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  • We're being watched!

    Extract from the current ezine of Maya Talisman Frost


    "Clear Mind, Empty Head?: A Leak In "Mind Like Water"
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    There's a lot of talk in meditation circles about emptying the mind. This is a roadblock for many people. Why? Because it's counterintuitive.
    After all, we spend most of our waking hours filling up our minds. We go to school, we get trained, we read, we learn, we absorb information from all around us. Then someone comes along and tells us that the best thing we can do is EMPTY our mind? Why would we want to do that?

    Empty isn't a good thing in most cases. Empty wallet? Empty gas tank? Empty bank account? Empty restaurant? These aren't conditions we find satisfying. Mention your feelings of "emptiness" to your doctor and you may end up with a prescription for Prozac. Would you take it as a compliment if someone referred to you as "empty-headed"? Not likely.

    We seek fullness in our bellies, our hearts and our lives. Going for empty goes against the grain.

    We've already got plenty of reasons to avoid meditation. It seems difficult, uncomfortable, or just plain boring to a lot of newcomers. We don't need any semantic obstacles. Hearing that little voice saying, "Your mind is not empty--you're lousy at this!" only adds to the clutter that muddies our spirit, fogs our intention, and paralyzes our progress.

    We must relinquish this expectation that we are supposed to attain this state of emptiness--complete non-thinking--in order to have a good meditation session. Staying attached to this ideal is likely to provide just one more nudge in the never-mind direction.

    David Allen is a productivity trainer and consultant who is the author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. He offers some tips for dealing with the clutter that crowds our minds so that we can free up space for greater creativity.

    Like Jim Ballard in his book called Mind Like Water: Keeping Your Balance In A Chaotic World, Allen uses the martial arts term to describe the process of preparing our mind for appropriate responses to demands. Having a "mind like water" refers to one's ability to react and reflect in a balanced way. If you drop a stone in a still pond, the ripples will appear in a direct, appropriate response to the force and mass of that stone. Nothing more, nothing less. As the ripples dissipate, the pond returns to stillness.

    That's a great way to look at how our minds respond when we feel relaxed and stress-free. We don't snap at our kids or get cranky with our co-workers. We get our tasks completed in a way that is efficient and without unnecessary action, emotion, or distraction. We have a point to which we return continually as we go through our day. There is no overreaction or failure to respond.

    Still. Ripple. Still.

    The only leak in this "mind like water" discussion is that Allen sticks with the tried-and-true "empty mind" terminology. That's too bad. It would have been a perfect opportunity to switch to clear!

    When the "empty mind" concept becomes a barrier, slip into "clear mind" instead. After all, a pond is not empty. It is clear. Plenty of water. Rocks and mud at the bottom. Fish swimming here and there. If the water is clear, you can see it all and the finest details become magnified as they pop into view.

    The important aspect is our ability to see whatever we need to see. What happens when you toss a stone into an empty pond? Not much. It makes a thud on the muddy bottom. Sure, you can see it. But what's the point?

    Your mind will continue to have thoughts. Don't expect to avoid them. Drop the idea that you can remain "thoughtless" and embrace the value of seeing those thoughts clearly.

    You've spent years filling your head. Mindfulness gives you the clarity to see what's going on in there without having to dump the contents first. By releasing the notion of emptiness, you can step into the power of clarity.

    Empty mind? Clear mind? Choose the image that works for you.

    I'll cast my vote for clear. "

    Let's get out the Samurai swords and settle this like men!

    Dave

  • #2
    Samurai swords? Yikes!

    Hi Dave and friends,

    Gee, thanks for including my entire article on this site. As for the samurai swords, since I'm not a man I will demurely abstain from phallic weapons.

    Seriously, I absolutely love Getting Things Done or wouldn't have bothered to mention it in my column. If you read closely, you'll see that the only point I disagree with (in the whole book!) is the use of "empty". I just think that it doesn't work for a lot of people, and I'm all for whatever works. That's the only "leak" in the whole book, so I'd say that's pretty powerful praise.

    By giving the option of using "clear" instead of empty, I'm giving permission to plenty of folks who find the concept of non-thinking unattainable or even destructive. Removing that barrier allows more people to approach your work and mindfulness in general with a more positive frame of reference.

    That's all. I'm a fan. Thanks for your wonderful work!

    Warmly,

    Maya
    ******
    Maya Talisman Frost
    mind masseuse
    maya@mindmasseuse.com
    www.Mindmasseuse.com
    www.MassageYourMind.com
    Portland, Oregon, USA

    Comment


    • #3
      I have to admit Maya, I do like the term Clear Mind. I posted a related question on the “Motivation” thread, and Scott Lewis put up some excellent posts in response, which really put me on the right track. (It’s funny how often you can read about a concept and not grasp it).

      The mind state in question can be very difficulty to explain – some people can just throw up their hands in frustration and say “you’ll know it when you get there”.

      For me, it’s a case of looking at it from as many angles a possible, usually by way of a range of metaphors, until it finally clicks.

      Clear mind matches the points Scott makes. I had misread the Zen approach for years, mistakenly believing that we had to somehow get the mind out of the way, whereas all the time the objective was calm and focus: bit tricky being a knowledge worker without using the mind!

      (Okay guys, you can put the swords away now!)

      Dave

      Comment


      • #4
        Fantastic statement

        Hi 'Dave',

        I really like your point of view.

        I think I'm going to see a psychologist, because of David Allen's reference to an empty head.

        Write EVERYTHING down?

        Really??

        Your right - it's pretty ludicrous.

        That's why my inboxes are so big/full of stuff (that should really be in my brain).

        David does justify it by saying that you should only think as much as you need to think - but what does that mean, to the none meditating, reactionary stressed-up, out of their head Western worker?

        Thankfully, my psychologist has recommended mindfullness therapy.

        Yesterday, I listened to one guy who did a talk at Google.

        THEN, it dawned on me what was REALLY important.

        I meditated, I listened to my breathing, all kinds of things inside me, and I began noticing, the basic things that were causing me stress.

        I worked through them, I continued to try to bring back my focus on my breathing, I listened to the guy doing that meditation class, and 'dropped in' to my natural self.

        Aha!

        Finally, the problems and injustices of the world, I could live with, finally, I thought, if I did this on a regular basis, I can know what is REALLY important for me to capture/what's really eroding my sanity/health, and know really, what needs to be done.

        There's a lot of injustice in the world, for example, at the moment, in my view.

        The depressive reality, is that I cannot change it.

        Not, at least, until I get into a better financial situation etc.

        Anyway, thanks for your post, I'm about 2 days into my mindfulness 'stuff', which I really didn't 'get' before.

        Clear head - not empty.

        Nice.



        Originally posted by Busydave View Post
        Extract from the current ezine of Maya Talisman Frost


        "Clear Mind, Empty Head?: A Leak In "Mind Like Water"
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        There's a lot of talk in meditation circles about emptying the mind. This is a roadblock for many people. Why? Because it's counterintuitive.
        After all, we spend most of our waking hours filling up our minds. We go to school, we get trained, we read, we learn, we absorb information from all around us. Then someone comes along and tells us that the best thing we can do is EMPTY our mind? Why would we want to do that?

        Empty isn't a good thing in most cases. Empty wallet? Empty gas tank? Empty bank account? Empty restaurant? These aren't conditions we find satisfying. Mention your feelings of "emptiness" to your doctor and you may end up with a prescription for Prozac. Would you take it as a compliment if someone referred to you as "empty-headed"? Not likely.

        We seek fullness in our bellies, our hearts and our lives. Going for empty goes against the grain.

        We've already got plenty of reasons to avoid meditation. It seems difficult, uncomfortable, or just plain boring to a lot of newcomers. We don't need any semantic obstacles. Hearing that little voice saying, "Your mind is not empty--you're lousy at this!" only adds to the clutter that muddies our spirit, fogs our intention, and paralyzes our progress.

        We must relinquish this expectation that we are supposed to attain this state of emptiness--complete non-thinking--in order to have a good meditation session. Staying attached to this ideal is likely to provide just one more nudge in the never-mind direction.

        David Allen is a productivity trainer and consultant who is the author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. He offers some tips for dealing with the clutter that crowds our minds so that we can free up space for greater creativity.

        Like Jim Ballard in his book called Mind Like Water: Keeping Your Balance In A Chaotic World, Allen uses the martial arts term to describe the process of preparing our mind for appropriate responses to demands. Having a "mind like water" refers to one's ability to react and reflect in a balanced way. If you drop a stone in a still pond, the ripples will appear in a direct, appropriate response to the force and mass of that stone. Nothing more, nothing less. As the ripples dissipate, the pond returns to stillness.

        That's a great way to look at how our minds respond when we feel relaxed and stress-free. We don't snap at our kids or get cranky with our co-workers. We get our tasks completed in a way that is efficient and without unnecessary action, emotion, or distraction. We have a point to which we return continually as we go through our day. There is no overreaction or failure to respond.

        Still. Ripple. Still.

        The only leak in this "mind like water" discussion is that Allen sticks with the tried-and-true "empty mind" terminology. That's too bad. It would have been a perfect opportunity to switch to clear!

        When the "empty mind" concept becomes a barrier, slip into "clear mind" instead. After all, a pond is not empty. It is clear. Plenty of water. Rocks and mud at the bottom. Fish swimming here and there. If the water is clear, you can see it all and the finest details become magnified as they pop into view.

        The important aspect is our ability to see whatever we need to see. What happens when you toss a stone into an empty pond? Not much. It makes a thud on the muddy bottom. Sure, you can see it. But what's the point?

        Your mind will continue to have thoughts. Don't expect to avoid them. Drop the idea that you can remain "thoughtless" and embrace the value of seeing those thoughts clearly.

        You've spent years filling your head. Mindfulness gives you the clarity to see what's going on in there without having to dump the contents first. By releasing the notion of emptiness, you can step into the power of clarity.

        Empty mind? Clear mind? Choose the image that works for you.

        I'll cast my vote for clear. "

        Let's get out the Samurai swords and settle this like men!

        Dave

        Comment


        • #5
          I have enjoyed reading about GTD at the same time as mindfulness.

          This came as an accident to me. I had a bit of spare time after my last contract and was catching up around the house. I picked up an old Richard Carlson book and started reading that and it lead me to the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh on mindfulness.

          I also decided it was a good time to switch to a Mac and through the various podcasts came across Merlin Mann and then GTD. So I started reading that.

          Then I noticed that I was reading about the same topic from two different angles.
          Last edited by pxt; 04-08-2011, 01:05 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Excellent!

            Thanks for the very insightful comments (Dave and subsequent reply by mimusician). The mind-like-water philosophy is so perfect and natural, exactly the way our minds are intended to be --clear mind... Love your differentiation of empty and clear minds.

            I have been meditating for a few years, and have noticed (not through my own wisdom,of course, but through reading and practice) that "clear mind" is more what we are trying to accomplish by meditating, not necessarily an "empty mind."

            ... Ok enough philosophy, now back to work!

            Gabe

            Comment


            • #7
              Clear mind is the way to go. not an empty mind.

              But David is meant to say getting all the horizontal things out of your mind to make room for vertical things.

              But since experience is something more horizontal than vertical (actually, your brain is far more complex than just a horizontal and vertical modeling) , and tells the difference between you and me. you really shouldn't get rid of that. If all the ponds are empty,
              world would be less colorful. and everyone is the same, like a machine.

              Comment

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