It is essentially a universal experience that when we sit for meditation, we see clearly the constant running of thoughts, perceptions, feelings, emotions, desires etc. that occupies the mind all the time, but to which we pay little attention when going about the activities of daily life. There is a constant stream, which some have called “stream of consciousness” that creates a mental ‘running commentary’ that the mind is constantly asked to process. We tend to treat this as an obstacle to meditation, and generally blame ourselves with the thought that we simply are not able to meditate. In reality this is the normal human condition and it takes time, patience and perseverance to bring about a shift towards a quiet, and eventually a silent mind.

Many people find that the recommendations in the yogic texts to find a quiet, calm external setting can help reduce the input that generates the mental turmoil. Some find that monitoring the breath, focusing on placing the body into various asanas, or chanting mantras can help bring coherence to the mind-stuff and thus, help to bring it to a state of quiescence. While these methods may aid the seeker initially, they eventually need to be surpassed so that the seeker is not dependent on external methods of this sort to experience the quiet mind. More directly, there are methods that use the flow of these perceptions, impulses and thoughts as the object of observation. There are a number of different methods utilised to achieve the result of the silent mind, and Sri Aurobindo describes several of them.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “If the difficulty in meditation is that thoughts of all kinds come in, that is not due to hostile forces but to the ordinary nature of the human mind. All sadhaks have this difficulty and with many it lasts for a very long time. There are several ways of getting rid of it. One of them is to look at the thoughts and observe what is the nature of the human mind as they show it but not to give any sanction and to let them run down till they come to a standstill — this is a way recommended by Vivekananda in his Rajayoga. Another is to look at the thoughts as not one’s own, to stand back as the witness Purusha and refuse the sanction — thoughts are regarded as things coming from outside, from Prakriti, and they must be felt as if they were passers-by crossing the mind-space with whom one has no connection and in whom one takes no interest. In this way it usually happens that after a time the mind divides into two, a part which is the mental witness watching and perfectly undisturbed and quiet and a part which is the object of observation, the Prakriti part in which the thoughts cross or wander. Afterwards one can proceed to silence or quiet the Prakriti part also. There is a third, an active method by which one looks to see where the thoughts come from and finds they come not from oneself, but from outside the head as it were; if one can detect them coming, then, before they enter, they have to be thrown away altogether. This is perhaps the most difficult way and not all can do it, but if it can be done it is the shortest and most powerful road to silence.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Work, Meditation and Love and Devotion, Sadhana through Meditation, pp. 146-149

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.