Occupy Sanity Tool (OST): Mindemptiness
“The usefulness of a cup is in its emptiness.” – Old Chinese Proverb
I was talking to a friend the other day about practicing mindfulness during chaotic times. I told her I felt on information overload and found that limiting the amount of time I spent engaging with a screen each day helped me feel more grounded and less stressed. She said, it sounds like we all could use more mind-empty-ness these days to counter our mind-full-ness. In an instant, I created this month’s OST: Mindemptiness.
“The miracles of technology cause us to live in a hectic, clockwork world that does violence to human biology, enabling us to do nothing but pursue the future faster and faster.’ – Alan Watts
I have spent most of my life practicing meditation and mindfulness. My practice officially began in my late teens when I read The Wisdom Insecurity by Alan Watts. His premise to be present with whatever arises and a Hatha yoga practice gave me a framework to learn how balance inside myself could help me create it in my outer life.
Personal growth is a lifelong journey that includes ups, downs, twists, and turns, where the only certainty is uncertainty. The paradox is that it’s in uncertain times when life can seem at its emptiest, there can be the most possibilities and opportunities for revelations and growth.
But What About The Monkey?
“The mind can be like a crazy monkey that is always dying to escape from the present moment.” – Rolf Potts
On my quest to practice more mindemptiness, I encountered the Monkey…in my mind! I suspect many of you have one too. Such a cunning creature jumping from one thought to the next, obsessively searching for solutions and making lists, which is a practical use of the mind, except at 3 am. She’s there to keep me safe from the anxiety of living with the reality of uncertainty, believing that if I stay in my head, I won’t have to feel intense emotions or emptiness.
Here’s where it gets even more interesting because the thing that helps me be less anxious is to practice meditation and mindfulness as a means of getting to mindemptyness (i.e., the Monkey Mind is calmed). As Carol Chapman notes in her blog post Meditation and Mindfulness – Is There A Difference? :
“I’ve used meditation to keep my mind in check. To 1) reduce the effects of the “monkey mind” that can often take hold and sometimes create a lot of anxiety for me and 2) to achieve a heightened state of consciousness.”
Benefits of Emptying The Mind
“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form” states the Heart Sutra, one of the best known ancient Buddhist texts. The essence of all things is emptiness.” ― Eckhart Tolle
The “…heightened state of consciousness.” that Carol refers to is fertile ground to experience the benefits of mindemptiness.
Here are some real life examples:
-In order to sow seeds in a field it has to be cleared, tilled and empty so that they have the optimal conditions to germinate.
-A sperm & egg need an empty space (the womb) to connect and then attach to grow a new life.
-Artists often create something on a blank (empty) canvas.
In my experience, a ‘full mind’ can create anxiety and inactivity, much like when we eat too much. It’s hard to take in more or move. The stomach needs time and energy to process. So it is with our mind.
5 Ways to Practice Mindemptiness
Here are 5 ways to cultivate mindemptiness to begin to master that “monkey mind.”
1. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is one of the ways to attain Mindemptiness. Researcher Ramesh Manocha explains that “Mindfulness may be better understood as a means to an ends rather than being an ends in itself.” In his article Meditation, mindfulness and mind-emptiness he notes that:
“The practical experience in our clinical trials bears this notion out since we found that mindfulness strategies were often useful to facilitate mind-emptiness. We propose that mindfulness was in fact developed with the intention of facilitating the experience of mental silence.”
2. Talk it out: Ask a friend, a colleague, or, if necessary, hire a coach or therapist. Sometimes it’s enough to have someone listen and reflect. Also, you could make an audio recording of your thoughts, then listen to yourself.
3. Journal it out: There are so many options for journaling. I have done both written and visual themed journals. I like to combine the two. Again, the point is to get the thoughts swirling around or perhaps being thrown about by your Monkey in your mind, out!
4. Get out in Nature. Go for a slow walk. Look, really LOOK at the trees, flowers, grass and sky. Be curious about the thoughts that arise. Imagine they are like the clouds floating and dissipating in the sky.
5. Schedule a Break from your devices. There are many benefits to taking what Dr. Mirgain calls a “…digital detox day.” As he points out in his article Taking a Technology Break Can Help Your Health stepping away from the screens can increase productivity, focus, self-worth, physical health, mindfulness and even lead to closer relationships.
I suspect you can add to this list. Let us know your experience with this OST.