Calming the mind is a very challenging this to do, but when you begin to grasp just how to do it...even for just a few minutes a day, your life can change dramatically. I began practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) in March of 2013. The process for teaching TM only takes an hour or so over a four day period. I was lucky enough to have Bob Roth and Heather Hartnett from the David Lynch Foundation be my guides.
TM'g goal is not to clear your mind and it's not to observe your thoughts and feelings as in Zen or Buddhist meditation. Instead, it's just to sit in a "space" that you create and relax, and whatever happens in that 20 minutes, happens.
The structure of the meditation is very simple. Find a quiet place (preferably dark) and sit upright in a chair, chais lounge, on pillows, for 20 minutes in the morning (before breakfast) and 20 minutes at sundown (before dinner). Sit as still as possible (but if you need to move or scratch an itch...you can) in any comfortable position you want and repeat a mantra given to you by your teacher over and over again to yourself for the duration of the meditation.
Bob gave me some particularly interesting insights about meditating and the positive effects it can have on your mind and body.
It's ability to enhance creativity, create a sense of calm, and release deep inner stress makes TM one of the most scientifically studied and successful practices for increasing longevity, de-stressing, and finding relaxation.
The Mind as an Ocean:
Bob described the active mind as a cross-section of the ocean. The top is laden with an endless flow of waves of varying sizes. The bottom is a deep, slow, silent, and still abyss of quiet and nothingness. A person's functioning mind during a normal day is akin to the top of the ocean, consistently battered up and down by powerful currents. During TM, one can enter a state of restfulness that propels the mind downwards, towards the bottom of the ocean, where the mind can be still, slow, and relaxed.
There is no good or bad TM session -- There is no "best" meditator -- There is no better or worse experience. TM just "IS". Whether you go into the deep depths of the stillness of the mind and perhaps fall asleep is no better than if your mind bobs up and down near the top of the waves the entire time. It's all good :)
If you think about people, places, things, ideas, etc - it's cool...and you're on the right path. If you forget to say your mantra - it's ok. If you fall asleep, it's ok. If you itch your nose, it's ok. If you achieve an incredibly deep state of restfulness, it's ok. TM accepts all happenings that occur within that time and space. In other words: It's all good.
The "OK"ness of TM is most appealing to me. Instead of NOT THINKING about anything, or focusing intently on an inanimate object in your mind's eye, or watching your thoughts go by and detaching from them - (goals of other types of meditation), TM allows you to create a "space" and relax in it and whatever happens in it is perfectly fine - no better and no worse than the next meditation.
TM has already made a substantial impact in my life. I've noticed significant differences in the way I think, act, and treat others. The annoyances of life seem to disappear as I've realized that they don't or shouldn't really matter at all.
I've gained acceptance of others who I've often begrudged, and I've become far more likeable to a number of people who were irritated by the "my way or the highway" attitude I once held dear and was proud of. My ego has died a little, which is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me, because the more the ego dies, the more one really begins to live.
TM has enabled me to create a space between my thoughts and my actions. Read that again: TM has enabled me to create a space between my thoughts and my actions. It's wild. So before I started meditating, I may have been in a situation where I reacted harshly and abruptly due to something that I felt was affecting me negatively. Now, if that same situation happens, there is a calm space, a serene environment that lasts maybe a few milliseconds but feels like an eternity before I act where I can actually "choose" the reaction that I want to have. Now that's true power.