Wisdom of the Empty Mind

Submitted by Trinity on Tue, 05/15/2012 - 08:12

Stilling the busy mind from incessant chatter creates breathing space for the soul to flood in. When the soul floods in, we catalyse our spiritual evolution. The wisdom of Higher Consciousness can then flow through to inspire our every waking moment.

Stilling the mind (or not)
Have you ever tried to still the mind? The conversation we have with ourselves might go something like this...

    “Right! Relax, let go, think no thoughts”...

    “I can do this”

    “Think of nothing”

    “Hmmm, bit of a whirlwind of activity in here”

    “Dinner tonight” “what are the kids doing” “green tomatoes” “pink polka dots”

    "What on earth am I thinking about green tomatoes for?”

    “Oh no, I am thinking” “stop thinking about green tomatoes!”

    “green tomatoes, green tomatoes, green tomatoes”

    “Seriously? Is that the best I can do? Chill out!”

    ..... silence
    ..... silence

    “Oh wow, that’s cool. I am not thinking”

    “Blast, now I just thought that I wasn’t thinking!” “Ok, don’t think”

    “So how am I about that situation tomorrow anyway?’

    “Stop thinking about tomorrow!”

    “Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!”

    “SHUT UP! Right, no thoughts”

    “Ah, I am letting go now. This is cool, I am not thinking about that appointment I have tomorrow”

    “Oh man! I just thought tomorrow again”

    “There is no tomorrow”

    “Yes there is!”

    “So what happened to those green tomatoes anyway?”

Trying not to think

I imagine that there are many more colourful internal dialogues than that one going on, although I am sure you get the drift. Trying not to think, with the same mind that created the thoughts in the first place, by nature, doesn’t usually work! Normally it just gives more energy to process of thought and leads to incessant chatter, frustration and thoughts that we didn’t even know we had in the first place.

Our ability to still the mind is one of the many challenging obstacles to evolving spiritually. If you are struggling to still the mind then, a really helpful key is to stop trying. Trying creates a state of effort and inner tightness which does anything but still the mind! It is more likely to send it into over drive.

Non-denial and acceptance

Instead go right into the heart of the experience of processing thoughts and think of something - whatever arises... This might sound like quite a bizarre suggestion as if I am saying the opposite of intentionally stopping thinking. Well, I am saying that, well kind of. It works on the principle of non-denial, acceptance and true surrender. It assumes that the stillness of the mind is a natural state, already there, which arises from being (i.e. allowing) rather than doing (i.e. trying).

How to still the mind

  • First of all, find a quiet spot if you can (or a London tube station at rush hour will equally do).
  • Closing your eyes might help. Open eyes can work equally well after a little practice.
  • Allow thoughts and distractions to happen. Watch them floating in and out, grating, irritating, frustrating, joyful, whatever they want to do. Just keep watching without getting drawn into any drama.
  • Breath deeply. If you find your self absorbing into the thoughts, focus on your breath whilst allowing the thoughts to arise. Don’t judge yourself for having a thought. The thought is not the problem.
  • Have you ever noticed the space around the thought?
  • Notice the emptiness around the thoughts.
  • Observe that the thought is independent of you, like a floating bubble in the sky of your mind.
  • Begin to notice how small the thought is compared to the vastness of space around it.
  • Attune to the space around the thought.

An empty mind

When we are no longer grasping at thoughts, they begin to pass through us and we find ourselves able to attune to the space between them. It may then be said that we have an 'empty mind' - the place through which true unveiled wisdom can flow.

There is an old Zen story that you might have heard of. It goes like this...

    A student visits the master and accepts the offer of a cup of tea.

    The master begins to pour the tea into the student's cup.
    When the tea reaches the rim, the master continues to pour, and the tea overflows and spills.

    "It's overflowing! You can't get anymore in!!!" exclaimed the bemused student.

    The master showed the student that he must embrace learning with room enough for new things to flow in. If he comes full of thoughts, ideas and beliefs there will be no room for more learning. The student must therefore always come with an empty mind to learn of new things."

Here's to an empty cup and the wisdom from your empty mind!

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Great article Trinity. Had me smiling :lol:

Ah yes, the 'empty mind', it takes a life time of practice...

I also had a good laugh :-)
whoever has not had these dialogues inside, most likely has not yet tried meditating...

The problem is that there is a confusion about the still mind... (which you express as 'don't try'). I think it is the Nr One reason why people give up meditation right from the start: they think they can't, it's not for them, because there is so much clutter.

Actually it is a very healthy way for the mind to pour out all the rubbish at the beginning of a sitting. I noticed, in me there is a tendency for the negative sh..t to come out first, then I go into positive mind and start to think about ALL the fantastic projects I could do, and then only after comes some neutrality...

But as you also suggest, the story for me is much more about positioning my Self into a witness perspective rather than (pretending to) suppress the incessant flow of my thoughts.
Mind you, as far as I know we are only aware of a minuscule percentage of what is going on anyway subconsciously... some say the mind produces over a thousand thought patterns a minute... well, I don't know but it sounds about right :-D

But the funny thing is when we start watching this flow of thoughts from this detached perspective, the waves calm down, because it is the emotional attachement that fuels them. Slowly, there appear some spaces in between and there comes the kind of state when I hear the 'murmur' of a thought in the background. It is like I am aware the 'show' is still on, but I don't anymore hear the actual words and meaning...

And then when the stage comes when I can feel a thought wants to arise, before arising (it is almost like a rose bud wanting to pop open), and I just watch 'is it going to surface at all, or is it falling back into the depths of my mind?' It is a very very faint feeling of a thought wanting to express itself, but it is not quite there.

These are quite distinct stages for me before meditation really gets going.

Yes, it is liberating for starter meditators to realise that stilling the mind, as Chris says it too, takes a lifetime...
so there is no point being too hard on ourselves, and it is okay just to enjoy the show - and not be caught up in our own mental dramas...

Thanks for the article, good beginning for a rainy Budapest Tuesday :-)
love to all,

All great points Reka :wink:

Yes I think one of the key misconceptions that stops people meditating is the idea that the mind needs to be still, with no thought, and if that's not happening then something is going wrong or "we can't do it".

Just as soon as we stop for a moment and connect with higher consciousness, the light floods in and the flotsam is flushed out. So we tend to experience this 'flushing out' which in fact is positive.

A lot of the time I still experience thought, it's just that now, I also experience the mind as a blank canvas upon which the thought is painted. So I know the blank canvas as mind and don't get attached to the thought.

So for me, it's more stillness within the flow of thought (and emotion).


yes, this is another great way of expressing it. thanks.

it is not that easy actually to talk about these states where the 'verbality' of the mind is not prominent anymore...
that's when 'the poet' needs to come out from all of us :-)

So funny and true :)

It is such a relief not to be dependent on whether I have a thoughts attack or not. To me the fact that I need to do something special to calm the mind means that I am identified with it, dependent on it and enslaved by it. Only that now I am being trapped inversely and not directly.

It is just a question what I am identifying with and whether I am being 'mindful' and aware about what is going on or in a state of a dreamy floating. And there are so many things going on except having thoughts, so why focusing on that?

I am in da boat: being aware, but not giving it too much energy, not identifying, seeing the wide 'picture', and then there is always a huge empty space, silent and peaceful. A background of everlasting rest...

I still sense something in how you write though Yulia.

I still pick up in the 'non-efforting' a touch of something that is kind of resisting the unfolding too.

So in the Openhand Approach, there is a thoroughly authentic aspect of the soul that yearns for growth, harmony, evolution and with that ever greater clarity.

Often there's a temptation - especially in the non-dualistic camp - to insist that there is nothing outside of ourselves (which is only true in an absolute sense) and therefore there is nothing to do, nowhere to go. But of course that just creates a subtle identity which is denying and dissolving (because life has been created by relativity and therefore has a flow).

So what I'm really saying is that it is a natural aspiration of the soul for direction, purpose and growth. Aligning with this will bring an ever increasingly clear mind. And there are things that we can 'do' to facilitate that - the key is only to do those things that bring us into increasing alignment.

That's why we've contemplated and observed as deeply as we could the effect of introducing openway into our facilitation. In effect it is a program, like other self development techniques. And mostly programs - like mantras - take us away from the free flowing soul (leading to Enlightenment).

Which means that for an evolutionary approach to be truly effective, to my mind it must be a self dissolving 'program' that increasingly aligns people with their own authenticity. I believe that's what openway does. It's about accepting and surrendering into the natural evolutionary flow.


That is really weird you sense it, because I have a tendency to over-process, over-judge and over-focus on the 'false' stuff, as you know.

So for me these experiences of balance between the spikes of awareness where I know there is something to look at and the periods of just being in peace with the stuff I feel without the need to process it RIGHT NOW is a rather new thing (to be able to obtain on my own) and makes me really happy and joyous, as if I finally get it!! And there is a sense of rightness in it that doesn't even demand proving it to anybody, including myself.

It is like in the physical world: when we need to go to the loo, we rarely do it right on the spot and have to find the right time and place to do it and also sometimes to wait patiently... On the other hand, over-holding and over-waiting just make the tension accumulating and we can cause some damage on the way. So it is about the sensitivity when and how. And in the moments of waiting - these are the moments of peace with that there is.

I have a feeling that you might be a bit subjective about what I've written here? (possibly?) Maybe because I don't add the whole package of what I am going through, but only one aspect of the process?

In addition, even if it would be so, it might be that a person should learn also the non-dualistic approach (whatever it is) in order to have the tools necessary for his evolution, for those who are too shifted towards the dual perception, let's say.

I know one great 'magician' here in Israel. I have now remembered how years ago he told me that people often go to extremes in order to experience both and then gradually find their way to the middle line, to balance, out of these two extremes.

Maybe there is no need to hurry and say that 'this or that' approach doesn't fit your approach, because you definitely incorporate part of it and many other different approaches that might not work perfectly separately, but do work when blended with other techniques.

It is like adding both bitter and sweet tastes to the dish in order to accomplish one balanced taste... Something like that :)

So in this world, in the market of the tools for the spiritual evolution we have sometimes products sold separately, so each one of us can blend it in the way that would serve him best, or sometimes in ready mixes with a great recipe that works for somebody or many customers...
I somehow have the trust that those who want, will feel out what they need right now to progress. It doesn't necessarily fit my own way.

I see it all around and I am working on not confining myself to communicate only with those, whose way is similar to mine and learn something from them all.

Yes it's possible Yulia that my feelings were influenced by where you were rather than where you are. If so, I apologise <3

My slight concern was to provide balance to those reading who might be wavering about embarking on the path or continuing to follow it. I feel a strong sense of commitment and passion towards encouragement forwards. As you know, that's what Openhand is all about.

Open :wink:

This is what is so great about discussions and not being afraid to say things openly. I don't believe in doing/saying/knowing it all right. I do believe that by being honest with ourselves what we feel and where we're at and then not being afraid to express that, we can create positive loops.

So, please, don't apologise. On the contrary, thank you. I surely learned from your comment and my own reply and feel now very uplifted :D