Quieting the Mind and Being Present

Intuition is the language of the Heart. The Self speaks to us primarily through our intuition. It uses other methods of communication as well, but intuition is to the Heart, what thoughts are to the mind. Intuitions flow nearly constantly, like thoughts, but becoming aware of intuitions takes some practice because they are much subtler than thoughts. For that reason, thoughts usually win our attention over intuitions.

One of the benefits of meditation and other spiritual practices that quiet the egoic mind is that these practices make intuition more accessible. Most people need meditation or some other spiritual practice to subdue the dominance of the egoic mind. Once some mastery of the egoic mind is achieved, real progress can be made toward following our intuition.

Meditation, or any other activity that focuses the mind, causes the egoic mind to become quiet because it keeps the mind busy with a task. Actually, any activity we are fully engaged in can serve as a meditation. When we focus all of our attention on something, the mind becomes quiet and serves us only when needed.

We tend to skim by on the surface of life, instead of diving into the moment and really experiencing it. The egoic mind keeps us at a distance from the real experience and, instead, substitutes thoughts about the experience. It distances us from the present moment, where life is rich and alive. We can learn to be more present to the moment by just noticing what is going on. Being more present is usually accomplished by taking our attention off of thoughts and feelings and putting it on whatever else is happening in the moment.

Exercise: Being Present

Being present means giving your attention to everything that is happening in the moment, not just to your thoughts or feelings. If a thought arises, notice it, and then continue to notice everything else that is present. When you are engaged in a task and your mind wanders off of it, bring your attention back to the task, to the sensations that are present, and to the entire experience of that moment. With practice, being present to everything that’s going on in the moment will become more natural.

Doing a more formal kind of meditation is another very helpful practice. When done on a regular basis, meditation helps establish a calm mental state, which makes the intuition and consequently the Self’s guidance more accessible. Meditation is the most effective spiritual technique available for shifting out of the egoic state of consciousness and into the experience of our true nature. It is also no more complicated or difficult than being present to an activity.

Exercise: Sitting in Meditation

Make a commitment to meditate daily, even if you only do it for a few minutes a day. Start by meditating for ten minutes a day. Increase the amount of time you meditate as your enjoyment of it increases. Be sure to make your experience of meditation as comfortable, enjoyable, and pleasant as possible so that you look forward to meditating.

Retreat to a quiet place. Choose something to focus on that you enjoy so that your meditation will be pleasurable. If you are auditory, you would probably enjoy listening to music or to the sounds in the room. If you are more kinesthetic, you would probably enjoy focusing on any physical sensations and on any subtle energetic sensations that are present. If you are more visual, you might enjoy gazing at a picture of a saint, a work of art, colors, flowers, or something in nature.

Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to what you are focusing on. Also notice what you are experiencing as you sit in meditation. While the mind is busy with what it’s focusing on, experience is still happening. That experience is who you are! As you practice meditation more, your mind will wander less and for shorter periods of time, and you will spend increasing amounts of time in the Now.

Once you begin spending more time in the Now, meditation becomes very pleasurable. The now is intensely pleasurable. It has everything: joy, bliss, peace, contentment, fulfillment, love, clarity, acceptance, and wisdom. You will wonder why you ever wandered from the Now, but then you will catch yourself doing it again. The egoic mind is very seductive, even though the Now is so joyous and full. Even those who live mostly in the Now find themselves wandering through the corridors of the egoic mind from time to time.

We can learn to be present to the thoughts in our egoic mind just as we are present to whatever else might be arising in any moment. Thinking can be like any other activity we are present to. When we are present to our thoughts, we don’t feel like we are thinking them, but more like we are noticing them being thought, which is very different from the usual way of thinking. Here is an exercise that will help you learn to be present to your thoughts:

Exercise: Being Present to Thoughts

Practicing being present to your thoughts will change your relationship to thought. Practice this as much as possible whenever thoughts arise.

Notice whatever thought is arising right now. Observe it as if you were standing at a distance from it. What is the experience of thinking? Notice that thinking seems to be contained in your head. What is aware of thinking? Is that Awareness contained by anything, even your body? How big is it? Does it have a boundary? What is the experience of this Awareness? That is who you are. You are the Awareness that is aware of thoughts coming and going.

The thoughts that arise in your egoic mind have nothing to do with who you really are. What arises in your egoic mind is not up to you. It is just the conditioning you were given. Without following a thought, commenting on a thought, or holding an opinion about a thought, simply observe how your thoughts come and go: One thought replaces another. Where do they come from? Where do they go? Notice how little coherence there is between thoughts and how they jump from subject to subject. At times, it seems they are designed solely to get your attention. What else do you notice about them? Are there different voices attached to them? Do you notice certain themes? How true are they? Do they have an impact on Awareness?

Being present to thoughts this way allows us to be objective about them. With objectivity, we can examine our thoughts in a way that wasn’t possible when we were identified with them. Through such an examination, a great deal can be learned about the nature of our conditioning, and what we learn about our conditioning can free us from it.

This new relationship to the egoic mind is very freeing. It not only can free us from our conditioning, but also free us to be aware of the fullness of the moment. Because the egoic mind no longer has the power to draw us into identification, we are free to give our attention to the whole of life, instead of to only our thoughts. What we discover is that part of what is happening in the whole of life is that the Self is speaking to us in its own way, through intuition.

From Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening by Gina Lake

Copyright © 2008 Gina Lake