5 Ways to Use the Body to Help Quiet the Mind
Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.
– Hans Margolius
The minimalist lifestyle is a struggle for most, but not for me. Simple is my natural state.
I don’t have to convince myself not to buy, I just don’t. I don’t want for much, just a small space, some fond memories, and honest companionship from a few great humans (and one special K9).
Every physical item in my possession (K9 included) can easily be packed into the back of my Forester and transported at a moment’s notice.
I didn’t have to purge to get to where I am. I never really had much to begin with, and that’s how I like it.
Minimalism comes naturally for my body, but not for my mind.
Finding stillness within is my greatest struggle. But I’m getting closer. These are the five methods that have helped me quiet the storms of life and find peace amongst a world of chaos.
Asana is the third of the eight limbs of yoga, and the only form most westerners know: the physical. My first introduction to yoga was a little over three years ago. I attended a hot yoga class with one of my best friends and immediately swore it off; yoga just wasn’t for me.
About a year later, I came across an article online on the benefits of yoga for stress. Though not new news, it was never something I really considered, especially given my offputting introduction some twelve months earlier. Rather than attending another class, I decided to try it at home. Thus began my back porch yoga journey.
Asana was so effective in alleviating my stress and providing me with a sense of peace that I decided to further my education with a Registered Yoga Teacher training program.
Prana in Sanskrit means “life force”. The fourth limb of yoga, pranayama, is the regulation of the breath, or life force.
Just like most people when they’re first getting into yoga, I was more interested in the physical exercise and how to alleviate the tension in my shoulders than some bizarre breathing techniques. It wasn’t until yoga teacher training that I realized the true benefits of pranayama.
There are countless techniques, but the most widely known is Ujjayi breath, sometimes referred to as “ocean breath” because, when done properly, you’ll create a soothing, oceanlike sound. This sound helps quiet the mind. Combining asana and pranayama makes for a powerful yoga experience.
My favorite thing to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed and unproductive is to dance, with or without music. I find that when my body is moving in such a sporadic way (my dancing is not very pretty) it forces me to focus on not hurting myself, thus eliminating everything else.
Dancing for me usually involves hula hoops, loud music, and a lot of room for errors. No matter what I’m feeling, be it anger, frustration, sadness, pessimism or what have you, I can usually come to terms with it on the dance floor.
Walking can be used as a form of active meditation. Similarly to other forms of meditation, it’s best practiced in a quiet environment, such as on a hike or in a park. Unlike seated meditations, you’ll want to keep your eyes open so you don’t run into anyone or get hit by a cyclicst.
The purpose of this active meditation is to focus on nothing but walking: how it feels in your body if your shoes are squishing your toes, how the earth feels beneath your feet, the way the muscles in your body work together to carry you along the path. In doing so, you become mindful of the experience of walking. Just a 10 or 15 minute morning walk can have lasting effects on the rest of the day.
This is an all-encompassing category for singing, jamming, and playing an instrument (for me, it’s the keyboard). You don’t have to be particularly skilled at any to benefit from their practice. I’m definitely not. Music is perhaps the most accessible tool of all for quieting the mind, but it’s only as effective as it’s used. So next time you’re on the screen with your headphones, don’t waste the moments scrolling mindlessly through your Facebook feed. Close your eyes. Listen to the music.
There are more ways to quiet the mind than just these five, but these are the ones that have worked best for me over the years. Whatever method you choose, the point is to give the mind something to focus its attention on that replaces the roaring of to-do lists, phone calls, emails, and other daily distractions.
Distractions will come; they always do. But with time and practice, the quiet will come more easily.
We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.
– Elizabeth Gilbert
How do you find peace from within?
Originally published at www.betterfrugal.com on June 3, 2017.