I sat down many times this month, trying to write some words of wisdom or creative musings for the Unnata Yoga blog, but each time I faced a blank page, nothing arose. My husband quipped, “Sounds very yogic.” Perhaps. But also not very helpful when trying to produce an article of inspiration!
Was my empty mind a sign of extreme contentment? Or was it simply a lack of motivation?
A Zen proverb states you must “empty your cup in order to be filled.” If your mind is already full of knowledge, you won’t be receptive to learning. This isn’t to say you can only learn if you have no knowledge at all. It’s about your attitude toward learning. If you believe you already understand all there is to know on a topic, you won’t listen or be receptive to additional lessons. The lessons will have “no room to live” in your mind.
These days we’ve seen the damage caused by living too much in our own echo chambers, without the checks and balances of opposing viewpoints. For an uncomfortably large number of people, conspiracy theories have spun their thoughts way out of control, sometimes inciting people to violent acts over imaginary reasons. The mind fabricated beliefs but didn’t fully investigate their validity.
When only certain ideas and thoughts are constantly reinforced and magnified in our minds, we can become obsessed by only a few blips in our brain. Many forms of meditation are aimed at slowing down and even stopping the thoughts that flit around in the mind so a more objective part of ourselves can see the thought patterns as an outsider would. Once we “see” our thoughts in action, we are better able to question thoughts that had previously been hidden from our conscious mind. In this way, meditation can help us break free of mental habits and traps, and find mental balance again.
Of course, meditation does take practice. And many forms of meditation use either the repetition of a single word or phrase, or concentration on a single image or sound to focus the mind. If we’re alone all the time, will our attempts to meditate help us clear the mind, or accidentally feed the mind’s tendency toward obsession, pushing us deeper into disconnection from a shared reality?
This is why it can be helpful to have a knowledgeable, trustworthy meditation guide to help you discern when you are succeeding on the path, and when you are accidentally walking down a dead end street. Traditional meditation techniques are best learned person-to-person (as opposed to through books and videos), not only because someone who is farther along the path can help guide you, but a second mind can serve as “checks and balances” to your mind.
What about my own blank mind? Perhaps it is neither a sign of yogic contentment, nor a lack of motivation. Maybe my mind just emptied the contents of its cup. And now I’m ready to learn new lessons.
About the Author
Michelle Dortignac, founder of Unnata® Aerial Yoga, is an E-RYT 500 certified Yoga instructor of close to 25 years, while during a large portion of those years also being a professional aerial acrobatics performer. Her most influential Yoga teachers include Dharma Mittra, Alan Finger, Cyndi Lee and Susan Braham.