It is often said by many meditation practitioners that to focus on stopping thoughts from going in and out. This often becomes a huge source of frustration for many. I think I could say with great confidence that most of us have what is called a “monkey mind” in which thoughts are going all over the place which makes it almost impossible to stop that momentum or to get caught up in thought. I’m actually going to talk about the empty mind and clear up some misunderstanding when it comes to this by talking about a few points,
- What does it mean to have an empty mind
- Getting into the feeling of emptiness
- How to empty your mind
What does it mean to have an empty mind
This is what I’m talking about. When we typically think about this subject we automatically think of something which nothing is going on content-wise. However this is a misunderstanding, as there is always going to be “something” going on. Empty doesn’t actually mean nothing like the common term leads us to believe so the striving to silence the mind is not necessary. It’s that thoughts are grasped onto (or clung to) that seems to be the roadblock.
they are taken to be inherently existent or separate from everything else. That they stand alone. Which is false.
By seeing that empty just means that thoughts are actually empty of content, or of essence is enough. They do not stand alone separate or objectively from everything else. Thoughts are completely dependent on other processes taking place. When this is seen that they are depend on other things, and when those dependent variables are pulled away, there is empty or conventional existence.
Getting into the feeling of emptiness
And this is how we ease into the empty mind. We see that the story that the thoughts bring up really have no weight to them. They depend on other thoughts, and sensations for their existence.
Now you start to see that thoughts don’t have to disappear at all, they can be there but are no longer a problem, because of their conventional existence. This also leaves open the opportunity for the mind to reach into stillness (or silence). And again there is nothing wrong with this either. It should be easier to focus on just seeing thought and letting it go rather than having the idea that, “I should be subduing thought.”
Subduing thought is not a motion of emptying, it is an effort at controlling or clinging, and will only bring resistance anyway.
The less fight there is, the more this receptiveness turns into equanimity which is the feeling of well being. This feeling of emptiness is something that is very beneficial to meditation and can even be practiced in everyday life with thoughts just in general. Focusing on breath can also be a form of this practice.
How to empty your mind
So again this might be a recap but I can just put in some typical bullet points on what this typically looks like in my sitting meditation.
- Focusing on the in and out breath
- Thought floats in where it can be experienced
- I then evaluate it and see how thought stands separate and independent of everything else.
- I actually see how it does not and depends on other process’
- Seeing thought is dependent and without those things, it is now empty
- Thought no longer have their potency and now focus back on breath and how gentle it is.
And then heart typically recognizes this as an opportunity to open. This makes for a healthy mind.
As a final not, I will say that emptiness is not the same as stillness but one could lead to the other. Emptiness often leads to a state of stillness as a by-product depending on how deep the insight is operating at in you.