Coping with a Chaotic Mind

If you’re like me, you know what it means to have a mind that’s going in a thousand directions at once. I frequently feel like I’m in a whirlwind of countless priorities: prepare breakfast (and make it healthy!), get my child to school, get my child to sports and activities, get the dog out for a walk, attend classes, schedule appointments, write grocery lists, wash clothes, put away dishes, respond to texts, answer email, clean up after dinner. It gets so frantic, I find myself drained or, worse, completely stalled with overwhelm.

The only solution that’s ever worked for me is meditation. Meditation is nothing more than concentration practice; developing the skill of being a witness or observer. It’s about letting go of to-do lists and worries and obligations for a little while, and instead focusing your mind completely on what’s right in front of you.

I think being outside in nature can be the simplest and easiest meditation. The next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, just step outside and set the intention to completely empty your mind of everything for a few minutes. Then focus entirely on the sights, sounds, and scents that are right in front of you. Notice what the warmth of the sun on your hands feels like. Look more deeply at the intricate design and vivid color of a flower. See if you can sense the aliveness in the trees around you; they are breathing, just like you! This is all concentration practice, training your mind to relax, open up, and slow down.

One of my meditation teachers, Sharon Salzberg, sums it up in this way: “That’s the nature of our mind: we go over and over and over the past and regret. And we have anxiety-driven fantasies of the future; a scenario that may never happen but fills us with anxiety. This causes us to lose tremendous power and energy; it could be available to us, but we’re just throwing it away. So the goal of meditation is to gather and settle all that chaotic energy. Meditation is resilience training and a life skill.”

 

 

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms. Many people are alive, but never touch the miracle of being alive.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

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