In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, vrittis of the mind are described as the energies that can cause all the endless churning that goes on when we are vexed and find it hard to let go all the annoyances and other stuff that occur during a typical day. Here are 6 techniques you can try for peace of mind.
Reach for your mala or prayer beads, settle down and begin to chant your favourite mantra or one that resonates with you. If you already have a special mantra given to you by your guru, then please on no account should you switch to another mantra.This is very important. Otherwise, simply chant AUM. Keep up the recitation and over time, you will find your mind slowly becoming less agitated. This is because the chanting helps to short-circuit the churnings. See, the mind can only hold one thing at a time so give it something else instead. Besides, the chanting also creates some very positive and healing energy. And even if you still find yourself agitated, accept it for the time being and return to your chanting whenever you can. If it takes time to train your dog to sit, stay and heel, don’t think it’ll take any less time to train your mind.
Settle down and do your pranayama because you can change your mind state by regulating the breath. It is said that the breath is the way to the mind and so true! You will find this out as you draw out the length of the inhalation and exhalation, especially the latter. These are known as Rechaka and Khumbaka and is already incorporated into the most basic of pranayama, the Nadi Shodhana aka Anuloma Viloma. With each inhalation, you count to 6, and as you exhale do it to a count of 8. You could also inhale with ‘So’ and exhale with ‘Hum’. So Hum is a mantra itself and another name for the Divine. So, you get a double bonus here. The more drawn out the breath, the better it is in slowing down your mind. In fact, all you have to do is just hold your breath and you will see that the mind can’t hold a thought but we can’t have you going blue, right? So, work on slowing the breath down as much as you can.
If chanting and pranayama is not possible then take the ‘maitri’ route. Maitri is a Pali word that means ‘kind friendliness or goodwill’. Basically, you adopt this mental attitude that no matter what the other person does or say, you don’t allow yourself to be changed by it. You will always be the kind and friendly person that you are. You show yourself to be the model of wholesome and spiritual behaviour and who knows! it might very well make the other person sit up, admire you and want to change to be like you!!! And you walk away rather than to engage till the person is ready to be engaged. This is the power of maitri. Would you find a Buddhist monk retaliating just because someone called him a dog? No, he would just hold up his right hand, crook his thumb, press it against his his heart chakra and goes sadhu, sadhu, sadhu. Because no matter how crazily annoying the other person is, there is a Buddha in him, too.
This technique reminds me of Ajahn Brahm who has a whole lot of teaching videos on Youtube and if you like, you could go watch those on metta meditation. Metta is Pali for compassion and basically you put different people in your mind, starting first with folks you love a lot and love you back a lot and you bless them. You then work through people whom you like less and less and at the last, the one person who is the biggest thorn in your side and you, too, have to bless this person. Whether you find it easy or you find you are not quite ready to go there yet, it’s okay. Know that this meditation exists. Like I always say, new habits take time to form and it’s really not in our nature to be nice, full of goodwill and be compassionate. Our human nature is such that we get offended, and want to hit back. Haiz!
There is a reason why I kept meditation till the last. Unless you have been meditating for a while and you know how to block these churnings then well and good, take to your meditation cushion. But if you are still shaky in your meditation, then more likely than not these churnings will follow you to your cushion and give you a really tough time and then you end up beating yourself up even more about how inept a meditator you are. So, my take on this is, go do the other stuff first. And continue to work on your meditation by sitting more regularly and supporting it with asanas and pranayama. Make your yoga sadhana consistent and regular and you will find yourself with a very portable support in all situations.
6. Stuff it
If all else fails, you can just tell whatever-it-is-that-bothers-you to stuff it! Do something that soothes you. Maybe read a Terry Pratchett and have a good laugh over the crazy antics of Rincewind and the Luggage. There you’ll discover that the Luggage eats and has a seemingly bottomless pit of a stomach? Isn’t that so much like our mind? A bottomless pit of churnings and on some days, you just can’t win.
~ ॐ ~