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The Fastest Way to a Quiet Mind
Take a few moments to try this simple experiment:
Close your eyes for a minute or so and just listen to whatever sounds are going on around you. Be “a rock with ears,” hearing sounds the way a video camera would, without any preference for one sound over another or story about what the sounds mean or where they come from.
If you become aware of any internal chatter, just do your best to refocus on the sounds outside your head instead…
How was that? Does the world seem a bit different than it did a few moments ago? Do you feel more peaceful or relaxed?
One of the things that most people are striving for in one way or another is a quiet mind. Books, audios, and courses abound promising to teach techniques for achieving inner peace, reduced stress, less worry, and peace of mind. Yet, curiously, many of these programs seem to add to the number of shoulds, ought tos, musts, and have tos that fill our already-noisy brains.
The distinction I have found most useful in relation to all of these ideas came from the theosopher Syd Banks, who pointed out that there is a profound difference between the act of “meditating” and the state of “meditation.”
Meditating is an activity that at its best guides people into a state of meditation — the inner stillness I am referring to as “a quiet mind.” However, if you’ve ever struggled to maintain a meditation practice (or as I’ve done, made yourself laugh at the irony of getting mad at the people who are “disturbing your meditation”), you probably know that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the activity at the cost of the state.
My favorite illustration of this distinction came from a friend who was speaking at a major corporation about research that showed most people experienced their greatest moments of quiet insight in the shower. After the talk, which was extremely well-received, one of the heads of the company came up to them and asked: “How long should I get my people to shower each day?”