how to quiet your restless mind

how to quiet your restless mind

“Chanting is a way of getting in touch with yourself. It’s an opening of the heart and letting go of the mind and thoughts. It deepens the channel of grace, and it’s a way of being present in the moment.” ― Krishna Das

In the Hindu tradition, there’s a story that compares the mind to the notorious and “nosy” trunk of an elephant — always restless, curious and prying around. In many villages and towns in India, on festivals and religious occasions, as part of celebration, sometimes elephants are taken in processions through the streets to the temple. 

If you’ve been to rural India, you’d be aware that the roads are narrow, uneven and far from straight. On top of that, they’re lined on either side with shops, vehicles, and fruit, vegetable and flower stalls. Now imagine a huge elephant arriving in these crooked and compact streets with its restless and wandering trunk. What does it do? In one sweeping, serpentine motion, it grabs a few watermelons, opens his gaping mouth and tosses them in. Next, it takes a bunch of coconuts from another stall and throws them in as well. After that, it tosses bananas and pineapples in, and continues to wreak havoc on the roads. No amount of words or threats can settle its restless and straying trunk down in that scenario. However, the wise and experienced elephant trainer will give the mighty animal a short bamboo stick to its trunk to hold. And voilà! The elephant will hold the bamboo stick like a baton bearer and walk along proudly and calmly. It no longer grabs watermelons, coconuts, bananas, pineapples and whatever it sets its eyes on, simply because its trunk now has a purpose — it has something to hold onto. 

The human mind works in the exact same way. Like the trainer gives the elephant a bamboo stick to become still, we too can keep our mind from wandering into all places of immediate interest by simply handing it a mantra. 

A mantra is a syllable, word or phrase that is chanted repeatedly while meditating. There is a dual purpose of this practice: repetition of our chosen mantra, i.e. sound, words or affirmations to raise our vibrations as well as to cultivate mindfulness by using the mantra as an object of our focus.

The ancient yogis and the mystics came to the conclusion that by sustaining a particular vibration of sound for a long period, the nature of our body and mind can be influenced and transformed. By chanting mantra, we override the mental chatter inside us, and hence calm our mind and let go of our thoughts effectively. Through consistent practice, our chosen mantras become like keys or passwords that help us unlock different states of consciousness and hence dial in to the best possible mindset for a particular situation or setting.