The mind can be a useful assistant, helping you to organize your life and complete tasks. It can also be a nag, constantly bothering you with worries and reminders. If not balanced with the calming energy of the heart or the breath, the mind can run amuck, always on high alert, looking for lists to make and problems to solve. Caffeine, in the form of coffee or tea, can exacerbate this. Meditation and deep slow breathing are helpful for slowing the mind down. This takes consistent practice, however. Meditators sometimes struggle to control their thinking instead of allowing thoughts to just pass through and disappear into emptiness. The mind can rebel by frantically running a commentary something like this: “What are you doing?! Stand up! Close the window. Take your vitamins. Make a grocery list. Do the laundry. Don’t just sit there!” Often lists will start forming in your head, and the mind will urge you to write them down immediately lest you forget. It requires an ongoing commitment to peace in order to relax your mind into accepting slow, quiet breathing and empty mental space. Being instead of doing.
Then there is the mind’s forte: problem-solving. Perhaps this skill is left over from our collective past when survival from dangers in the external world was of primary concern. Today, centuries later, the mental search for problematic issues to resolve is almost constant if not held in check. And if the resolution doesn’t come quickly enough, worry and agitation set in: “Why did I receive this incorrect billing? What does it mean? I have to call the billing office…but it’s closed now. What else can I do about it? What if the electricity is shut off?” The mental movement from concern to anxiety to outright distress can be rapid. The red warning lights go off, and the emotions and body are alerted. If this happens after dark, rest is impossible. You can be up worrying all night—because of one particular aspect of the mental process: night mind.
Night mind exaggerates every problem to the point of imminent danger and eventual disaster. It thrives on “what ifs.” Those inner questions can lead you down a path of increasing disquiet and finally alarm. Such questions also arise in the daytime, but at night they take on an amplified power. High drama prevails to the point that your body and emotions may feel like they are in a life-and-death situation. How to respond to this scenario? I’ve found that recognizing and naming it helps: “Oh, that’s night mind again.” If you can laugh about it, it breaks the spell. Remind yourself that everything will work out eventually; you just have to be patient. You can make your phone call (or other action) in the morning. Take deep breaths and envision a relaxing scene in Nature. Let go of trying to control your mind, and it eventually calms down enough for you to sleep.
In the daytime, recognizing the mind’s tendencies and determined work ethic helps. Thank it for its contribution. Reassure it that all will be resolved peacefully. Introducing peace into your life through meditation or quiet walks in Nature can be a tremendously effective way to calm the mind and allow it to function at a slower pace, with rest spots along the way. Thinking is an essential human attribute, but at times it can be a hindrance to your overall well-being. With each breath or each step on a quiet natural path, slow down and allow everything to be just as it is in that moment. Resting in the heart’s energy of loving-kindness is helpful too. Whatever solutions and actions that need to be implemented will come to be in their own time.
The key is to trust your life, to trust the unfolding of each moment, each day. In fact, time is irrelevant when you step into the spaciousness of a quiet mind. The heart and soul move to the forefront of your consciousness and reassure you that nothing is really a problem, that everything is part of the flow of life, perfectly orchestrated beyond your ability to understand or control it. If we each can surrender to this ancient truth, our minds begin to work harmoniously with us to bring balance and peace to our lives. So let go of trying so hard; remind your mind that something greater is in play and it can relax and be a quiet observer. All is well. Really.