by Ryan Glidden | October 29, 2017 5:21 pm
It’s not uncommon to hear the term mindfulness mentioned during discussions on yoga. But it is also not uncommon to hear the concept of clearing our mind of thoughts. So which is it? Is our mind supposed to be full or clear? The answer is both!
Our mind is constantly inundated with thoughts. It is the nature of the mind to change from one thought to another, and in many ways, it is a defining characteristic. If the mind is what occupies it then if it were empty of thoughts, would it exist?
Take a minute and reflect even on the last minute of reading the above two paragraphs. Were you able to be completely present with what you were reading or did you start to think about your experiences and knowledge with the subject of mindfulness, yoga maybe even meditation? I call these the thoughts we didn’t think. They just come in, and in another instant, they are replaced with a different thought.
People can have up to 60,000 thoughts a day with some research showing that up to 80 percent of those thoughts are negative. Imagine for a moment someone standing beside you all day constantly saying negative statements in your ear. It would drive you crazy, wouldn’t it? It would at least create an emotional response. Well, truth is, most of us do. Only the voice is inside.
You can see why the idea of clearing our minds is an appealing one. If we could just have a moment to think . . . haha. Well, the yogis of the past looked at things a little differently. Clearing the mind by systematically removing one of those 60,000 thoughts at a time didn’t make sense. Instead, the practice became to teach the mind to hold its focus on just one thing and attempt to keep it there without distraction. The author of the yoga sutras defines yoga as the ability to restrain the fluctuations of the mind.
Think about the room you’re sitting in right now. It is probably full of objects (if it’s not a yoga studio.) There might be a computer, chairs, books, tables, lamps, etc. It would be a lot of work to clear the room by taking all of the objects out of it. Instead, pick one object and focus all of your attention on that object. When you do this two things happen. One the room might as well be empty of everything else because your mind is not processing its existence. Two, you start to understand the object your focusing on better. You might notice shadows and light, color variations, or details you had never seen before. You also might imagine its function or history. If you were to be able to keep your focus long enough on that same object, something else would happen. The object and the observer (you) would not seem so separate. The restraining of the mind would, in a way start to merge the mind with the object. If you could restrain the mind even longer, you would have what the yogis refer to as meditation. In meditation, a more profound, more “true” comprehension of the object is known.
When we practice mindfulness we are practicing filling the mind with a single object without distraction. When we do, the mind clears of all other thoughts. When the thoughts clear, a deeper understanding of the object is known. Now, close your eyes, take a few slow deep breaths and allow yourself to be the object of your attention. You will be amazed at what you will find.
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