"CAN YOU GIVE ME some advice?"
she asked with a tinge of pleading in her voice. Without waiting
for an answer, she said, "I have an interview today, and
with the divorce and Mom's illness, I have so many thoughts racing
through my mind I don't think I'm going to be a good interview."
I didn't waste any time. "You have
meditated with a mantra before, right?"
"Yes. Not today, but I have. And I
know I really should but I haven't had the time."
"No, no. That's not my advice. You
know how when you meditate you've got a single word or phrase
you repeat and come back to again and again? The reason that's
so calming is that the mind tends to race from one thing to another.
When you're meditating and you notice your mind racing, what
do you do?"
"Start saying the mantra to myself
"Exactly. You come back to the mantra.
And your mind runs off in another direction thirty seconds later.
And you come back to the mantra again. Your mind starts
to settle down because you have a simple focus," I said,
"and that's what you need today. You need a simple phrase
that will focus your mind on something helpful. While you're
interviewing, it isn't helpful to think about your divorce or
your mother's illness."
"No. Definitely not."
"What would be helpful? How
about something that would relax you?"
"I've been trying to relax tense muscles
"That's perfect," I blurted.
"That could be your phrase. Every time you notice your mind
is racing, say to yourself, 'Relax tense muscles,' and then relax
any tense muscles you have. If your mind starts to scatter off
again, notice it and relax your tense muscles again. That's a
"I'll try it. That sounds like it
I heard from her later, and it did work.
It prevented her mind from drifting into counterproductive thoughts,
and went further than that and put her mind on something that
could actually help her situation.
This is a simple way to settle your mind.
It keeps you from having such an overabundance of thoughts. The
best thing to bring your mind to is a simple purpose.
The woman had the simple purpose of relaxing tense muscles. Every
time she felt nervous or upset, she had something to settle her
mind on. Like a constant pressure on the back of a wild horse,
the mind will eventually stop jumping around and it will settle
Don't use force. Be gentle. Bring your
attention back just like you do in meditation. Notice your attention
has wandered, and bring it back. Have one single, simple purpose
some short phrase to bring your attention to, and
keep bringing it back over and over. You've heard of unsettling
thoughts? This is the way to have settling thoughts.
Bring your mind back repeatedly
to one simple purpose.