Centering & Focus

Finding Stillness: How to Calm the Restless Mind



The Buddhists say that the mind can be likened to a monkey. Just like a monkey jumps from branch to branch, being continually restless, the mind jumps from thought to thought without end, leaving us agitated and confused.

But why is the mind so restless? And how can one calm it and find stillness? The following short story sheds some light on these questions.

A disciple and his teacher were walking through the forest. The disciple was disturbed by the fact that his mind was in constant unrest. 

He asked his teacher: “Why most people’s minds are restless, and only few possess a calm mind? What can one do to still the mind?”

The teacher looked at the disciple, smiled and said: 

“I will tell you a story. An elephant was standing and picking leaves from a tree. A small fly came by, flying and buzzing near its ear. The elephant drove it away with its long ears. Then the fly came again, and the elephant drove it away once more.

This was repeated several times. Then the elephant asked the fly:

“Why are you so restless and noisy? Why can’t you stay just for a while in one place?”

The fly answered: “I am attracted to whatever I see, hear or smell. My five senses, and everything that happens around me, pull me constantly in all directions, and I cannot resist them. What is your secret? How can you stay so calm and still?”

The elephant stopped eating and said:

“My five senses do not rule my attention. I am in control of my attention, and I can direct it wherever I want. This helps me to get immersed in whatever I do, and therefore, keep my mind focused and calm. Now that I am eating, I am completely immersed in eating. In this way, I can enjoy my food and chew it better. I control my attention, and not the other way around, and this helps me stay peaceful.”

Don’t let your attention be carried away by distractions. Detach yourself from the unessential, focus on what truly matters while being mindful of the present moment, and you will find peace and stillness in your life.