Have you ever felt your mind get away from you? One moment, you're completely calm, the next, you feel so distressed you can barely keep it together. Racing in a million directions, your mind plays out the countless possibilities, and all the while, your resolve to remain calm slips away. At times like these, our mind might seem like a wild elephant, racing out of control. How can we tame this wild elephant so it works for us, instead of against us?

If you tether an elephant, it flaps its ears and slaps its tail and tries to run away. And that's what the mind does when we try to tether it. The tighter we try to take hold of our thoughts, the stronger they pull away from us. Here's a great example--think about something, anything at all--just don't think about a pink elephant. When you read that, what did you think of? My guess is, you probably thought of a pink elephant. So trying to stop ourselves from thinking about something might not be the best approach.

Scolding an elephant when it runs away won't do much good either. Could you imagine trying to scold an elephant? Scolding ourselves is like that too--when our mind runs wild it won't produce positive results. We might scold ourselves until we're out of energy...we might be angry until we're blue in the face, but our mind is still going to think what it wants. So I hope you'll take my word for it--there's a better approach than scolding ourselves.

Judging an elephant isn't productive either--it won't help the elephant and it won't make our job easier. So too, if we judge ourselves, or our thoughts, what have we accomplished? We might feel badly about ourselves, we might feel worthless, but we certainly won't experience the greatness within us. So judging ourselves or our thoughts isn't the approach we're looking for either.

So what is the best approach? If a wild elephant tries to run away, instead of tethering it, or scolding it, or judging it, you might gently pull it back. Again and again, each time it runs away, gently pull it back. It might help to offer a peanut or something sweet to convince it to come back willingly too. Over time, and with continual training, the elephant will be tamed when it knows you're the master. So too, will your mind be tamed when you practice pulling it back.

Each time you experience a thought you don't want, either during meditation or in your daily life, gently pull your mind away from that thought. Your first impulse is probably going to be to judge yourself, or to force the thought from your mind. But we both know this just won't work. Gently pulling your mind back is the best way, and just like the elephant, this is easier if you have something sweet to pull your mind back to. This is a form of mantra meditation. Focus on feeling your breath moving in and out of your body, and pull your mind back to a mantra or positive affirmation. For example, if you keep thinking to yourself, "I'm so ugly," you might choose to say, "I am beautiful." The more you practice affirming this to yourself, the more powerful it becomes. Think about it...it worked in the opposite direction, right? Haven't your negative thoughts brought you down? Haven't they created all kinds of havoc in your life? Why not let positive affirmations have a go at it for a while, and see what happens?

Positive affirmations can take many forms. To create yours, use the present tense, be positive and avoid the word 'not.' For example, your affirmation might be, "I love myself for who I am," instead of saying, "I don't hate myself anymore." Then practice repeating it to yourself with conviction throughout your day. When things are easy, this practice is a cinch. Then, during trying times, when our mind wants to go wild, positive affirmations give our mind something steady to hold on to.

Like an elephant, the mind is powerful. And once tamed, both elephants and the mind will work for you. So when you find yourself in the midst of negative thinking, when you find your mind running away on you, gently pull it back. By continually pulling your mind back into positive thoughts, you'll find your self-esteem increasing and your outlook on life improving.

May all be happy and may all be well.

Author's Bio: 

Ralph Miller invites you on a journey of the heart as you learn to meditate, where he provides everything you need to begin and continue a personal meditation practice to steady your mind, calm your emotions, and heal your life.