This weekend visiting with my dad I learned that he has a very difficult time sleeping because he cannot shutoff his busy mind. The noisy mind is a struggle for most of us and so I thought I would share with you some simple methods for slowing and quieting the mind. These simple methods will take practice because bringing peace to the mind is not easy.
If you take the time to explore these methods you will benefit in several ways: you will go to sleep more easily; you will have more energy for your life; you will be more at peace with yourself, and you will experience more freedom and happiness. Here are the methods:
Breathing With Awareness – this practice is the simplest but powerful in altering your state of mind in a positive way. Breathing with awareness is simply paying attention to your breath so that the noise of life and the mind go into the background. As you focus your attention on the cycle of the breath including the inhale, space, exhale, space, you place all the horry/worry/chaos of the mind quietly behind the watching of the breath. The space between the inhale and exhale is a quiet moment of transition from breathing in to breathing out and from breathing out to breathing in. Watching this full cycle of the breath naturally begins to slow you down. If you take ten minutes to do this practice, you and your mind will be more relaxed.
Breathing With Sound – another simple practice is to tune into the sounds around you. This is an especially wonderful practice out in nature where the sounds like birds, a breeze, the ocean, or a stream all naturally cause a relaxation response. However any sounds will do including your breathing or heartbeat, traffic passing by, the noise of a refrigerator, people talking next door and others sounds in your world. If you listen to the sounds and have them as your focus, then soon you will find yourself slowing down and being more fully present. A quiet and calm mind is much more resourceful than a busy and chaotic mind. If you do this outdoors in a natural setting you will get the additional benefit of the healing energy of nature.
Observing And Labeling – The third practice is a more traditional one that comes from a meditation practice. In this method you sit quietly and observe what thoughts, feelings and sensations come up within you. You watch what is going in inside for the purpose of being mindful and to practice not being attached to your thoughts and feelings. This practice is about noticing what is going on inside of your mind and your body and labeling these activities as thinking, feeling, or sensing. So as a thought comes up you label it as a thought and return to following your breath. The same happens if you experience a feeling, you label it as a feeling and return to following the breath. If you experience a sensation like a smell or twitch, you label it as sensing and again return to watching the breath as it flows in and out of you. Labeling without attachment to what is happening in you is a very liberating practice because you do not have to change anything, you simple acknowledge what is true in the moment. In the moment is a deep river of peace and harmony.
Grounding Breath – This fourth practice is more physical and is especially helpful for anxious bodies, restless legs and the need for the body to feel more balanced. If you have past trauma in your body this method will assist you in releasing it. In this practice you stand up and bring your focus to your breath. As you exhale you flex downwards (1-2 inches) at your knees as if to release energy from your body into the ground. On the inhale you stretch back upwards but not enough to lock the knee as if you are breathing in the healing energy of the Earth. The slight movement of relaxing downward and then rising upward is done in coordination with a slow paced breath. This method does balance your energy by releasing what needs to be released and by drawing inward energy that will be soothing and healing to you. This is an really excellent 10 minute practice before you lie down to go to sleep if you notice that your body needs to be more in balance or harmonious.
These practices all have been powerful for me and for many others and are a natural way to help you relax and more easily go to sleep at night. They can be done before you go to bed (after brushing teeth and whatever else you do just before you lay down) or in bed except for the grounding practice. When you train the mind to do these practices it gets better at them and soon it just takes a few minutes to get in the groove of watching the breath and relaxing the mind.
If you have questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sleep well and be at peace.