One of the primary reasons we do not rest well is that our minds keep chattering away at us. Minds are built for processing information and formulating responses to everything we experience. We can be grateful that they remain busily functioning and never truly shut down unless we suffer brain injury.
So what do we do with these chattering minds when we need to rest and enter a state we like to call relaxation?
It would be hypocritical for me to list suggestions because I am just barely learning about this, and I’m closer to 60 than 50—what a slow learner! But I will float an idea or two. Please add your wisdom to this post. We all need help with this.
Give proper attention to the mind. That is, pay attention to the chatter. Take some notes: what are your recurring thoughts? What anxieties keep cropping up? Where are your emotions getting triggered? Your chattering mind is providing real information. Perhaps a first step to relaxation is to listen carefully to the flow of thoughts and allow them to trigger prayers.
For instance, you’re trying to take a short nap in the middle of a day that will become much busier later this evening. You have found a quiet place, and you have 20 minutes. But the moment you become horizontal, the chatter begins. You decide to listen to it, and you discover that much of the chatter issues from anxiety about this evening’s dinner—you’re going to someone’s home for a backyard evening meal. Your recurring thoughts indicate that you’re worried about two other guests who will be there. You owe one of them a phone call but hadn’t gotten around to it. The other tends to ask a lot of questions, some of them personal, and you dread getting into conversation with him. So now, in preparation for nap time, you send up two specific prayers about your interaction with these people this evening. Then you ignore any further mind chatter.
Give proper attention to the emotions. Your emotional state can provide as much information as your mind chatter provides. Thoughts and feelings are closely connected, and sometimes the chatter will lessen once you address the emotion that triggers it. In the example I just gave, the mind chatter let you know that you were anxious about the upcoming evening. The anxiety led to the opportunity for prayer.
You may be trying to nap, but what you need is a good cry—for grief or frustration or sadness. You may try to relax but you’re too angry about something; tend to the anger, and perhaps the relaxation will follow.
Okay, that’s all I will venture to say. I await your comments.
- How do you deal with mind chatter? Have you learned a particular practice that helps?
- What have you identified as primary hindrances to good rest?