Restless Mind

Question

I am trying to develop a daily meditation practice, but I am discouraged by how continually restless my mind is. It is so rare that I experience any kind of stillness during meditation and i am getting impatient with myself. Are there specific techniques to develop will-power, or is it a case of ploughing on and trusting that eventually I will develo the skill of stilling my mind?

—Jack, London

Answer

Dear Jack,

This is a common dilemma we all have, but you can get calm and feel the joy of meditation. To start with you must know that even with restlessness in meditation where it seems nothing is happening, you will see that you are changing and growing in awareness and in a more balanced way of life. Having a restless mind myself, after meditating for a few months, I found that I had changed in ways that were needed. In time with these changes happening, you do become calm and more focused.

I don’t know what your meditation practices are, but one technique that will help you is the technique of chanting. Paramhansa Yogananda always would say: chanting is half the battle. In playing an instrument (preferably a harmonium) and chanting inspiring words that take you into calmness and depth, your mind has to focus on what you are doing. This is a good habit to develop. Swami Kriyananda, someone person mentioned this weekend, when chanting alone would be so deep in his chanting that you knew he was totally absorbed in chanting to his Divine Mother.

This brings us to two points which you may be aware of already — focus on what you are doing and devotion. I think that focus on your technique is obvious and you are undoubtedly trying to do this. There are many kinds of techniques that would work, but you need to feel strongly enough about a technique to want to develop the habit of focusing on it. The Art & Science of Raja Yoga book that Swamiji has written gives you many such techniques.

Yogananda told Swamiji to get devotion. Swami was very intellectual when he came to the spiritual path. Yogananda saw that he needed to open his heart and not just think with his mind. Intuitions and grace come not through the thinking mind but through the calm receptivity of the heart.

Many blessings to you, seva