Stilling the Mind

Once people have started praying or meditating regularly, the most common barrier to contemplative spiritual practice is wandering thoughts, even among people who have a consistent meditation practice for years.

Ø  In a global survey of prayer run by the Teal Trust in 1998, over 80% of respondents found this at least "sometimes a problem".
Ø  Two thirds also found noise or other distractions a problem. 
Ø  A similar survey found that "keeping concentration" was also an issue, with 40% of respondents mentioning this as a barrier to prayer and meditation.

Things to consider:
Ø  Many spiritual minded people lead busy lives, with our minds working in overdrive to cover all of the things that we need to think about and accomplish.
Ø  When we stop to pray or meditate, it takes time for our mind to change track and to focus in on our intentions. Stilling the mind is often difficult and takes time.
Ø  Expect there to be times when your mind will be distracted. It is important that you learn from an authentic teacher the most effective methods of dealing with it.
Ø  Don't “beat yourself up” over wandering thoughts; but at the same time don’t be content to let your thoughts wander. Recognize the thought and bring your attention back to your meditation.
Ø  Just as when we are in conversation with others, our minds do have some apparently irrelevant thoughts, and need to be returned to the topic at hand.
Ø  Remember that because we have so many experiences, worries, responsibilities, etc., the mind often acts like a monkey, jumping to and fro. This is a normal experience. This is also why there are various forms of meditation that each help you begin to still the mind. 

It is important that you be patient with yourself. If you become agitated or angry with yourself due to wandering thoughts, you will reduce meditation to a chore, and a dreaded one at that. As beginners you should try the following helpful strategies:

  1. Ask Kami-sama, in whatever form you view God/dess, to help you bring your wandering thoughts to a point of stillness.
  2. Write out your goals for meditation before you start.
  3. Remove yourself physically from as many distractions as possible when you sit down to meditate. Turn off your cell phone, go to a room free from electronics of any kind. Create a space that is both comfortable and quiet.
  4. Light a candle and some incense. If you have an image that reminds you of what it is you seek spiritually, place this image somewhere in front of you.
  5. The idea behind using sound, scent, and sight is to engage your senses in transcendental activity, training them to still when you need them to do so.
  6. Read a passage from one of the sacred writings.
  7. Pause and reflect on what you have to be thankful for.
  8. You might want to begin with a chant to help still your mind, readying it for silent meditation.
  9. Listen to either the sounds of nature or quieting music as you begin. Just pay attention to your breathing in silent meditation at first, noticing the process of inhalation and exhalation closely.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

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