Your home for intelligent conversation on the web
The Living Room Psychology and character How to shut my brain off
THINQon is a platform for a more intelligent web. It aims to replace the ruling paradigm of the web – that of sharing and gathering information – with a sharing and achieving of understanding. Instead of the Q&A model it offers an experience. A platform for discovery of ideas, people, and yourself.     Continue >
How to shut my brain off
As my ramblings in this post might suggest, my brain moves quickly and all the time. Now most of the time this is highly beneficial, I am able to quickly analyze and respond, I can make people chuckle and hold up my part of the conversation. But a lot of the times I just wish my brain would shut the hell up.

The over analyzing neurotic thinking type may work for Woody Allen, but sometimes I just want to not think about anything. I don't want to re-analyze what happened yesterday and I don't want to abstract from every thought morsel I chew. And since I made this realization maybe a year ago I've successfully been able to calm by brain down to normal working speeds.

The danger of the over-analyzing person is that he forgets his place in the here and the now. And I like it here and I prefer it now, but when I get to thinking I forget what's around me. I'd rather think about the space around me right now then the space around me yesterday or the space that will surround me tomorrow. I find that overanalyzing is a tunnel towards depression, because when I pick things apart I untie the threads I've so slowly built up as a web of confidence.

And it's great when I go slow, because I can control my brain and have it work paradoxically faster in the moment. But I always want my thoughts to go slower. I want to learn how to meditate, the ultimate mind-stoppage, but I worry even with the way my brain works now, I won't be able to learn. I've taken up Yoga which has been a big help and I'm anxiously awaiting a free meditation seminar that takes place in August.

I wonder if anyone here is able to meditate and might offer some useful tips or habits for slowing my brain even before I take that class.  Or even if you don't meditate perhaps you can suggest some methods for turning the brain off, exercise has been a great help, because it forces me to think about my body. Is that the key? Body over Mind? Mind over body?
I would recommend dancing -- preferably something very rhythmic (though this may be gendered -- women don't get to stomp so often so this is lots more fun than one might imagine). Flamenco, for instance. Or drums -- West African drumming is very impressive, as is tabla. Or you can just put on some music and dance around the room. At least some amount of improvisation is key; you don't want to stay completely in your head.

There's also a Zen exercise of walking meditation which consists in taking a leisurely walk and naming objects to yourself as you see them, and focusing intently on them as you name them: Blue sky. Red bench. I'm not an initiate myself but friends of mine have used this to great effect.

A small diversion:
One thing that surprises me getting older is how subtle things are. Breathing correctly can have a huge effect on one's health; focusing well can have a huge effect on one's mind.  Several years ago, I would have expected the answer to your question, Robin, to be at the very least, surprising, and to contain some basic insight into the physics of the world. Thinking about similar things, I skimmed my way through a number of books on the importance of breath, feeling this to be an insubstantial recommendation to say the least.  I've only understood quite recently the power of simple things done with, for lack of a better word, intent. What makes it subtle is that such things aren't useful immediately: walking meditation, breathing exercises etc are practices which take effect gradually. All of a sudden, after months of seemingly nothing happening, there is a certain deep power. I want to say that what these sorts of practices are, at heart, are ways of teaching you how to use the power of time. Imogen said something related on the question of character
I'm not a big Yoga person so my answer will be different. Why would you want to shut your brain off?
What you want to do is be able to slow things down, like Neo in The Matrix:

You want to be able to slow down time little by little so you can see the water falling, and can catch a fly with chopsticks. But to turn it off - why?

Over analyzing is good. The problem with Woody Allen is that he didn't really go over those basic stages (though his latest film is great), but when one is good at analyzing one can also move on to greater mountains.
You say Robin: "The danger of the over-analyzing person is that he forgets his place in the here and the now."
Not at all. If you over-analyze in a good way, and in a constant way, then you can get to be very good at it and see things very quickly and analyze them on the spot (as you say you can do). The here and now become infinitely richer like that as so much more is going on than first meets the eye. The Matrix is again a good example.

I don't know Yoga at all, nor meditating, but I think a lot of what is meditating in a deep way, like the martial artists monks did, is mostly misunderstood today. You want to be able to feel the water going through your hand, feel the air touching you, hear it move, but not at all to be numb. Not at all to turn the mind off.

(Sportsmen say that at times when they are completely in-the-zone, that everything moves slowly for them.)

In response to Michel de Graph
"...a lot of what is meditating in a deep way, like the martial artists monks did, is mostly misunderstood today"

There's a remark somewhere that the warriors of old were able to clear and focus their minds so completely in the present moment that their senses became incredibly magnified: walking along on an ordinary day, they could hear a leaf drop  hundreds of meters away, and the slight footfalls and rush of air that meant someone was about to turn the corner several houses back.  Only with this kind of focus could one survive the danger of attack at any moment.
Join the Community
Full Name:
Your Email:
New Password:
I Am:
By registering at, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Discussion info
Latest Post: May 11, 2011 at 8:38 AM
Number of posts: 25
Spans 671 days

No results found.