We want to clear the mind so that we can live in the moment without getting lost in thoughts and feelings.
To make this happen, we need to be aware of three factors: Conscious awareness, mental phenomena, and reality.
When you understand how these three factors work and how they interact with each other, you will know how to clear your mind whenever you want to relax.
Meditation can help.
Meditate With Me
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Start Clearing Your Mind Before You Meditate
We want to begin to clear the mind before we actually meditate. I’ll show you how and then we will go right into the meditation.
1: Understanding your state of mind
There are three factors that affect your state of mind:
- Your conscious awareness. This is at the absolute centre of your mind. It is your awareness
- Mental phenomena. These are the processes that occur in your mind. For instance, your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs.
- Reality. The world around you, as well as your own physical form.
At any given time you have a combination of all three of these factors. You are consciously aware, you have thoughts and feelings, and there is reality all around you.
Your conscious awareness is always pure. The very centre of your mind is clear. However, your thoughts and feelings, and your perception of reality are not pure. They are distorted. Specifically, they are distorted by one another.
What happens is this. Your conscious awareness leads from the centre of your mind towards reality. However, your awareness passes through your thoughts and feelings. And your thoughts and feelings distort your view of reality.
Think about it like wearing a pair of glasses. Your emotions are like tinted glasses. If you wear, for instance, red tinted glasses, the world will appear red. Same with emotions. If you are sad, the world will appear to be a sad place, because your emotions are distorting your view of reality.
Have you ever seen “Smartglasses”? They are glasses that use AI. They show you information about the objects you look at. Cool hey? But what if the information these glasses show you is wrong? This is what happens with thoughts. Our thoughts process information about the outside world. However, that information is sometimes wrong, and almost always distorted to some degree. This occurs because of cognitive distortions. More on this later.
Not only do our thoughts and feelings affect our view of reality, but reality also influences our thoughts and feelings.
As information from the outside world enters the mind, it interacts with our thoughts and feelings, changing them. Maybe you were feeling quite happy about your body until you saw that Olympian running by. Yup, reality influences our thoughts, and often to our detriment.
Information from the outside world enters the mind where it lights-up certain neurons. Those neurons also communicate with other neurons that are thematically related to the information we are receiving.
Basically, if you see one thing, you think about other things related to it. If I mention work, you probably momentarily think about colleagues and other things related to your work.
All of this leads to a slew of information in the mind. And sometimes we are so overloaded with thoughts and feelings that our conscious awareness gets batted about all over the place until we are utterly lost. But don’t worry. We will solve the problem now.
2: Be mindful of thoughts and feelings.
Is your mind currently full of thoughts, feelings, memories and other mental phenomena? If so, be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to process your thoughts and feelings.
The best way to do this is to reduce information intake.
Spend a day (or however long you can) off the computer, off the cellphone, and off the TV. Go somewhere relaxing, like a park. And just sit. This will give your mind time to process your thoughts and feelings. And then you will be calm.
3: Remove the primary sources of information overload
One of the easiest ways to clear your mind is to get rid of sources of information overload.
By far the worst source of information overload is Mark Zuckerberg– excuse me, I mean Instagram and Facebook, along with other social media platforms.
Scientific American states that social media platforms deliberately create information overload. Why? Because when youre so overloaded with information you lose a lot of your conscious control. Your mind gets lost in the info, so that the only thing you can do is mindlessly keep scrolling.
It isn’t just social media though. Technology in general tends to be a course of information overload. Hence why we have terms like “Inbox Zero”, which refers to the relief we feel when we finally reach the end of our email inbox.
Sometimes other people can cause information overload too, whether it’s one person with an especially big mouth, or whether it’s because you simply see too many people (for instance if you work retail in a busy mall or work at the airport).
Find ways to cut down on information overload so your mind doesn’t fill up with needless thoughts.
4: Practise mindfulness habits and exercises
Mindfulness means focusing your mind 100% on what you are doing. There are lots of mindfulness exercises.
You remember above when we discussed how information from the outside world mixes with your thoughts to create a busy mind? Well, that doesn’t happen when you deliberately focus 100% of your attention on a task. It doesn’t happen for two reasons. Firstly, you’re reducing the information that is entering your mind because you are only focusing on one thing. And secondly, you’re not engaging with your thoughts, so your thoughts don’t get all shook up, u-huh-huh (Elvis anyone?).
The good news is that there are a million and one things you can do mindfully:
- Brushing your teeth
- Eating (Mindful Eating is now a well established mental health exercise with many wonderful benefits)
- Cleaning the dishes
- Any form of art
- Exercise, and especially Integrated Body Mind Training exercises like yoga and tai chi
- Sewing and cross-stitching
When you do these exercises, all you have to do is focus your mind 100% on what you are doing. This will reduce information overload and stop rumination. Plus, it takes little time, which is why I always recommend these types of exercises in my corporate meditation classes.
5: Mind Clearing Meditation
You already know that you can clear your mind with meditation. But how does it work?
Essentially, there are three big reasons why meditation is a mind-clearer.
1: Because we focus on one thing during meditation, we massively reduce the volume of information entering the mind
2: We stop interacting with our thoughts, which gives them a chance to settle
3: By labeling our thoughts and feelings, we become less reactive to them (more on this in just a moment).
Although I teach many different techniques in my private meditation sessions, by far the best method for clearing your mind is Vipassana.
6: More ways to clear your mind:
- Wear comfortable headphones to reduce noise
- Turn off all tech (TV, phone, laptop etc.)
- If possible, create a special little spot where you can sit quietly to meditate
- Tell other people in your house that you will be meditating for 20 mins and that you’d appreciate it if they didn’t disturb you
- Set lights to a peaceful level of brightness (not glaringly bright but not too dark either)
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison