Stilling the Waves of the Mind

StillLake

As usual I am also going to offer something you can do right now to deepen. We often have a tendency to ignore simple practices feeling that to be of real value something needs to have complexity. Yet most mystics are personifications of simplicity offering simple and direct ways of realization.

The following technique if practiced with diligence and devotion will help deepen the awareness of the inner life and help remove our addictive attachment to the thinking mind at least temporarily. Life is much more than thinking. Awareness of the deeper realities of our being can only be really experienced beyond the thinking mind.

One afternoon during our retreat at Lake Doniphan a few friends were walking around the lake talking and enjoying our time together. As we stopped to take in the view there was a moment that captured the stillness and a perfectly reflective mirror image on a beautiful sunny November day. See the above photograph. Pir Shabda Kahn as always with camera at hand captured the image perfectly. Incredibly the stillness seemed to last for some time as we marveled at its beauty. Generally such moments are often transitory yet there are rare times when atmospheric conditions seem to combine in a seemingly miraculous way to produce such a sense of beauty, stillness and clarity. This is why such things make such a strong impression on those who notice.

Also take a look at the photograph below of another equally beautiful day when the wind was working its magic on the water causing it to lose any sense of reflective clarity or stillness. Same lake, different day, different atmospheric conditions.

Lake_Phillip

Mystics often use the image of a mirror or a still pool as a metaphor for the mind. What are the inner and outer conditions that can create stillness in the mind? How can we allow the depths of our mind to reflect the light of the One as clearly and perfectly as the lake in the above photograph? Will it simply happen by accident or are there ways to cultivate a consistent sense of peace and stillness of mind? Are we always to be dependent for our peace of mind on external conditions?

Stilling the waves of the mind at least for a short time is actually a daily necessity. The results are invariably revitalizing, relaxing, and healing.

Many techniques do exist and while most of them are extremely simple it is by no means easy to allow the mind to be free from thought even for an instant. With practice however it can become our reality and something that we make sure we incorporate into our daily lives.

Chanting Om or AUM
Chanting Om was actually one of my main daily spiritual practices for quite a number of years. The first time I was introduced to it I found that it resonated more fully with me than anything else I had ever tried. I have always seen this practice as a back-door method of stilling the mind. My mind was so busy many years ago that I could never get anywhere by trying to tackle directly. It was really frustrating to realise that I had no power with me at that time to control my mind even slightly. People instructed me to concentrate on the gaps between the thoughts. For me there were no gaps! I needed something less directly confrontational but nevertheless effective at stilling the mind.

The cosmic sound Om or AUM is the origin of all other sounds. It symbolizes Brahman or the essential spiritual reality. AUM is ideally chanted in three parts with equal time given to each part. A – U – M.

The three parts contain the whole range of the sounds that can be produced by the human vocal system. There is much written about the meaning of Om and its wider symbolism. For me the real meaning of any sacred sound or mantra is how it resonates within my own being – the meaning is experienced beyond words rather than through words.

Click here for a downloadable MP3 recording of a guided practice using the mantra Om. It will take just over 15 minutes to listen to the whole recording. Add it to your phone or MP3 player.

When chanting sit in a comfortable position with the spine naturally straight but not stiff. Allow the breathing to be free and easy. Don’t strain in any sense. Feel that the body is breathing and you are aware of the breathing process without needing to change it. Follow the breath in this way for a few minutes and simply watch the inner being. The breath will deepen of its own accord. Notice how you feel. Watch the flow of thoughts in the mind. Don’t try to change anything, simply witness the stream of thoughts but be aware that you are watching the thoughts. The thoughts are not you. Feel an underlying awareness beneath and beyond the thoughts.

Part One Chant AAHH
With the awareness in the abdomen breathe in make the sound AAHH. Choose whatever pitch of sound is the most comfortable. Feel the resonance of the sound in the abdomen as it is intoned. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat this twice more.

Part Two – Chant UUUU
With the awareness in the centre of the chest breathe in and make the sound UUUU in the same way. Feel the resonance of the sound in the centre of the chest as it is intoned. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat this twice more.

Part Three – Chant MMMM
With the awareness in the head breathe in and make the sound MMMM. Feel the resonance of the sound in the head as it is intoned. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat twice more.

Part Four – Chant A-U-M
Now combine the three parts of the whole sound together giving equal time to each syllable. Feel the resonance of the sound in the different parts your body as you intone. Feel the silent space at the end of the sound. Repeat twice more.

Part Five – Stillness in the Silence
Without words feel the sensations in your body as the sound enters the silence. Allow the breath to be easy and relaxed. See if you can feel an underlying sense of spaciousness in the whole being.

If there are still thoughts let them come and go without giving any attention to any thought in particular. Experience any thoughts as being simply subtle forms of energy that are happening within you but which are of no concern to you. Allow yourself to be centred in pure awareness beyond any thoughts.

Take as much time as you have available. To complete the practice, breathe more deeply before you move your body. Open the eyes and make contact with your surroundings. Then move your body, stand up, stretch perhaps and then carry on with the rest of your day.

Comments

  1. Dear Philip thankyou so much for this article … I especially appreciated the reminder that the simplest practices can be the most transformative if practiced with diligence and devotion. I see this is where I slip up in my thinking, so often imagining complex answers and overlooking the practical tools I have close at hand, Thank you I really appreciate the excercise you posted … very helpful !!!!! Namaste Caroline x

    • Hi Caroline,
      Thanks for your comments. As human beings we often look for complexity in spiritual practices and other aspects of life when it’s most often the simple approach that is most effective.

      With Love

      Philip

  2. Hi Philip,

    Thank you for this explanation and guide through AUM. I’m going to try it with increased awareness.

    It can feel tricky to write to many people at once if you are self-conscious, but when you have something to share and can do it with a pure heart and humility then you will benefit from releasing that to others. It is offered as a gift and others may or may not be receptive. We have to be open to what comes and detached from outcomes. But you know this already. So thank you for sharing food for thought and soul.

    ~ loving greetings from Anne (I came to some dances a couple of years ago with Alison Pearce)

  3. Dear Philip,
    Thank you for your post and clear steps to follow, and such a beautiful photo to illustrate the stilling of the waves of the mind.
    Such a good reminder, thank you again…
    With love,
    Jan

    [Ps. I wasn’t sure what to put where it says Mail – saying Email would be clearer!]

  4. Before receiving this individual email, I had visited your website earlier today and was delighted to find a new teaching article…and did the AUM practice.
    I sometimes wonder whether it might be helpful to suggest not having teeth clenched but only lips touching for the M, or at least to experiment & notice the difference in resonance.
    As you say it is quite a different art & skill from oral teachings & demonstration to teaching through the written word.
    A piece of advice I received in my Ministry training in the composition of Addresses was to use shorter sentences…perhaps because I construct long sentences; or to make use of punctuation, dashes or dots.
    Also possibly the layout – not always in typical paragraphs but to occasionally write sentences,
    or phrases, on separate lines and use bold type sometimes for emphasis.
    I don’t know if this was the type of feedback you wanted?
    Whatever way you choose to write Articles I really appreciate them: I read them with my heart as I know they come from yours.

    • Dear Anne,
      Good to know that you had already experienced the AUM practice from checking the website before the newsletter had been mailed.

      Thanks for all your comments. I realise now that I could have used bolder type in a few places in this article especially in relation to the download link for the MP3 practice.

      With Love

      Philip

  5. Hello Philip,

    Do hope by now that you are feeling well again.

    I feel your writing is clear and interesting. I love the pictures so beautiful and they really reflect back to the reader what you were sharing in your writing. Just trust what you feel and use your heart wave of guided inspiration to communicate your visions. A writers’s gift of expression is so unique, your insight through words will reach folk they already are.

    I am writing my autobiography at present I started it last year and I have nearly finished chapter seven. That means just three chapters to go and it is finished. It was a guided impulse to do it and one which I followed. I truly feel that if I had done research about it, I probably would not have started to write it ,due to the fear that would have naturally arisen. Know you have something worth sharing. Trust that you are being guided to share your lived through wisdom of true experience.

    Hope this helps.

    Thank you for what you have done so far. I am grateful.
    With love and blessings,
    Haqiqa X

    • Hello Haqiqa,

      Thanks so much for your kind words and supportive comments.

      Ya Fattahs with the remaining chapters of your autobiography. Quite a task to undertake something like that.

      Much love and Many Blessings

      Philip

  6. You ask what we feel about you venturing into writing –
    I find your writing clear and interesting, and practices valuable. It’s good for something timeless to suddenly appear on my computer.
    I think it is good for you to seriously get into writing. To me it’s an activity that clarifies ones knowledge/experience to oneself as well as sharing with the reader. So thank you for including me on you news letter emails.
    Love Christine

    • Dear Christine,

      Thanks so much for your insights and your encouragement. As you say the process of writing in this way does help to clarify and articulate one’s own experiences and how they then can be helpful to others.

      With Love

      Philip

  7. Hello Philip,

    thank You for sharing Your experience at the Lake Doniphan, and thank You for the sound practice You gave, just now I practice at the PC .
    Very strong energie ! Somehow it is a protection and leads directly to a deeper breathing, a natural concentration in breathing, in prana.
    The practice is the most important thing, but sometimes words are rearly necessery to become aware and more conscious of our inner life.
    like You say, for revitalizing, relaxing and healing ourselves, our fokus : try every day , every moment new,stilling the waves of the mind !

    thank You

    looking forward to see You in Berlin again in january

    much love Sagara Sophia

    • Hello Sagara Sophia

      Thanks for sharing your experiences of the Om Practice. So pleased you found it such a deep practice. Thanks also for your insights about the way words can help in the exploration of the inner life. I agree with you entirely.

      Looking forward to be with you in Berlin in January.It’s always such a joy and a blessing to stay with you in Charlottenburg.

      Much Love and Many Blessings

      Philip

  8. Thanks very much for post. The AUM I haven’t tried yet but hoping that it will be useful as we use it in our yoga practice and I find it a little confusing.

    • Dear Avril,

      Hopefully when you do explore the AUM practice it will help clarify any previous confusion. It’s all about increasing awareness of the resonance of the sound in our being. In this way we go beyond the thinking mind. The meaning of any mantra essentially is how it resonates in our being.

      With Love

      Philip

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