“I just can’t empty my mind—the harder I try, the busier it gets!”
This is a common concern for people beginning to practice mindfulness. They think that when they sit down to meditate, they should be able to wipe the slate of their mind clean, and thus become relaxed and calm. They imagine not having a care, or thought, in the world, floating away in a peaceful sea of tranquility.
The good news is that this isn’t how mindfulness works. Instead of working to empty oneself out of thoughts, emotions and sensations, we do just the opposite. We practice being with whatever is present in each moment; the angry thought, the joy, the sore shoulder, the sound around us. We learn to open up to it, to experience it as fully as we can at that moment, all the while letting go of the reactions to whatever is happening.
It is in this direct experience of the moments of our lives that we free ourselves of suffering. We learn that it is our constant rehashing of the past, our habitual imaginings about the future, that keeps our minds spinning and keeps us depressed, anxious or unhealthy. When we are truly present, although there may be strong sensations or emotions, our relationship to them is transformed. We can be calm and focused in the midst of the storm, knowing that it will pass, with or without our interference.
When we pay attention in this way, we find that there is a lot more that is right with ourselves than is wrong. We discover that we are responsible for much more of what happens in our lives than we previously believed, and can take back our own power to be happy and healthy.
It seems counter-intuitive. Regularly open yourself up to the craziness in your mind and allow yourself to see and feel beyond it. You don’t have to do anything, just be with it and see what happens. It’s as simple as that.
If you are seeking professional mental health counseling services, please contact Linda Oxford at (248) 930-0004 or send an e-mail .