Meditation to Clear Your Mind
Annellen & Alex Simpkins Ph.D.s
Unified in spirit, what cannot be accomplished?
--Tesshu, Japanese swordsman
One of the most fundamental meditative abilities is to keep the mind clear. Anyone who has taken on challenges knows that a clear undistracted mind can make the difference between success and failure. Zen Buddhism teaches people to develop a clear mind through meditation. They call this experience, when attention is not hindered by distracting thoughts and mind is one with action, the buddha mind.
One of the great Zen masters from China, Huang-po (d850), helped his students to experience the true nature of the Buddha mind: absolute emptiness. Huang-po explained, Develop a mind which rests on nothing whatever (Blofeld 1994, 153). He urged his students, Mind is filled with radiant clarity, so cast away the darkness of your old concepts. Rid yourselves of everything He described this clarity of mind, which he called enlightenment:
"A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding will you awake to the truth of Zen.
You can learn to develop a clear, open mind that will allow you to get more out of everything you do, including your Tae Kwon Do. Thinking has an important place in human life, as it always has and always will. But excessive thinking can interfere at times. Most people have experienced this when thought get in the way of a good workout. When you take some time to clear away unnecessary thought, you experience a pleasant calmness and a clarity of perspective. Learning how to develop meditative skills begins with the wish to do it and a little practice. If you are new to meditation experiment with the warm-up exercises to get a sudden experience of mental quiet. Experienced meditators can move on to the Meditation exercises.
With all the mental chattering from often inconsequential thoughts, many people find it difficult to simply stop thinking them. We often experience things most vividly when there are differences. This exercise can get you started by giving you an automatic reaction of calm by contrast.
Turn on the television to an annoying channel. Watch and listen with the volume turned up. Close your eyes and listen. Permit your reaction. You may substitute another experience of the same class. An alternative would be to listen to a radio station that plays music you do not like. After several minutes have passed, get up and turn it off. Notice the immediate contrast of silence and relief. Allow this experience to spread, as your mind becomes calm and clear.
The following exercises will teach you how to let go of excess thinking to discover an inner calm. Find a time and place where you will be uninterrupted for the period that you plan to meditate. The exact time, place, and clothing are not important as long as you are comfortable and will not be distracted by them. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and breath normally. Try to be as relaxed as is natural for you.
Think of a vast blankness. You could picture a blackboard covered with scribbles, and erase the chalky scribbles away. You might prefer to think of whiteness or blackness, perhaps an infinite sky. Use any image that seems like nothingness to you. Think about this and only this. Picture it as vividly as you can. Sustain it for one minute if you are new at meditation. Gradually increase the time to ten minutes, adding a minute as you are able. Be sensitive to your own timing. Some people like to meditate for a longer time, while others get great benefit from as little as a few minutes a day. Find your rhythms.
In this exercise you will use visualization to help give you an experience of calm, clear mind. Lie down on your back with knees up and feet flat on the floor. Let your arms rest by your side, palms up. Close your eyes. Picture a vista of grassy hills, rolling as far as you can see. The clear blue sky meets the green hillside. All is quiet, still. In fact, it is so quiet that you can almost hear your own heart beat. Your muscles relax a bit, without effort. The colors are soothing; the breeze is soft. As you look at this peaceful scene, your thoughts slow--leaving an experience of calm and stillness. Do not do anything except to enjoy the scene.
Classic Zazen for Clearing the Mind
Zen Buddhists have practiced a form of clearing the mind meditation for centuries. Japanese Zen master Dogen believed that zazen, as he called this meditative exercise, was the best way to find enlightenment.
Here are the classical instructions that have been given for centuries. Today this form of meditation continues to be a well-traveled path for calm and insight.
Zazen: Meditation II
Zazen is best performed in a quiet room that is not too hot or too cold nor too light or too dark. You should not have eaten or drunk too much prior to beginning. Clothing should be loose but neat.
Set a thick pillow on the floor and then add a second, smaller one on top. Sit down on the pillows and cross your legs. Let your thumbs touch in the center as your hands rest in your lap. Keep your body straight, without leaning to one side or the other. Your mouth should be gently closed and your eyes may be slightly opened. Let your breathing become calm and steady. Do not focus your gaze on anything in particular.
Begin by simply sitting and not thinking about anything in particular. If a thought or wish arises, bring it to consciousness, notice the wish or thought as it is. Do not evaluate it. Simply observe that it is. Then allow it to leave. In doing this you will begin to become aware of both your thinking and your not thinking. Eventually you will find a no-mindedness that is neither thinking nor not thinking.
Dogen wrote: If you practice in this way for a long time, you will forget all attachments and concentration will come naturally. That is the art of zazen. (Dumoulin 1990, 76)
Meditative calmness, once experienced and made your own, can be practiced anytime, anywhere. Consider any situation an opportunity to practice, to extend calmness deliberately throughout your life.