Alan Watts on the effect of peace of mind

One of the most famous quotes by Alan Watts says that while you can try to quiet the soul, this will only make the soul more restless. In this post, we'll take a closer look at that exact quote.

Like almost everyone who deals with spirituality, starts meditation or tries to get his inner life a little better in order, I have also observed this phenomenon. The quieter you want your mind to be, the louder it gets.

"Of course, you can’t force your mind to be silent. That would be like trying to smooth ripples in water with a flatiron. Water becomes clear and calm only when left alone."

Alan Watts

But why is trying to calm your soul, or your mind, like trying to smooth troubled water with an iron? If we consider why we try to calm our soul, the only logical answer is that we have a restless soul.

Having a restless soul is neither good nor bad in and of itself. However, we think that having a restless soul is bad, so we want to calm it down. We do this, however, thinking that we have to get the soul calm, otherwise the restlessness might increase until we finally lose control of it completely. Wouldn't that be terrible?

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Alan Watts: The Vicious Circle of Worry and the Monkey Mind

Since we are forced to calm our soul in the long run, it would be clever to do this as early as possible. However, since we are forced to enforce this calm out of necessity, it is like trying to smooth out waves with an iron:

No matter how hard you try to get the water smooth with the iron, you won't make it. It's not because you're not using the right technique, it's because you're using the wrong tool.

To calm the roiling stormy sea of our mind requires something other than an iron. Because also like a whipped up sea our soul needs rest, in order to calm down. This calmness that is needed, however, is not to be brought about through activity and effort, but through passivity and patience.

You need to give your mind daily opportunities to calm down. Whether it's through a walk, a cup of tea, a relaxing bath, or whatever strikes your fancy. The important thing here, though, is that you don't see this break as an actively applicable tool to calm the soul but as a time out, a break, a "you time." Take a little time out from the hustle and bustle of life every day for the next few weeks and see if you can make the stormy waves of your mind get smaller on their own.

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