You want to clear you mind. You take a walk, work in in the garden, run an errand. You do some simple, relatively “automatic” task that doesn’t require your mind to do anything in particular. But is this really clearing your mind?
Suppose you had a hard day at work. You come, pour yourself a glass of wine, sit out on the patio and just be. No pressing responsibilities, no fires to put out. Maybe you take these quiet moments and allow your mind to settle, to slow down, to let go. But probably you do some version of the opposite. Most likely, what you’re actually doing is a lot of thinking. Finally you have a second to think! So you think. And you think. You’re not cleaning out your mental closet. You’re stuffing more and more stuff in there. Thinking, planning, problem solving–these are necessary life skills, but they don’t lead to a clear mind.
Your mind only “clears” when it becomes aware of itself. When you want to unwind, try directing most of your attention to your breathing. You don’t need to change it, control it, or label it in any way. Just watch it. Simply experience all the little nuances that go into breathing. The rise and fall of your chest, the movement of your stomach, the feel of air as flows in and out above your upper lip. This is being in your body, so your mind can take a break. Only the mind doesn’t go quietly. It will tug you this way and that, suggest you solve this problem, or that problem, or . . . Recognize the distraction, and return your attention to the sensation of breathing. And in time, very gradually, your mind begins to clear.
A clear mind is like an empty glass. It’s useful, flexible. You can always pour water into an empty glass. But a glass that’s already full? Add more water, add more anything, and you’ve got an overflow of “ideas,” a mess to clean up.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.