Emptiness: the Full Story

How do you know when you have too much on your mind and have to empty it out? This is not quite the right question. Meditation isn’t about emptying the mind—that’s about as impossible to do as emptying out the ocean with a thimble. Rather, make willing allies with the mind and its myriad thoughts. Delete some, clear out the inbox, or redirect sticky thoughts down a more productive path. Ask the most tricky, sticky, icky thoughts if they’d like to sit on a shelf for a while (maybe forever). Sing them into a song or tape, or cook with them as company.

If you want to lead a full life, a life of fulfillment, fill the mind with the good calories of positive thoughts. Start to do this in meditation. Then, throughout the day, notice when negative thoughts come up, and how you can more easily handle them. Put another way, what better way to catch thoughts “coming up,” then in the quiet, non-distracting place of meditation? And if your mind (in or out of meditation) is clear of unwelcome thoughts, then skip to the end of this post.

Thoughts can be deeply entrenched and hard to uproot, but in the practice of meditation, we get to choose which thoughts we “want,” and which we want to let go of (or redirect). A mantra, or sacred sound vibration, is an example of a “wanted thought.” So are prayers and blessings. Make yourself a deal. For every negative thought, mentally repeat two positives. For every complaint, two complements. You may not be emptying your mind of thoughts, but you will be cultivating fulfillment and filling your mind with greatness.

What great thought can I fill my mind with right now?