514 digits; he can solve complex mathematical problems in his head. In the documentary made about him ‘The Boy With The Incredible Brain’ he claimed that he could learn any language in a week. The producers set him up to learn Icelandic, which they said was one of the hardest languages to learn. At the end of a week studying the language he was to go on Icelandic television for a live interview.

After the interview the producers talked to the interviewer and asked him how Daniel performed. He said that he his Icelandic was very good and he even had the idioms.

Daniel has been diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome, a brain abnormality that causes it to function differently than normal. Other people diagnosed with Apserger’s syndrome or with various Autistic disorders have demonstrated savant abilities in maths, music or art. If we can tap into the unconscious mind the potential is practically limitless.

Quietening the mind for sleep

If you have trouble sleeping it maybe because the unchecked flow of thoughts keep you awake. When the mind is busy with thoughts it stays in the beta state and we are unable to drop into the alpha state that is the precursor of sleep.

We talk of trying to get to sleep. You can’t ‘try’ to get to sleep. If I asked you to do a maths problem or to lift a heavy weight your brain or your body could perform, or attempt to perform, the activity. Sleep is not like this. It’s not an activity that we perform. What we do is to get our minds into a particular state and, as it were, sleep catches up with us.

If you have problems getting off to sleep then here are some tips:

  • Use the progressive relaxation exercise at the end of this chapter to become relaxed.
  • Don’t clock watch.
  • Try to observe your thoughts rather than getting caught up in them.
  • Become aware of your breathing. Watch the breath as you breath in and out.

Sleep generally goes in 90 minute cycles. At the end of each cycle you would usually come to a light alpha state and may even open your eyes. You may go straight back to sleep and not even recall waking up. However, if there is something on your mind then sometimes instead of going back to an alpha and theta state (which is a sleep state), you come straight up to a beta (waking) state and then the inner chatter resumes, probably with renewed intensity. If waking up in the night is a problem then here are some tips:

• Remember that it is quite normal wake up in the night. Just wait and you will return to the sleep state.

• Don’t put the light on. If you have to visit the toilet then make sure there is a dim night-light.

• If you wake from a dream then try to recall the dream.

Awareness of self talk

The problem with stilling the mind, however, is that it is the mind that is attempting to still the mind.

Deepak Chopra writes about a woman who claimed to meditate but was permanently tense. When questioned she said that thoughts kept invading her mind and she became concerned when this happened. This concern triggered more thoughts, etc. Deepak pointed out to her that having thoughts come into the mind was inevitable. The secret was to acknowledge the thoughts and let them pass. In a controlled environment, such as when meditating or trying to get to sleep at night, a method of achieving this is to concentrate on the breath.

It is very useful to become aware of your own self-talk. People who are depressed concentrate on the negative self-talk. People who are happy concentrate on the positive self-talk. So, in theory at least, it should be easy to become happy by concentrating on the positive self-talk. Of course if it was that easy the depressed person would have done it. However, it is a habit. Even depressed people get positive self-talk, it’s just that they don’t concentrate on it. Sometimes there are feelings of guilt or a feeling that they don’t deserve to be happy.

There’s an element in human behaviour that causes people to go over the same scenario repeatedly. For example, if we give someone some components that have to be assembled, very often they will have a preconception of how the pieces fit together and will attempt to fit the pieces according to this mental picture that they have. Sometimes, if they persevere, a strange phenomenon takes place. They are forced to a frustrating stop and at that point inspiration comes. Suddenly, it’s clear how the pieces go. What happens is that their mental picture is wrong and so long as they keep that picture they are closed to a different one. When they give up, the correct picture is able to manifest itself.

By Philip Braham on .







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