Quieten the mind chatter – Mindfulness of thoughts

By Lisa Brant | 17th April 2016
A photograph of a small, vibrant purple flower held in the palm of a hand.

Mindfulness can help us to become aware of our mind chatter – mind chatter is that narrative that runs through our minds from the moment we get up until the moment we go to bed. For many people the mind is always busy –planning, comparing, singing, dreaming of the future or rehashing the past. By becoming mindful of our thoughts we increase our awareness of how sometimes our mind can run away with itself. With this awareness we can decide to make a change. By practicing mindfulness we can start to disentangle ourselves from our mind and realise that we are not our thoughts. Over time and with practice we can find time during our day when we are centred and still, calm and peaceful, despite the mind chatter!

This month we explore in more detail how you can practice mindfulness of thoughts, to help quieten the mind chatter. Mindfulness can be defined as a non-judgemental observation of the present moment. In this article, our fourth in our series on mindfulness, we explain how you can practice mindfulness of emotions.

How to practice mindfulness?

You need to find a quiet place to practice meditation, particularly when you first start, so find a room where you know you will not be disturbed by the phone, people or pets!. The room should be warm enough and also have a good supply of fresh air. We suggest keeping a blanket nearby in case you get cool. If sitting cross-legged is comfortable for you then this is the best position to sit – make sure your knees are at the same the level (or lower than) your hips and your spine is long and straight. You can also sit on a chair that has a high back, keeping your both of your feet on the floor.

Set your timer – 20 minutes is a good length of time to start, but if you are short on time then even 10 or 12 minutes is a good time. Commit to this length of time. (You can use your phone, just remember to set your phone to flight mode, so you won´t be interrupted by emails, pings, calls etc). Close your eyes.

Technique: Mindfulness of thoughts

When you first sit in meditation, many thoughts might arise – you suddenly start saying to yourself that you need to go to the bathroom, or you notice that you have a pain in your knee and start thinking about why that was so. You might wonder if you closed the door, or start replaying a conversation that you have just had. The aim of this meditation session is to become aware of these thoughts, and not get caught up in them.

Sit quietly and turn your awareness inside. Observe, without judgement or pressure, and notice your thoughts.

Notice how you can watch each thought, and do not have to carry on thinking or planning or worrying. As soon as you notice that your mind has wandered off with a thought see if you can let that thought go. Sometimes, you might want to imagine placing the thought onto a flower on the palm of your hand and then releasing it off onto the breeze. You can just let it go. There is no judgement.

Sometimes you might also notice a sensation or emotions – let them go and return your awareness back to any thoughts that are present. You are not striving to change the thoughts, just become aware of them, then let them go.

When you first start meditating on thoughts, you might feel quite agitated in your body, wanting to get up and do something that you have just “remembered”. Sit still – commit to the time sat in silence. Sometimes you might also find that minutes pass by as your mind chatter takes over and you wander off in your mind to the past or future. No judgement. Just come back to observing and let the thought go as soon as you can.

Thoughts are that, thoughts. They are not facts. As when difficult or negative thoughts arise, remember that they are not “real”. You are safe. Sometimes pleasant thoughts arise – you can also caught up in them as they tend to have nice feelings that also arise. Practice letting go.

If no thoughts are present, then you can return your awareness to your breath, sitting peacefully and quietly.

Over time, you might start to look forward to these silent sessions. By practicing mindfulness of thoughts you can start to train yourself to let go of the mind chatter, not just when you are sat meditating, but also in your everyday life, when there is no need for the chatter to occur. Your mind will become calmer and stiller, and your concentration will increase.

When to meditate?

You can practice your mindfulness of thought meditation anytime of the day (or night) although we think that starting your day with a meditation is great.

Sometimes, practicing on an evening can be helpful for some people, as it allows you to practice letting go of thoughts, and to release and relax, before going to bed. Be curious and find what time of the day works best for you.

We love practicing mindfulness during yoga. As you practice your yoga, become aware of when you start to make comparisons, for example, “I did this asana two days ago and today I am rubbish” or “Look at her, I wish I could do it like that” and so on. Our thoughts influence our actions. Practicing yoga mindfully means we become aware of the thoughts that we habitually think, negative and positive – read this months article on how to use mind chatter positively in your yoga practice. To deepen your mindful yoga practice, once you notice that you are in your mind, release the thought with a clearing exhale and bring yourself back to your breath, or back into your body.

Interested in finding out more about meditation?

Here at La Crisalida Retreats we start six mornings a week with a short silent meditation session, giving guidance on a different meditation technique each session. We also currently run a mindfulness workshop, where you can experience the practical application of mindfulness through a variety of exercises, and one workshop on silence and vipassana meditation. Read more on our meditation page or come stay with us.

You can also read more in our other articles on how to practice mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness of breath (read the first article here)
  2. Mindfulness of sensations (read the second article here)
  3. Mindfulness of emotions (read the third article here)
  4. The seven attitudes of mindfulness (click here).

We hope that this articles helps you to start to quieten and calm your mind chatter, to find peace and calm at all times. Remember, be kind to yourself. To your health and wellbeing.

Headshot of Lisa Brant - Founder of La Crisalida Retreats
Lisa Brant

Lisa has been working in the field of health for over twenty years, first as an epidemiologist and now following a more alternative route! She is a therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa is a nutritionist so designs all our menus, as well as running the retreats. She is also qualified in NLP and hypnosis. Over the years Lisa has overcome her own health challenges with severe endometriosis and is happy to share her story.

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