Trotsky or someone of his ilk said that anyone who wants to lead a peaceful life has chosen the wrong century in which to be born. In our time this seems to be even more true. Here we are living on the idyllic North Coast among rustic coastlines and majestic redwoods and in our heads our mindstream is brimming with chaos. The term "the monkey mind" is an apt description of most of our minds. They jump around a lot, are active, sort of wild, and they chatter.
How does one go about "taming" a wild mind? A self-taught meditation exercise might help. Start by thinking of your mind as a radio with many stations, a radio that is always turned on. It is easy to be constantly changing stations and more difficult to stay focused on only one station. With negative emotions - anger, fear, passion and compulsive craving, the dial is moving quickly, while with positive experiences such as love and compassion, the dial is more tuned in and thoughts are slow and focused.
A good first step is to become aware of what is going on in your head and listen to your inner dialog. Next, choose a mantra - a word or phrase repeated silently, over and over. It is best said slowly, with conviction and purposefulness. Any word or phrase will do, but one with spiritual connotations seems more powerful.
According to Eknath Easwaran, a mantra, or Holy Name, is a spiritual formula with great power. Through silent repetition you can slow down your thoughts and change your focus to something positive. Every religion has many mantras, but you can still benefit immensely from using a mantra even though you may have no affiliation with a religion. What is important about your mantra is one that brings up images of joy, love and connectedness.
Mahatma Gandhi used Rama , which rhymes with drama, and is the name of the Lord that comes from a word meaning "joy" or "to rejoice." Another popular mantra is from Buddhism, Om mani padme hum. Mani means "jewel" and padme "lotus," together they mean "the jewel in the lotus of the heart." This means that the Buddha-nature, a jewel beyond price, is present in every heart.
In the Catholic tradition Ave Maria calls upon God as the Divine Mother. Eastern Orthodox traditions use variations of the Prayer of Jesus," Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us," or simply Kyrie eleison . In Islam the name of Allah itself is a mantra.
In the Jewish tradition there is Barukh attah Adonai, "Blessed art thou, O Lord," or a mantra used by the Hasidim: Ribono shel olam, "Lord of the universe."
If none of these appeal to you, you might try "Love" or "One." Whatever mantra you use, repeat it to yourself silently whenever you find you are upset or speeded up. You can replace angry or hurried thoughts with thoughts that have positive associations.
To have this process work best, you must practice it. Like changing your body through exercise, you can change your mind by mentally exercising with your mantra.
Over time the use of a mantra will enable you to have a positive relationship with your mind and consequently you will be more relaxed, focused and energized.
You can use your mantra in other ways as well: riding in a car, standing in line, waiting on hold on the phone, and during your walks. Or use it when you want a break, to rest, or to relax. You can also use it while doing mundane tasks and when you are falling asleep.
To learn more about meditation, I recommend two books by Eknath Easwaran, Take Your Time and The Unstruck Bell. -end-
Lesley Meriwether is a registered nurse and psychotherapist withthe Arcata Family Medical Group.
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