Sometimes all we hear are thoughts, a barrage of thoughts flitting in and out of our minds. There is a constant inner monologue that refuses to die down. The monkey mind jumps from one fragmented thought to another. It’s literally a swarm inside our heads. It is said that the average human mind churns out 60,000 thoughts per day. Sometimes it gets so noisy in there that we desperately ache to drown out the din. Some of us even resort to sedatives to calm our frayed nerves.
Nagging thoughts about health, finances, relationships, and work can leave us feeling frazzled. Running errands, tending to the elderly, managing children, thoughts centered around body-image, world news, Instagram feed, Facebook feed, even thoughts about fixing a leaky faucet or flickering tube light can overwhelm us. It appears as if modern life is designed to seduce our attention.
Much like a tape-recorder, the mind plays the same thoughts over and over again. We get sucked into this labyrinth of thoughts that interferes with our ability to be firmly anchored in the present moment. For instance, you go to the kitchen, you open the refrigerator, you wait for a while, not knowing why you opened it in the first place. Consider another scenario: You are conversing with a friend over the phone, but time to time your mind floats away, until your friend yanks you out of your reverie.
We miss out on the beauty of everyday moments because we are always on autopilot. There are so many opportunities to savor moments: How many of us make time to watch the sun sink? How many of us spare a moment to admire the star-studded night sky? These are beautiful ways to disengage from the mind. Make a conscious effort to disconnect, easier said than done, especially when innumerable thoughts are jostling for attention, when the mind is riddled with fears, doubts, anxiety, and stress. However, if you intentionally make time to drink in your surroundings, you will begin to notice how it gets fairly quieter inside.
The Quiet Manifesto:
Nobody ever stopped overthinking because they were told to stop overthinking. However, overthinking can become pathological in severe cases. Below are strategies to quieten the mind, if not eliminate the noise completely:
1- Take interest in things outside of yourself: Pay attention to the moon and you will realize you’re a tiny speck in the Universe. The Universe was here long before you were born and it will be here long after you die. It has very little to do with you or your problems; incidentally, it is our ego that magnifies our problems. The only way to find peace is to stop focusing too much on ourselves. Life does not revolve around us; everything in life is not about us. Furthermore, how can we arrive at a solution if we are lost in the energy of a problem? We have to learn to objectively see our problems instead of being entangled in them.
Get to know people, get genuinely interested in people, it might give you a whole new perspective. Practice listening wholeheartedly, you will be able to see the world through another’s eyes, you will be able to view things from a different vantage point.
2- Be frivolous: A little frivolity never killed anyone. There is always time to be frivolous. Infuse your life with a bit of madness. Turn your attention to something lighter, for example, acting out a silly commercial can elevate your mood. Singing along to a nonsensical song or practicing tongue twisters can raise your spirits. Small bursts of endorphins rejuvenate a weary mind.
3- Turn to spiritual teachings– While you are alive, you are going to have to deal with some tumultuous times. Watching motivational videos or reading inspiring literature can make you rethink the way you communicate with yourself. Whether it’s watching a TED talk or familiarizing yourself with scriptures, whether it’s listening to a spiritual Guruor chanting powerful mantras, consuming positive information will make you aware of your thoughts, and empower you to think straight. Moreover, as you begin to immerse yourself into spirituality, you will gradually stop defining what you like and what you dislike – you will begin to enjoy all of life.
4- Surrender control– The compulsive need to figure everything out robs us of peace. Creating thought afterthought is a massive expenditure of energy. For example, if you spend your time hoping it doesn’t rain when you step out to walk, you are wasting energy. The day will unfold the way it is supposed to unfold, irrespective of your incessant mental chatter. More often than not, life happens in accordance with forces far outside our control. You can think about it all you want, but life is going to happen exactly the way it is meant to happen.
5- Art and Craft–You can change the way you handle life’s curveballs with a little help from crafts. Repetitive activities like knitting help break the train of everyday thought. Sculpting can help release pent-up emotions. Gardening can help vent aggression.
Engaging in creative activities is both enjoyable and downright therapeutic, too. You are likely to lose track of time. Your mind is oriented to the present moment. Whether it’s sewing or sospeso art, scrapbooking or decoupage art, creative endeavors distract the mind, relax the body, and soothe the soul. Creating something new or remodeling old things is a great way to decompress from everyday pressures.
6- Reclaim the lost art of lingering– Today, take time to linger. Observe that newly-opened velvety hibiscus, sit up and take notice of that evening bird singing in the tree, take in the scent of mud after it rains, listen to the murmur of the wind, watch the moon play hide and seek with clouds, slow down and taste your food, feel the wind in your hair – it is okay to let yourself lie fallow sometimes.
Learn from nature. Adopt the pace of nature. Nature doesn’t hurry yet accomplishes everything: Sometimes hope is a wildflower growing through concrete, sometimes resilience is a lotus flourishing through filth, and sometimes patience is the time it takes for the crescent moon to become full.
7- Try a digital fast–We take better care of our smartphones than we do of ourselves. We ensure our phones are charged but we hardly care to charge and recharge ourselves.
While social media is a wonderful platform for learning and marketing, it also feeds our obsession with other people’s lives, and sometimes, we end up playing paparazzi in our own lives.
We have lost the capacity to be alone. If you are heavily addicted to digital devices, begin with an hour a day of being completely unplugged. Remove apps from your home screen. Turn off WiFi on your phone. Turn off your phone for a few hours. You don’t need to be available or accessible 24*7. Digital detox is as essential as body detox.
8 – Make time to go within -Our focus is so much on the outside that we have become totally oblivious to the inside. If used consciously, the same mental voice that has been a source of anxiety, stress, and general neurosis can become a rich source of spiritual awakening and liberation.
We all need periods of disengagement – it is the need of the hour. Find a corner in your home, sit quietly – no gadgets, no books, no distractions. Shut the world out and allow silence to take over. As you start spending time in silence, all the debris will come floating to the surface, but eventually, it will settle down, you will find peace and clarity.
Thoughts are really like visitors, let them come and go. As you retreat into silence, all kinds of thoughts will come to the fore, do not resist them, or try to squash them, be a witness, and simply observe them.
Silence is more important now than ever. A few moments of uninterrupted peace and quiet can help you pull yourself together. In fact, answers to life’s mysteries can be unraveled in silence.
Disengage, then re-engage with a full heart and calm mind.
To quote Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”