I have been away on a meditation retreat for the last few days, so today my overactive brain finds the world very loud.
It’s a funny thing stepping out of the day-to-day world. When I first arrived at the retreat, my mind was buzzing with the hundreds of things I could/should/would be doing. If only I wasn’t there. My ego was making lists of Christmas presents to buy as soon as my body hit the meditation mat.
If you have been on my courses, you will know that we do meditation or mindfulness exercises, which I encourage you to continue doing at home. And because even a short period of stillness is a threat to the ever active mind, that can be a real struggle. Our egos – and life – can throw rocks in the path of this kind of practice. Why? Because it is a new way of relating to the world. Our minds often don’t like change – have you noticed that?
Well, you will be glad to know that my overactive brain was galloping around me like a puppy on an extendable lead for days. This was after I had in theory ‘stopped’ to take care of myself.
Everyone can lose themselves in thoughts or reactions even if you have been doing spiritual practices for years.
Our minds can be both loud and subtle. There is a dialogue, an internal argument, going on which if we are not conscious of it, can chunter on for hours. It can judge us in the ways that our parents or others around us judge us. It can attempt to reinforce our biggest fears of being not good enough. Anything to avoid having to be quiet.
If you have tried chasing after a puppy you will know that going at their pace doesn’t help. They just get further ahead and we get more wound up and frustrated. The overactive brain is just the same. It is only when we ground ourselves and breathe that we slow down, and a curious wet nose appears by our side.
Easier said than done? Absolutely. But the clue to spiritual practice is less in the spiritual part and more in the practice.
If your mind wanders, close your eyes and bring it gently back to the breath. You forget to meditate, get too busy for mindfulness? Be kind to yourself and do what you can when you can. There are lots of compassionate ways of supporting yourself: tapes, videos, podcasts will help. Keep it short – even a couple of minutes (the length of a soothing piece of music) – will begin to calm the mind and the soul.
Creativity teaches us that there is wisdom in the breath and in the body, which can help us to transcend our overactive mind. Sitting with someone who is drawing or doing a sand tray can often clear my mind. This also opens my heart so that I am really there both for the client and for myself. Doing a drawing or a stretch after a child leaves the room also brings me back to my body. Only a few seconds between clients? Wash your hands in cool water.
So as we go into the busiest time of the year, remember the quiet parts of us that also need peace at Christmas. Take those five minutes to sit with a candle or listen to a carol. You have worked hard, you hold a lot of people’s stuff, you deserve it. And give that lovely busy overactive brain of yours a cuddle whilst you are at it.
You can find details of Jill Carter’s sandplay, art, creative trauma and supervision courses at www.jillcartertraining.co.uk