Empty mind meditation is the practice of clearing your mind of thought. You are simply allowing thought to happen and observing it. The aim is to be able to observe your thoughts without reacting towards them. The result of empty mind meditation will not only bring serenity into your life that you haven’t noticed before but also a sense of calmness during the chaos. A friend of mine once said, “Being calm is a superpower.”
Have you been confused about how exactly to empty your mind during meditation? How to do this consistently? Or how to do this at all? It is normal as a beginning meditation student to be confused about how to empty your mind, or even how to observe your thoughts. As an advanced student, you may be confused by the terminology or also interested in more advanced practices of the empty mind such as vipassana or anapanasanti that derive from the Eightfold Path of Buddha Gautama.
Empty mind meditation can be interpreted the same as other meditation terminologies or practices that are happening today. These words can include mindfulness, vipassana, or anapanasanti to name a few terms that are thrown around today. Honestly, the terms “empty mind meditation” and “mindfulness meditation” are the same. The practice of vipassana is understood as focusing on the body and the sensations that are there. And then pulling insight from this experience.
This can then be interpreted as mindfulness, or empty mind because mindfulness is literally what you are doing. And being aware of this. That is all!
Anapanasanti, on the other hand, is simply the awareness of breath. Or being ‘mindful’ of your breath. Focusing on the inhale and the exhale. Then repeat.
Sometimes the breath is relaxed and regular. Sometimes you are forcefully pulling your breath in soooo much in one deep breath and then exhaling sharply in short successive breaths, to perform what is known as the Dragon’s Breath.
So please. Do not get lost in the tautology of meditation terms. I will teach you the terms and the importance of each as we progress.
Empty Your Mind
It is easy to ask “How do I empty my mind?” Well, the short answer is practice. It will take some time to become adept in your empty mind meditation. As you begin in meditation your mind will inevitably want to wander. Often. This is completely normal and there is no need to be frustrated at your mind for behaving this way.
What we are attempting to do is to tame your mind, not remove it. You do this by calmly observing each thought that passes through your mind without reacting to them. You can do this by calmly breathing in and out, slowly. Focus on your breath. Only.
When you catch your mind wandering, gently remind yourself to return your attention to your breath. It is good to focus on the area below the nostrils and above the upper lip. This is like the practice you would find when starting in Vipassana, although Vipassana is more the continuation of empty mind meditation.
Breaking It Down
Sometimes receiving all the information at once can feel like a barrage of information. You can always reference our Beginner’s Meditation Handbook and return to it throughout the evolution of your practice. This will give you tips on proper sitting posture and ways to remain consistent in your meditation. It also works you through the same basic breathing techniques all in one handy spot!
Here I will break down empty mind meditation by each step:
- Sit comfortably and allow your eyes to close
- Place your hands in your lap with your palms facing up
- Focus on your breath and the feeling it has on the area below your nostrils and above your upper lip
- When you catch your mind wandering gently remind yourself to return your attention to the area below your nostrils and above your upper lip
- Repeat this process – remember you are working on developing your focus and concentration
- When you are done with your meditation you may wish to raise your palms together at your heart center into namaskar mudra and bow your forehead to the ground, giving thanks for your practice
- Allow your eyes to open gently and return to your space
It is good to spend about 20 minutes here each day. If you can spend more time in this space, this would be better.
You may also follow along with this guided empty mind meditation This guide is designed to help you meditate right before bed:
As you progress with empty mind meditation each day you will begin to notice subtle differences in the way you are. If you don’t notice them immediately, do not worry…they are there.
Think of it as if you had a friend and this friend had hair that was down to her shoulders. Each week, this friend of yours cuts off 1 cm of her hair until she is bald. How long would it take you to notice that her hair was shorter? Would you notice? Perhaps, perhaps not. But the change is certainly there.
So! Do not be discouraged. Maintain determination, vigilance, and consistency. Consistency has always been my #1 problem in all areas of my life. I have learned that to maintain practice consistently, for me, it is 100% more effective to own a good meditation cushion.
This is because you can place the cushion into a specific space you use for meditation and the existence of the cushion will subtly remind you to meditate. You can also check out our guide to useful meditation gear if you want to dive into fully designing your personal meditation space.
Once you have mastered consistently meditating each day then you will begin to start experiencing exponential progress. This is an exciting place to be! Let me show you things that will take you a little deeper.
The ancient Buddha, Siddartha Gautama, was said to bring about the practice of Vipassana to achieve enlightenment, according to the Vedas. The Vedas are ancient scripts, written in the old Indian language Sanskrit, that depicts a multitude of different meditations, yoga postures, mantras, and your chakras.
The Buddha Gautama believed Vipassana meditation was the key to achieving enlightenment. According to Indian culture and current Vipassana Master Teacher (S.N Goenka), the Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi tree for 6 years.
The quote of the Buddha goes like this (paraphrased): “I will sit here until I achieve enlightenment. I do not care if my bones fall from my body and turn to dust. I will sit here until I achieve enlightenment.”
How POWERFUL. To sit and achieve a state of existence that is so beyond us. So far beyond we have no words to speak it or emotions to feel it. Something different. Something more. I feel this must be the purpose of meditation and why great humans chase relentlessly after the unknown.
We want to know. It envelops us, consumes us. This thirst for knowledge. We must know. And I passionately believe that the path of meditation that we are walking is taking us there.
Once we have achieved knowledge, what is next? We teach. You see this in many great people of time from all walks of life. They take something and become a master in this area and then feel the need to share and teach this with the world.
The Buddha Gautama developed the Dharma Wheel or Dharmachakra as a sort of guideline in guiding students towards the path of enlightenment. The wheel is essentially designed with 8 spokes that represent the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is focused around 3 main elements of a student: moral conduct (Sila), mental discipline (Samadhi), and wisdom (Panna).
Breaking Down the Eightfold Path
Each part of the Eightfold Path breaks down into 8 categories that fall under each of the 3 main elements of a Buddhist student. These are broken down like this:
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
- Right Thought
- Right Understanding
The term “right” is defined here as the “proper” way of doing things. Of course, the proper way of doing things can differ from person to person and this is all part of the journey. For example; someone may be a farmer for a living – providing food for their community. A good way to live. The “right livelihood”.
However, this farmer may be using large commercial equipment to till and ruin the earth to create his food and turn a larger profit. This could be deemed as an improper way to live depending on who you are and what you believe in.
It is a journey, for sure, to learn what is truly right and what is truly wrong. These are the steps that have been taken, that you are learning now, in order to learn and embody the proper way to live.
So! Now that your mind is filled with all sorts of useful and wonderful information on how to practice empty mind meditation…let’s practice! Start today! Right now even! Allow yourself to simply forget and let go of all the rampaging thoughts bouncing around your mind.
Remember! If you are finding it hard to stay consistent with your meditation I would say it’s almost mandatory to obtain a meditation cushion. It will change the essence of your practice entirely especially if you are experiencing pain during meditation.
That’s it for now! Be happy and meditate well, my friends.