What is a quiet mind? How do I get it?
When I have a quiet mind, I feel peace, happiness and tranquility. It gives me perspective and clarity, and life has a grace and ease about it. There was a time when this eluded me. I had so much noise and disturbance in my mind. People talked about a quiet mind, but I was confused about what it was. When I began to understand the nature of thought everything changed. I found that I have a quiet mind available to me any time.
I used to think a quiet mind meant a silent mind. A lack of thinking. Or at least a reduction in the volume of thoughts in my head. I realised it’s not the volume of thought that disturbs my peace and tranquility, it’s my reaction to thoughts that causes the disturbance. Now I know that even with troublesome thoughts in my head I can have a quiet mind. I am no longer gripped by troublesome thoughts. I don’t give them so much attention. I wait for them to pass, knowing that they will and the effect is a quiet mind.
I used to think I had to believe my thoughts. Especially negative thoughts about myself. Now I know I don’t have to believe them and I can decide how to react to them. When I stopped fighting the ‘negative’ thoughts, stopped judging and criticizing myself for having ‘low quality thoughts’, stopped analyzing why I would have such thoughts, my relationship to those thoughts changed. In the absence of attention negative thoughts disappear. When they occur they don’t worry me, so they pass by quickly. The result is a quiet mind.
I used to think the purpose of meditation was to clear my mind and have no thoughts. I thought I had to stop thoughts entering my mind. As you can imagine, I never succeeded. Every time I meditated my mind would wander and before I knew it I would be lost in my thinking. I used to be hard on myself for not clearing my mind. Now I realise it’s impossible to stop thoughts entering my mind. So I don’t try.
I used to think that to find peace and happiness I needed to understand my thinking. I started a painstaking process to analyse and question my low quality thoughts, especially those about myself. I would try to work out how and where they originated. I didn’t realise when I started on that path, that it was likely to be a life time’s work and unnecessary. I don’t have to analyse the content of my thinking. I understand the nature of thought and that is what makes all the difference.
I used to think I could feel better by using positive affirmations. Somehow the positive thoughts were always accompanied by a negative feeling. The positive statements seemed to reinforce the gap between how I wanted to feel and how I really felt about myself. Now I know that my true nature is a quiet mind. When the noise of my thinking settles down, my natural default state is a quiet mind. When I have a quiet mind I feel good about myself.
Having realised all this, life is so much easier. A quiet mind is something that I rest in most of the time. I’m human, so I still have my moments of disturbance, but these are few and don’t last long when they do occur.
Knowing that a quiet mind is my default state, I don’t need to work to find it. It finds me when I stop fighting with myself. It’s not a practice, it’s not something I need to do, it’s something that happens more of the time because I understand the nature of thought and don’t take my own thinking so seriously any more.
You too can have a quiet mind whenever you want it. You don’t have to believe all your thoughts. You don’t have to react to your thoughts in ways that creates disturbance. You don’t have to stop your thoughts. Or understand how and why they originated. Your default state is a quiet mind and with that comes peace, calm, clarity, perspective. You have all this available to you and a whole lot more. You already have it way more than you may think. It’s not something you need to work at to achieve. You have it innately and naturally – except for your thinking.
First published by Maria Iliffe-Wood in May 2018