My mind keeps racing: techniques to calm a busy mind
A full mind needs mindfulness. When your mind is full and the thoughts are just a whirlwind, it’s hard to focus on anything. Or does this happen when you try to fall asleep, the thoughts do not leave you alone and you review the events of the day over and over again?
Whatever the reason for your busy mind, mindfulness has a few techniques to help you slow down the race and silence the clamor. The starting point is often to focus our breathing, without judging, without trying to change the pattern of our breathing.
Let’s explore a couple of situations and see if they seem true to you.
I can’t sleep my mind is too full
This is a very common scenario for many of us and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. Some of us can ‘start over’ with bedtime rituals, others can turn to a book or a hot drink. These are all perfectly good approaches to that particular problem, but let’s take a look at some of the conscious techniques we can use.
Relaxing to go to sleep is a time when we can practice focusing on the breath and the body. Mindfulness meditation often begins with a focus on the breath, in and out, without trying to change it, just noticing the flow in and out. This awareness of our breathing is a way to distract ourselves from the whirlwind of thoughts. If we can focus on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving our body, the rise and fall of the ribs, the sensation of the air passing through the nose or mouth, then we can deviate from concentrating on our thoughts. . It is very likely that initially we may not be able to stay focused on our breath and away from our thoughts, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
One meditation that is often helpful in calming the mind before sleeping is technical visualization. This means that we build an image in our mind of a scene. The image in this meditation is a stream with leaves floating on its surface. The current flows so that the leaves can float past without hindrance. As we relax and focus on our breathing, we will experience thoughts that come to our minds. As each thought appears, we take it and place it on a sheet and let it float. The idea of this meditation is to encourage us to see our thoughts as passengers and allow them to ‘float’. Sometimes this type of meditation uses other images, clouds that float by, balloons that float away, but the concept is the same, see your thoughts as transient and allow them to drift away. In this way we can clear our minds and with a clear mind, we can fall asleep.
Unable to concentrate – too much on your mind
This situation often occurs when we are anxious and can feel completely disabling. We may find it difficult to make decisions, or even simple choices. We are trapped in our habitual responses, frozen in time.
This very brief practice provides a way to get out of autopilot mode and into the present moment. What we are doing is creating a space to reconnect with your natural resilience and wisdom. We are simply tuning in to what is happening right now, not expecting any particular outcome. It is known as ‘STOP’
S – Stop and take stock, checking the head, heart and body.
We approach the present moment by deliberately asking, “What is my experience right now?”
Thoughts: what do we say to ourselves, what images come to mind.
Feelings: enjoy, neutral, upset, excited, sad, angry, etc.
Sensations: physical sensations, tightness, support, lightness.
We acknowledge and record our experience, even if it is uncomfortable.
T – “Take” a breath and direct our consciousness to our breath.
Our breathing can function as an anchor to bring us to the present and help us tune into a state of awareness and stillness. Inhale and exhale deeply. Then continue breathing normally. We should gently direct all our attention to the breath, each inspiration and each exhalation as they occur, one after the other.
Or – Open and observe, expanding our consciousness outwards.
We expand the field of our consciousness around and beyond our breath, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, our posture and facial expression, and then more outwards to what is happening around us: images, sounds, smells, etc. . It may be helpful to count: 4 things we can see, 3 things we can hear, 2 things we can touch, and 1 thing we can smell.
As best we can, carry this expanded awareness into our next moments.
P – Continue with new possibilities, continue without expectations.
Next, we let our attention shift to the world around us, feeling how things are at the moment.
Instead of reacting in a habitual or mechanical way, we can be curious and open, responding naturally. We have broken the response of the autopilot, without waiting for a result.
Try and practice these techniques the next time you find yourself with a busy mind.