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Friday, January 11, 2019

An Empty Mind

An empty mind

The first step towards rethinking your mind is to have an empty mind in order to help you better understand your mind.

There was the well-known story of a professor visiting a Zen master to get more information about Zen, an ancient Asian philosophy. The Zen master kept pouring tea into the overflowing teacup held by the professor, who kept on talking. The moral of the story is that you must have an empty mind first before you can receive new ideas. Having an empty mind is surrendering your mind to be transformed in order that you may think differently—a prerequisite for rethinking your mind.

Lao Tzu, the ancient sage from China, who was the author of the famous ancient classic Tao Te Ching (Book of the Way), said that having an empty mind holds the key to  attaining human wisdom.

“Letting go is emptying the mundane,
to be filled with heavenly grace.
Blessed is he who has an empty mind.
He will be filled with knowledge and wisdom from the Creator.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9)

Once you have an empty mind, you can rethink your thoughts and revalidate them. Remember, the thoughts and memories coming from your subconscious mind are simply the unconsciousness that controls and directs your conscious mind. They are no more than memories of your past experiences, the data and information acquired from the media, the Internet and elsewhere; they represent neither truths nor realities, and you must take some of them with second thoughts, if not with a grain of salt.

Lao Tzu also stressed the importance of developing a reverse mindset in an empty mind:

To rethink your mind is to avoid any pre-conditioned thinking. For example, we are living in a culture that says if you feel good, just do it, and a culture that says surrender is weakness because you are entitled to everything in life.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Bill Gates

Recently, a psychologist even said that it is okay to brag to enhance self-confidence, which is much needed in teenage girls in order to shine or outshine others, in this competitive world. Reverse thinking is emptying your mind of such pre-conditioned thinking, and seeing things differently, if not in their opposites.

“We are all desirous of making the right choices,
fearful of making the wrong ones.
We all pursue what others say is good,
avoiding what they say is bad.
We all follow the popular wisdom of judgment and preference,
instead of the wisdom of the Creator,
requiring us to be undesirous and unperturbed, just like a newborn.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 20) 

An empty mind enables you to see things as they are, and not as people say they are. More importantly, it lets you let go of everything in this mundane world.

“An empty mind with no craving and no expectation helps us let go.
Being in the world and not of the world, we attain heavenly grace.
With heavenly grace, we become pure and selfless.
And everything settles into its own perfect place.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3)

Presence of mind

Reverse thinking requires acute awareness, which is presence of mind, to be able to discern the truths from the half-truths or myths; it is more than just thinking out of the box; it is creating your own box of thinking. There is no better way to cultivate this awareness than the moment-to-moment presence of the mind. The human mind is often a compulsive mind in that it continually alternates its thinking between the past and the future, but seldom stays in the present moment. 

Do you have a compulsive mind?

You do if you talk on your cell phone while walking, or, worse, driving your car. You do if you watch television while eating your dinner. You have a compulsive mind when your mind is not focusing on what you are doing at the present moment. A compulsive mind is too preoccupied with thinking past thoughts and projecting them into the future as desires and expectations. A compulsive mind is not focusing on the present moment, and therefore is not attentive to the present surrounding with its details. Without acute attention, there is no awareness; without awareness, there is no deep perception, and hence no profound wisdom, which is deep understanding of the nature of things.

A quiet mind

Without a quiet mind, there is no presence of mind. Meditation holds the key to not only quieting the mind with its rambling and compulsive thoughts, but also enabling the mind to look closely at its thoughts and objectively validate their veracity. Meditation makes you become wiser because only a calm and clear mind can let you see things not only in their true perspectives but also as they really are. Remember, your memories do not create your realities, but your mind does, using your memories as raw materials to create the illusion or self-delusion of your realities—the composites of your ego-self.

Therefore, to facilitate the process of rethinking your mind, practice meditation to enhance your mental faculty and perception.

Meditation is an ancient practice of quieting the mind. Sitting erect in a quiet place with a relaxed body, simply close your eyes and wait for the next thought to come. Surprisingly, it may not come right away, if your body and mind are relaxed. When a thought ultimately comes, let it go and focus on your breaths by gently breathing in and breathing out. If the same thought or another one comes to your mind, dismiss it gently by re-focusing your mind on your breathing again. As you continue to repeat the process, you will soon find that your thoughts do not come so frequently in a quiet mind. Meditation is an effortless practice to calm and clear your mind for better and clearer thinking through your deliberate and sustained mindfulness.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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