A Simple Guide to Empty Your Mind
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~Bruce Lee
Many of us think that our mind is designed to host a constant stream of thoughts and there is nothing we can do about it. The mind is in charge and we just follow. The buzzing can’t stop and we can’t make it stop. This is not true.
Your mind is a tool that you can control—if you choose to. It can be an asset that allows you to experience wonderful things. It can also be a source of pain and misery if you let it fixate on negative thoughts such as fear and all its manifestations.
An untamed mind lives on feeding the same thoughts and generating the same experiences. A typical cycle is something like this.
You may ask, what’s wrong with this cycle. There is nothing wrong with it if you’re feeling good and experiencing what brings you joy.
However, if you’re reacting based on negative thoughts and limiting beliefs, you won’t have control and you will negatively react most of the time.
The mind tends to dwell more on the negative than positive.
Break the cycle
To empty your mind is to release what’s taking precious space in your mind and heart that’s not serving you.
Once you process what’s on your mind, you gain perspective. You act, when needed, from clarity and truth. You no longer feed the loop.
An empty mind is:
- Aware—embracing the present moment and experience
- Peaceful—it doesn’t dwell on the same thoughts
- Intuitive—it’s receptive of input from higher sources
- Free—from judgment and worry
- Creative—allowing inspiration and new ideas to come in
- Relaxed—it releases stress and fosters wellbeing
- Energized—no effort is wasted on unwanted thoughts
3 Simple ways to empty your mind
You can take these actions any time you need to break the cycle of constant thinking and worrying.
Meditation is the best way to calm your overactive mind. It’s simple and requires only a couple of things—stillness and your willingness to do it.
How to do it—find a quiet place, at your home, office or even in the car (parked please). Set a timer for 10 to 20 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend more than 20 minutes and if you’re a beginner start with a shorter interval.
Sit upright, on the floor or a chair, close your eyes and start focusing on your breath. Take a few breaths and follow your breath. Think of a few things that you’re thankful for and name them in your mind, then smile. As you continue to smile, follow your breath; inhale and exhale. When your time is up, stop and get on with your day.
Challenges—your mind will resist in the beginning and will get bored. It will attempt to repeat the same thoughts that feed its compulsion. Notice them as they come along and let them be. The moment you notice a thought, it will go on its merry way.
You will be tempted to keep checking the time. If you feel the urge, do it but not more than a few times. If you can, remind yourself to trust the timer.
Your mind will wander and you will lose focus on your breath. That’s normal. Awareness comes in waves. Just ride it as long as you can, then catch the next one.
If you have a hard time focusing on your breath, start counting with each breath. When you lose count start from one again. I’ve found it helps to count in your mother tongue instead of English. Not sure why :)
Variations—you can repeat a mantra to yourself, if you prefer. Pick a mantra that resonates with you. Some examples to inspire you:
- I cherish myself, I cherish all beings (loving kindness mediation)
- I choose to trust, I let go
- I’m sorry. I love you (to self and others).
What to expect—as noted above, you will have challenges, accept them as part of the process. Smile as much as you can. By the end of your time you will feel calmer and more at peace. You can handle your day and what comes. You’re open to new thoughts and experiences.
As you get more used to meditating, you can explore all sorts of techniques and mantras. What you say is not as important as actually doing it. If you’re just beginning, keep it as simple as possible until it becomes an established routine.
II. Free writing
This is my favorite choice when my mind is buzzing and I don’t know what to do with the overload of thoughts. Free writing is practically ranting on paper (or a computer screen) until there is nothing more to say.
What you need—if you’re using paper, use something cheap since you will get rid of it after you’re done.
If you want to type on your computer, use a text editor or word processor but make sure to disable spell check. You don’t want the distraction of those squiggly red lines.
How to do it—start writing/typing about how you feel at this moment. Then let it all out. You can swear and curse to your heart’s content. It’s your time to empty your mind and you’re allowed to say whatever you feel like.
Don’t pay attention to spelling or grammar. You’re talking on paper and you can’t take it back.
Keep going until there is nothing more for you to say. If you get an insight and feel you just uncovered something profound, write a word representing the new idea a few times.
For example, the other day as I was typing how I felt, one of the things that transpired from feeling judgmental of others was to observe the things I’m judging and remember that they have nothing to do with me; they just came to my attention. So I typed the word observe a few times and continued with how I felt after.
Don’t stop to highlight what’s important. You will remember it when you’re done if it’s important to you.
When you’re done, take a deep breath and then shred your papers or delete what you just typed. Smile.
Challenges—your mind will play tricks to get you to analyze and justify. Just keep going in your writing and remind yourself that you are taking it out and don’t need to explain anything.
If you haven’t done this process before, it may take you longer than you’ve anticipated. Go with it for as long as you can. If you have to stop, have the intention to continue later. Do it as soon as you can. An intention is a promise to self, don’t ignore it or it will add to your mental noise. Like anything else, it gets easier with practice.
What to expect—you will definitely feel lighter. You just took a big load off your mind. You may get an insight or an action you need to take. Make sure to put such findings in writing (journal or to do list).
III. Physical movement
Moving the body is a great way to shake up and release stuck energy. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do—as long as you do it with the intention of releasing what’s on your mind.
If you like doing cardio, walk, run, ride a bike or dance. If you prefer to do yoga or Pilates, by all means. The deep breathing and stretching will ease your tension.
Talk to yourself as you exercise. Boost your self-esteem and visualize all the unwanted thoughts leaving when you exhale.
With exercise, you release negativity and energize your mind, body and soul.
Which activity to choose
The choice is yours as long as you take action.
My personal recommendation is: if you haven’t done any of those before, start with free writing. I find it the most effective tool if there is stuff piling in your head.
Everything gets better with regular maintenance
You can do a variation of the above on a daily basis to keep your mind clear and tidy.
Do it daily and it will give you more clarity and peace than you ever imagined. It is a great way to relax and keep things in perspective.
Reflect on your experiences and thoughts. If you feel you still have things on your mind, do some free writing so you can go to bed with nothing to think about.
Write about things that you’re grateful for. Try to come up with at least three things you’re grateful for every day. Gratitude is your compass—always pointing to the truth.
You can use a paper journal or a word processor. If you prefer to do it online, check out Wordpress, Blogger (by Google), or Live Journal (simple to use but has lots of ads). All of them are free and offer an option for complete privacy. Another good choice is Penzu (the free version has limitations).
I recommend that you keep your journal private. This way your words are a true reflection of your thoughts and feelings. You won’t worry about anyone else reading.
Exercise and relaxation
Your mind and body are connected—as you move, you release thoughts and improve, or at least, maintain your health.
Add relaxation—a soak in the tub, yoga, a nap or anything else that you enjoy, to your days and you will think and feel better.
Your diet affects your mind as much as your body. If you can, consume less alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar and harder to digest foods. Eat the best quality foods you can and pay attention to how your energy level changes.
When you empty your mind, you unlearn and let go of the thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back. You open up to higher knowledge and wisdom that come from the source of all that is—love.