If one word could answer the question, how to clear your mind, it will be Flow.
When was the last time your mind happily obeyed your orders?
Unlike your body that listens to you every time you ask it to sit, walk or run, the mind usually rebels when told to focus on any thing.
Tell your mind to hold only one thought and see for how long it complies.
Two seconds? Maybe five? How soon did it gallop away to chase another thought?
Our mind is clearly out of control.
It doesn't inflict grievous harm, but it does its fair share of emotional damage. Like the pathetic attempts of a drunkard at regaining balance, the mind lurches for support from one thought to another, but never really uses any of them.
It allows a constant barrage of involuntary thoughts, feelings and emotions to overwhelm it, which prevent it from finding a solid footing. And we too, as reluctant passengers, get taken for a rough ride on the mind's super turbulent surf.
We seem powerless at breaking the chain of thoughts, which only serves to accentuate the stress and anxiety of our daily lives.
One way to still the mind and stop the incessant stream of thoughts is by experiencing Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Harper and Row, 1990).
How to clear your mind with the help of a hobby
Flow is defined as a state of consciousness so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity. Activities involving risk, or some amount of danger, like mountaineering, result in the experience of flow more easily.
But, it can also be experienced while tending to plants in your garden or playing your favorite sport or through meditation.
All of us experience flow from time to time: you typically feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of your abilities. Lose your sense of time and emotional problems seem to disappear, and there is an exhilarating feeling of transcendence upon completing the activity you were involved in.
If you choose an external activity to experience flow, then set yourself a challenge - a task that is neither too difficult nor too simple for your abilities. The pursuit of the goal will bring order to your awareness because you will have to concentrate attention on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else.
This order in awareness gives you control over what happens in your consciousness moment to moment and gives you a sense of mastery, a sense of participation in determining the content of life.
This is the stuff happiness is made of. Clearing your mind and ordering the contents of your consciousness leads to inner harmony and optimal experience.
Meditation, on the other hand, leads you to directly confront the source of your thoughts. Where do they come from? How do they arise and fall?
When you sit down to meditate, you get to reflect upon and become aware of what goes on inside. Becoming a witness to your own thoughts, feelings and emotions is profoundly liberating.
Because for the first time in your life, you realize you are not your mind. You are not the jumbled stream of endless sensations crossing through your mind at any moment. You are much more than that. Something far bigger and beyond.
How to clear your mind through meditation
Start with basic meditations like breath-counting meditation and alternate nostril breathing.
Focusing on the breath brings attention to the present moment, to the Now, and centering yourself in the present is the first step toward clearing your mind of distractions, worries and fantasies.
This is how you do breath-counting meditation:
Active participation in a 'challenging' hobby or a regular meditation practice can help you clear your mind of needless clutter and experience your ever-present innate happiness.
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