Clearing the Mind Meditation

It is mind that deludes Mind,
For there is no other mind.
O Mind, do not let yourself
Be misled by mind.
Shunryu Suzuki
One of the great traditions in meditation is clearing the mind. This skill has many indirect, positive effects. Normally, the mind jumps from one set of associations to another. The Buddhists had a name for this common condition: monkey mind. Clear thinking is lost in a sea of many associated thoughts rushing around. Once you learn how to empty your mind, you will be able to think more clearly. With the mind-chatter from the minor concerns of daily life cleared away, you become less scattered, more single-minded and self-directed. Solutions to problems are easier to recognize without extraneous thoughts to distract you. You can respond to situations in a more mature manner.

The untrained person experiences thoughts as occurring automatically, beyond control. Psychology and meditation teach that the contents of your mind can be influenced, just as readily as a sculptor can shape a piece of raw wood into an object of beauty. The interaction of the artist's inner vision with the qualities and capacities of the wood makes this possible. Attention and concentration, applied meditatively, are your tools for refining control of your unconscious mind.

Meditation 1: Focus the Mind
Sit comfortably in a place where you will be left undisturbed for the time you devote to this meditation. Find your comfortable sitting position as described in "Getting Ready."

Close your eyes. Focus all your attention on one color, your favorite color, or perhaps white or black. Picture the color. Can you see your color? If not, think of an object that is this color, for example, a blue sky. Keep all your attention focused on your color.

If any thoughts or feelings intrude, or if your thoughts wander, gently return your attention to the color you have chosen as soon as you can. When you feel ready, open your eyes.

Practice this meditation several times a day at several different sittings. Once you can keep your mind focused for thirty seconds, increase the meditation length to one minute, then two minutes, then up to as long as you like. Some people like to meditate twice a day, for fifteen minutes morning and evening. Find your own rhythms.

Meditation 2: Beyond Thought
In this meditation you will work with your thoughts to reduce the mental chatter, until it stops. Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes as you did when focusing on a color or focusing on breathing. If a thought pops into your consciousness, notice it, think about it for a moment if you must, then let it go. Return to your focused attention: poised and observant. When the next thought comes along, do what you did before: notice the thought, think about it briefly, but disengage from it and return to your concentration as soon as you can. Your task is to stay focused. You can think of your mind as a vast river and your thoughts as small leaves or branches floating along. With time and practice, you will be able to watch from the banks of the river and allow the leaves and branches of your thoughts to simply float past, with little notice except to observe that they do move past. Eventually the stream of consciousness clears, and no new thoughts occur. Remain in meditation with a still mind until you feel ready to stop.

Meditation 3: To Clear the Mind
Once you have succeeded at focusing your attention on one thing for several minutes and following your mind to stillness, you are ready to sustain clearing the mind. Let your mind empty of all thought. This means think of nothing, a vast empty space, a void, or complete darkness. Begin with thirty seconds and increase the time as you did when focusing the mind. Regular practice, daily if possible for a few minutes at a time will get you started on a process. In time you will find this meditative state quite natural and effortless.

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