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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

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Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Do Transcendental Meditation (Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Do Transcendental Meditation (Step-by-Step Guide)

Maybe you already know how to meditate but do you know how to do transcendental meditation?

Meditation was first developed in India many years ago (around 5000-3500 BCE). It took quite some time to become popular in the western world, but today it is celebrated as a therapeutic tool to ease stress, anxiety,[1] depression,[2] and addictions.[3] In the past years, it has also become recognized to improve mental performance, and it consequently became a multi-billion dollar business.

When we think about meditation, we usually think about what’s called “mindfulness meditation,” but there are seven different kinds of meditation that are being practiced all over the world:

  1. Loving-kindness meditation
  2. Body scan or progressive relaxation
  3. Mindfulness meditation
  4. Breath awareness meditation
  5. Kundalini yoga
  6. Zen meditation
  7. Transcendental meditation

Over the past decade, Transcendental Meditation® (aka TM® or T.M. Meditation®) has become extremely popular, scoring a staggering 5 million followers that practice it every day. You may have heard about the benefits of T.M. and wondered what it was all about.

T.M. is a type of mantra meditation that has been introduced to the Western world in 1950 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.[4] He taught the practice all over the world for 40 years to spread its movement, touching anyone from politicians to The Beatles.

Today, many celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Degeneres, and Howard Stern publicly stated that T.M. changed their lives.[5] The popular movie director David Lynch even created a foundation to help spread transcendental meditation around the world.

These big names certainly contributed to the success of this practice (together with the large body of studies proving its benefits),[6] but the main reason for the popularity of T.M. is its simplicity.

If you’ve tried to meditate in the past, but you couldn’t stick to it long enough to experience its benefits, keep reading.

In this article, I will highlight the main differences between mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation, and why some people like one type better than the other. I will explain how the T.M. organization teaches it to their students, and I will also give you a step-by-step guide on how to do T.M. on your own.

Transcendental Meditation vs Mindfulness Meditation

To understand why T.M. is unique, we need to take a step back and examine how mindfulness meditation work. All the other types of meditation use a similar mechanism to the mindfulness one except for T.M, so I’m going to describe only the difference between those two types for the sake of simplicity.

Mindfulness, in current popular culture, encourages the cultivation of nonjudgmental, moment-to-moment awareness both during the practice and in everyday life.

We all experience a multitude of thoughts that distract us from what’s in front of our eyes. Maybe we’re thinking about our to-do list, or simply hearing the sound of a song brings back an old memory; in any case, we tend to spend more time in our heads than in the present moment.

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With mindfulness meditation, by repeatedly returning our conscious awareness to the present moment (for example focusing on the breath, body parts or an object) we are able to observe our anxious or depressive thought patterns.

In simple words, this means noticing your thoughts and learning to let go of them by shifting the mental focus from that thought to something like the movement of your breath.

The act of actively observing thoughts without judgment, and the effort of letting go of those thoughts by focusing on the body, acts as a sort of brain-training exercise. The more successfully we do that (both during our meditation and in normal life), the more we empower ourselves to make conscious choices rather than being mindlessly controlled by our negative thoughts.

To better understand this concept, you can imagine your mind being like an Ocean. On the surface, you have waves of any height and shape, but deep down, there is nothing but complete calm and stillness. Your thoughts are the waves.

In normal life, you would swim around the waves of your mind, trying to face them head-on. Sometimes you can climb them and swim through, sometimes you feel overwhelmed by their power and end up drowning or feeling beaten up by their strength.

Mindfulness meditation is like having a surfboard that allows you to ride those waves effortlessly. The more you practice, the better you get at surfing, and the easier it becomes to manage your thoughts.

Sometimes, while going through this process, people may eventually get to a state of complete mental stillness. This state is “the second state of meditation” or transcendence.

Note that the goal of mindfulness meditation is not to reach this state. Instead, its goal is to actively train your mind in letting go of thoughts and develop the ability to make mindful choices in everyday life.

I have personally practiced thousands of hours of mindfulness meditation and taught it to many of my clients with fantastic results. What I’ve noticed though, is that some people are simply not able to stick to it and enjoy its brain training process.

Usually, these people have a very active and buzzing mind, and not being able to “shut their thoughts” with the mindfulness technique drives them crazy. For those people, transcendental meditation works magic because of its totally different method.

How Is Transcendental Meditation Different?

Coming back to the example of your mind being like an ocean, imagine having a submarine instead of a surfboard. T.M., just like a submarine, can safely take you to the deepest depths of your mind, where it’s calm and peaceful.

Now that I’ve got you curious, let’s explore how transcendental meditation work. If the goal of mindfulness is to train the brain in conscious awareness, the goal of T.M. is to go beyond the thinking process. If done properly, this can be a simple, automatic continuation of the flow of mindfulness meditation. The vehicle T.M. uses to reach this state is the mantra. (I’ll explain in depth how it works later.)

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If we come back to the example of the ocean, now that we have our submarine (the mantra), we are able to slowly reach the depths of the ocean, where there’s nothing but calm and stillness.

In there, there is a state of restful awareness, where you can tap into the source of energy, thoughts, and creativity (also called collective unconscious by Carl Jung).[7]

When we get to these depths, we experience a profound state of rest and let go of even the deepest stresses.

The beneficial effects of T.M. happen spontaneously (not consciously) when you are able to reach the state of transcendence.[8] Those who regularly practice T.M. report an increase in mindfulness and a very deep relief in stress.

T.M. teachers emphasize the fact that the mind has a natural tendency of going into this tranquil state. Unfortunately, the mind also has a tendency to always look for what’s interesting around us. This is why, with mindfulness meditation, having its focus on actively observing thoughts, it is harder to lean on this tendency of the brain to settle into deep tranquility.

The question now is: “how do I get to this state of transcendence?” The answer is way simpler than you may think:

By chanting a mantra.

What Doing T.M. Looks Like

Before we get into what exactly a mantra is and how it works, I want you to get an idea of what a standard transcendental meditation practice looks like.

All that is required to practice T.M. is to sit and have your eyes closed; that’s it. You don’t need any particular pose or posture. Surely being alone, in a quiet room with a comfortable chair, will help facilitate the process but once you get a grip of it, you could do it anywhere, even while sitting at your desk or in a bus.

All you need to do is to keep your eyes closed and silently chant your mantra.

The general advice is to chant for 20 minutes, twice a day. This is partly due to the natural clock of our body (circadian rhythm) but also to the fact that the more you get into the habit of blocking time to meditate, the more likely you are to make it a habit.

Despite this advice, there are no set-in-stone rules on how often and how long you should do your T.M. session. Everyone is different and has a different schedule, so whatever fits in your diary should be your choice.

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Now, let’s get down to business and let’s talk mantras.

What Is a Mantra?

A mantra is nothing but a meaningless sound. There is no real secret behind the mantra except for the fact that it should have no meaning, and it should “sound positive.”

People tend to get too caught up in what type of mantra is right for them. I have interviewed several seasoned T.M. teachers, and they all stated that “the more we don’t know about our mantra, the better.”

This goes back to the fact that our mind is always making mental connections. If we try to chant a word that sounds too much like a word that we know the meaning of, we will automatically connect that word to images, sounds, smells, and memories. If we’re chanting a totally meaningless word, it’s easier to lean on the tendency of our mind to get into a tranquil state.

You can imagine a mantra being like a seed. If you want to grow a plant, you won’t look for “the perfect seed.” You would simply pick one, plant it, water it and see it germinate. Getting caught up in “picking the right seed (mantra),” won’t do you any good.

At this point, if you are like me, you would think “OK, but I still need to know what a mantra looks like and sounds like,” and that’s why I’m going to give you a few examples of mantras to chant.

Examples of Personal Mantras

The most common mantra is the Homm. Teachers tend not to use this mantra because of the wholeness of this sound. In Hinduism, the sound Homm reflects the sound of all vibrations combined, both positive and negative. The Homm mantra seems to be mainly practiced by monks, and every teacher I’ve interviewed said that “apart from that, any other mantra can work well.”

Other examples of mantra could be:

  • Kirim
  • Shirim
  • Inga
  • Aema
  • Etc. (no this isn’t a mantra)

Chanting a mantra sounds something like this:

  • Kiiiiiiririmmmm Kiiiiiiririmmmm
  • Shiririiiiim Shiiiiririnnnn
  • Iiiiiingaaaa Iiiiingaaaa
  • Aaaaaenma Aaaaaaaenmaa

You should vary the length and tone of each letter of your mantra while you’re chanting, so that it would be easier to induce this “trance” effect on your mind. Once again, how you do that doesn’t matter. As long as you chant it for the whole length of your session, it should work.

Should You Try Different Mantras?

Most teachers told me that both they and their students have been using the same mantra they’ve been given on their first T.M. sessions for their whole life. Once again, the point of the practice isn’t to find the best possible sound for you but, to develop the habit of melting the stress in your mind by chanting a meaningless sound.

On the flip side, if you’re trying to do T.M. on your own and you notice that the mantra you choose reminds you too much of a real word, go pick another one that is totally meaningless. People that speak several languages may find this a bit harder than people that only speak their mother tongue, but it is still quite easy to find a meaningless sound.

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If you learn T.M. from a teacher, they will choose the mantra for you on your first meeting after you fill a questionnaire. After that, you’ll chant it with them and progress into a personal, silent meditation practice. During the practice, the teacher will give some feedback and let you experience the mechanics of T.M. on the spot. This process is followed by another meeting with the teacher and two group meditations.

Can You Teach Yourself Transcendental Meditation?

The teachers themselves openly state that you can do T.M. on your own. The rules are simple, and all it takes is some practice and being consistent with it.

What a T.M. course gives you (that you can’t get on your own) is the accountability of a teacher and the support of a group of like-minded people.

Most people that pay for a T.M. course are not simply looking to learn a system. They usually look for support in their healing journey to fight stress, insomnia, addictions, or relationship problems.

If you tried mindfulness meditation, and simply want to try T.M. to experience first hand the difference between the two, there is no need to take a course. A very good way to go about could be simply this:

  • Look up on YouTube under “transcendental meditation mantras,” pick one and see how it’s chanted.
  • Play the track and try to chant it as they do it in the video.
  • Stop the track, sit, close your eyes, and silently chant the same mantra for 20 minutes.
  • Repeat this process, twice a day, for a week or so

If you find that T.M. makes you feel better than when you’re doing mindfulness meditation, and you want to learn more about it, you can then decide to invest in it and take the T.M. course.

So, Is T.M. the Right Fit for You?

Nobody can tell if T.M. is better than any other type of meditation. Everything works differently for each individual, and it’s our duty to try and discover new things before judging them.

If you’re into meditation, I highly suggest you try T.M. on your own or with a teacher to broaden your mind. The same goes for the people that are new to meditation, but, in this case, I would recommend starting from mindfulness meditation with an App like Headspace. T.M. can be quite tricky for a beginner without having the proper guidance, and the course itself is quite expensive (from 250 to 1000 dollars or even more depending on your income).

Whatever the type of meditation you decide to try, I encourage you to commit to a minimum of 30 daily practices. Doing this will give you the time to start experiencing some tangible benefits in your day-to-day life.

Learning about your mind is truly a delightful experience. The more you learn about the mechanics of your brain, the more you can experience personal growth and happiness. If you have difficulty meditating, learning how to focus can help you enter a meditative state.

More About Meditation

Featured photo credit: Katie Burkhart via unsplash.com

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