There’s a lot of talk in meditation circles about
emptying the mind. This is a roadblock for many people.
Why? Because it’s counterintuitive.

After all, we spend most of our waking hours filling up
our minds. We go to school, we get trained, we read, we
learn, we absorb information from all around us. Then
someone comes along and tells us that the best thing we
can do is EMPTY our mind? Why would we want to do that?

Empty isn’t a good thing in most cases. Empty wallet?
Empty gas tank? Empty bank account? Empty restaurant?
These aren’t conditions we find satisfying. Mention
your feelings of “emptiness” to your doctor and you may
end up with a prescription for Prozac. Would you take
it as a compliment if someone referred to you as
“empty-headed”? Not likely.

We seek fullness in our bellies, our hearts and our
lives. Going for empty goes against the grain.

We’ve already got plenty of reasons to avoid
meditation. It seems difficult, uncomfortable, or just
plain boring to a lot of newcomers. We don’t need any
semantic obstacles. Hearing that little voice saying,
“Your mind is not empty–you’re lousy at this!” only
adds to the clutter that muddies our spirit, fogs our
intention, and paralyzes our progress.

We must relinquish this expectation that we are
supposed to attain this state of emptiness–complete
non-thinking–in order to have a good meditation
session. Staying attached to this ideal is likely to
provide just one more nudge in the never-mind

David Allen is a productivity trainer and consultant
who is the author of Getting Things Done: The Art of
Stress-Free Productivity. He offers valuable tips for
dealing with the clutter that crowds our minds so that
we can free up space for greater creativity.

Like Jim Ballard in his book called Mind Like Water:
Keeping Your Balance In A Chaotic World, Allen uses the
martial arts term to describe the process of preparing
our mind for appropriate responses to demands. Having a
“mind like water” refers to one’s ability to react and
reflect in a balanced way. If you drop a stone in a
still pond, the ripples will appear in a direct,
appropriate response to the force and mass of that
stone. Nothing more, nothing less. As the ripples
dissipate, the pond returns to stillness.

That’s a great way to look at how our minds respond
when we feel relaxed and stress-free. We don’t snap at
our kids or get cranky with our co-workers. We get our
tasks completed in a way that is efficient and without
unnecessary action, emotion, or distraction. We have a
point to which we return continually as we go through
our day. There is no overreaction or failure to

Still. Ripple. Still.

The only leak in this “mind like water” discussion is
that Allen sticks with the tried-and-true “empty mind”
terminology. That’s too bad. It would have been a
perfect opportunity to switch to clear!

When the “empty mind” concept becomes a barrier, slip
into “clear mind” instead. After all, a pond is not
empty. It is clear. Plenty of water. Rocks and mud at
the bottom. Fish swimming here and there. If the water
is clear, you can see it all and the finest details
become magnified as they pop into view.

The important aspect is our ability to see whatever we
need to see. What happens when you toss a stone into an
empty pond? Not much. It makes a thud on the muddy
bottom. Sure, you can see it. But what’s the point?

Your mind will continue to have thoughts. Don’t expect
to avoid them. Drop the idea that you can remain
“thoughtless” and embrace the value of seeing those
thoughts clearly.

You’ve spent years filling your head. Mindfulness gives
you the clarity to see what’s going on in there without
having to dump the contents first. By releasing the
notion of emptiness, you can step into the power of

Empty mind? Clear mind? Choose the image that works for

I’ll cast my vote for clear.

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse. Her work has
inspired thinkers in over 90 countries. To subscribe
to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage,