How To Clear Your Mind


How do you clear your mind? You have to do it before you can begin to write. You can only think about one thing at one time, and so you can’t think about the laundry, or your mother’s operation, or how much you weigh, or the new deck if you want to write your book. But how do you actually clear those thoughts away to make room for your story? Where’s the broom and where’s the dustbin?

In my experience, if I’m not reading something or watching something or listening to something or talking to someone, if I’m laying down for sleep or taking a walk or sitting down to write – that is, if my mind isn’t busy with what’s going on around me, then what’s been on my mind quickly surfaces. Maybe it’s something about my career, or a relationship, or some argument I started but never finished. Whatever it is, it shows up and asks for my attention. The impulse to give it my attention is quite strong. In fact, at times it seems irresistible. If I give it my attention, I’ll be off and running wherever it will take me, and I like the feeling of running with a thought, even if I don’t always like where that thought is going.

This is where what you would call discipline comes in. If I want to write, I can’t give those thoughts any of my attention. I notice them – as they’re right in front of me – but I don’t feed them my curiosity, I don’t ask where they want to go. Instead, I wait, and the thought that was so bright and needy the moment before quickly fades and is gone. Sometimes another takes its place and I have to repeat the process. It’s rare I have more than one or two things on my mind. Usually, after the second thought dims, I’m ready to write, ready to ask myself what I actually want to think about.

That’s how I do it. I’ve been doing it so long I didn’t even realize I was doing it, let alone how I was doing it, until a student asked me about clearing your mind at a recent workshop. I didn’t think I could teach that, and I said as much. But last night as I was laying down for sleep, I saw her again asking me this same question. She was on my mind. I decided to follow that thought, that question. I can do that deliberately too. I followed it until I understood how I cleared my mind, and then there were no more thoughts to clear, and so I fell asleep.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.