Monday, 20 June 2011

Stop the spin!!

Sometimes I have a very spinny head :) Can you relate? My mind races, worries, analyzes, spins, jumps from one thought to the next so fast, I often have no idea how I got from one little thought to the gigantic dramatic story I've created in my mind.

And I love my mind. Without it, I couldn't survive. I love how it thinks and solves problems and creates beautiful ideas. It is a gift I treasure.

But there are times when I need it to quiet down. When I need it to stop working so hard. When I need it to stop spinning. I remember reading this beautiful book about the mind. In it, the author reminded us that often we feel like our mind is in control. That it has taken over, that it runs us. But the beautiful thing is that our mind is a tool we can use. A very important tool we can utilize to solve problems, organize our days, learn new things. It is a tool that we can call into action, or bring to a quiet, restful place. For me, this was revolutionary! I could actually tell my mind that it was time to stop, that it was time to rest, that it was time to be quiet?!? The moment I read that, I began to weep. In delight and gratitude, that I could learn to teach my mind to quiet. To work when I wanted it to work. Ahhh.

For me, it's been hard work. First, to be aware of when my mind takes off on it's own, spinning, worrying, running endlessly. Then, to stop and breathe and tell my mind, "it's time to stop. It's time to rest. You don't need to solve any problems right now. Thank you for all you do, but now it's time to be quiet". It's a skill I am developing.

Yoga is a delightful journey that helps my mind find stillness.

My asana practice (physical postures) helps me become aware of my body. It keeps my mind engaged by being aware of my body, the movements, the breath, how each part of my body feels.

My pranayama practice (moving vital energy through breath) helps quiet and calm the mind. It's amazing how the breath can reveal the state of my mind. When my mind is spinny and anxious and jumpy, my breath is shaky, shallow, unbalanced. When I can sit, and focus on rich deep breaths, intending equal length inhales and equal length exhales, my mind very quickly becomes calm and quiet. When I shape my breath so that my exhale is much longer than my inhale, I feel a deep peace and stillness come into my mind. It is so powerful.

My meditation practice is the greatest gift for quieting my mind. I assure you, when my mind is in a spinny place, I struggle to just sit and be still. It's pretty near to impossible. But after some asana and pranayama, my body and mind is ready to sit. Often I simply bring my awareness to my navel, or to my heart centre, and sit quietly. My mind still works, and thoughts often come to the surface. There are a lot of techniques to address this in meditation. I love the technique of watching my thoughts come across as clouds, and then simply watching them float away. The key, I've learned, is simply to observe the thoughts coming, and let them go. Don't judge them, don't get involved with them, don't judge yourself for having thoughts. That's what your mind does, that's what it's for. But in meditation, you can learn to just let them float away.

And the beauty of it is that as you practice this on your mat, your mind learns (cause it's so smart!) that it can function this way all the time! That thoughts can come, and be released, without the spin happening! It's such a delight!

I still have spinny days. Work overwhelms me, I worry about money, I worry about my relationships, I try to solve all the problems of the world. But it is a wonderful thing to know I have these beautiful techniques, on this beautiful journey, to give my mind a break. To come to moments of peace and stillness. And those precious moments, when they do come, are so restorative and refreshing to my busy mind, that I keep going back. :)

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