Life Saving Philosophy

How mental vigor and newfound clarity can change how we view the world and our place in it

Downsizing the Furniture in Your Mind

Empty the mind of clutter and create a mind full

We’re getting closer to spring cleaning time, so let’s begin the process with some mental housekeeping.

Living in a noisy world, our minds are jammed with stuff—carryovers from old hurts, harmful assumptions, unexamined convictions, newsfeeds and half-stories, guilt about the past and anxiety about the future—and we need to pack up all the unnecessary junk and toss it out. The beauty of this downsizing is the creation of a now-open mind that is full of space for clear thinking and calm breaths.

Here are two of many approaches for mind-cleansing, put to good use by my harried students, readers, and me. In combination these tactics work powerfully:

1) Be still. Gaze with concentration at nature, whether a cherry blossom or an arching tree—either sitting inside and looking outward, or comfortably leaning back outside for a close-up of tree or blossom. Stay with it, devoting time to stillness. Let aggravation pass when your focus wavers. Go easy on you. The longer you stay your concentration on the branch or the petal, the more easily the clutter disappears. Let it go—it wasn’t important. The regret, the fear, the resentment were heavy burdens, spreading throughout your mind, taking up much-too-much space. Whew. What color, that blossom. What intricacy, that leaf. Promise yourself this still time every day. Confusion is no match for stillness. Count on it. Use stillness.

                

Photo courtesy of Andrew Yackira

2) Be vigilant. Stand guard, refusing the delivery of big furniture items that will only get bigger: anger, idle fantasies, self-absorption, arrogant posturing, blame. Catch yourself when you begin to accumulate stuff yet again, and vow to keep your mind open and free. Choose the clear mind emptied of old baggage and watch yourself. Gossip, malice, self-righteousness, aggression—say No.

Thinking about and actually writing this short piece brought some welcome empty space my way. We all know what it’s like to try to move around in a crowded room. We bump into things and trip—we forget what we're looking for and become agitated. Our minds are no different. They require space for clarity to weave its way through and settle in.

Here's to making room. Spring is on its way.

 

 

Marietta McCarty is the author of Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy With Kids and How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most.

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