Clearing the Mental Center
popular belief, meditation as usually practiced does not help clear the mental center. Neither does concentration. They might help direct the content of thought, or
even give the impression of stillness of mind. Stagnation
and staleness of the mental process, however, is not the same as the clearing of the
There are other
ways, much more effective, to clear obstructions in the mental center. Working with paradox is one. This is the celebrated method of certain zen
schools, using koans as a way to trip the thought process and make it skip and hop and
dribble. Sometimes, while it takes off the
floor to regain balance, it attains a single micro instant of weightlessness called
satori. Another way of clearing
the mental center is by the smart use of meta-theories, which is just a way of a closed or
semi-closed system of symbols to look at itself and go beyond itself. In the instant in which it goes beyond itself to
try to regroup all symbols into a coherent system, the mind becomes clear. Finally, the mental center can be cleared by
allowing it to play and have fun.
is a gentle method for fine-tuning the mental center to the point
where background noise does not impede the incoming signal you want to tune
into. It is a method that will allow you to reduce the volume of the mental
center and amplify the incoming signal at will. It will not destroy the
thought production, and it won't push anything to the shadow. The next two
exercises complement each other and their practice results in this
Experiment - Fine-tuning and picking up the desired signal.
1- Hang a black or dark purple cloth on the wall at eye level (with you
2- Put a candle in front of it, far enough to avoid a strong glare. The
candle should have it's flame in open air (that is, not covered by glass).
3- Sit 3 to 5 feet away from the candle, facing the cloth.
4- Fix your attention just above the tip of the flame. You will begin to
see rays of light coming from the flame in all directions. If you don't see
anything in less than a minute, slightly change the distance from the candle
until you do.
5- You can now see an "aura" with a couple of layers around the flame. You
will be able to see different colors.
6- Think the word "blue" and repeat it several times. Do you see the color
7- If you do, change colors. Try saying softly the word "green",
This exercise will let you know how much you allow "background mental noise"
to interfere with the signal. A clean signal will be recognized by a clear
and single color around the flame, at your command.
thought process is intrinsically connected to what we call intentionality.
When you intend to stop the flow of thought, you create more thoughts that add to the
flow. In some cases, you see a moment of opportunity, a window of time where the flow has
been stopped. However, more often than not that is just another thought saying hey!
Ive stopped the flow of thoughts. This is an endless and mostly
useless vicious circle. Now, there is for the most part no real utility for stopping
thought. There is a thought that tells us to stop thought, but you dont have to
listen to all thoughts. Look at it this way: there are yogic and shamanic techniques to
stop or slow down the heart beat, but why would you want to do that? It can mess up your
whole system. Same with stopping thought: it can mess up your whole system.
In the following experiment, you will try to hold an after-image in your head. You will
notice how the after-image begins to dissolve and/or mutate as soon as thought begins to
interfere or attention begins to wander. This experiment, if used as a practice, should
help you strengthen the intent and purpose of your mental center.
- Red Triangle
Take an 8x11
piece of black cardboard.
triangle from red cardboard.
Paste the red
triangle in the middle of the black cardboard.
Stare at the
triangle for about 1 minute without blinking.
eyes, look at the after-image of the triangle. Try to place it in your third eye, about an
inch above your eyes in the center of your forehead.
See how long
you can maintain the image without mutating.
- Take a pencil, and draw only four straight lines without lifting the pen from
- There is no trick here. Do not try to cheat by folding the paper, etc. Follow the very simple instruction in line 1.
- Play your Journey to Alpha disc.
- Look at your left hand, and begin to rotate it slowly.
- When the time is right, begin rotating the left forearm without stopping the
- Rotate the whole arm. At this
point, you are making circles with your hand, your forearm, and your whole armall at
the same time.
- While keeping the motion on your left arm, place part of your attention on
your right hand.
- Begin rotation of your right hand, without allowing your left-hand rotations
to lapse or stop.
- Continue the pattern with your right forearm, and then your right arm.
- Once you can keep all six rotations going, try turning around slowly and
- Once youve got the hang of it, and after you have done this for a few
days, you can ad variations that are symmetrical and increasingly complex. The trick is to increase degree of complexity to
spread the mental attention as much as possible until your mind cannot hold any other
thought or consideration for a while. Try it,
and have fun with it.
It seems easy for the mental center to operate in terms of
conclusions, outcomes, goals, etc. As such,
it comes natural to it to fixate on an answer, a way of looking at things, a theory, a
teacher, a desire, a God, a religionwell, in essence, a single representation of
reality. In other words, and following
our radio metaphor, our antennae get stuck in one channel.
If our experience of the world happens to be processed through our mental center,
then even if we clear the other centers we will tend to be stuck in one aspect of reality. This seriously limits the range of signals we can
receive, and the way in which we can manifest and process them. The use of paradox comes in handy here.
Experiment 3: The Question and the
Begin by picking a word at random. It could be
a word that features prominently in a book you are reading (maybe this one?). Or you can
pick a word at random from the dictionary or a magazine. Any method for picking the word
Now sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Take a very deep breath. As you inhale say the
word mentally to yourself.
Hold you breath. Ask yourself intensely:
"What is _______ ?" (the word you have picked.)
Exhale and let go of the question.
Repeat several times.
Try this Experiment once a day for about a week,
using a different word each day. After a couple of months do it again.
Experiment 4: The Dualities
Light a small candle and place it on a table.
Sit down directly in front of the candle.
Place your full attention on the candle.
Breath slowly and steadily. Every time your attention wanders bring it back to the candle.
Feel your state as your attention remains
firmly on the candle. When you feel it change, without any attempt at decribing or
understanding what this change may be or how it works, say aloud: "Begin"
Now say the word "REAL" and see the
"REAL" nature of the candle.
Now say the word "UNREAL" and see
the "UNREAL" nature of the candle.
Now say the word "GOOD" and see the
"GOOD" side of the candle.
Now say the word "EVIL" and see the
"EVIL" side of the candle.
Continue for around 5 to 10 minutes. You can
either repeat the same dualities or keep on changing them.
When you are ready to end, say the word
"Stop" and close your eyes. Breath quietly for about a minute.
It seems that we are either trained or
pre-programmed to avoid paradoxes in our thoughts. We shy away from them quickly when we
encounter them. We run around them when we talk. We dissolve them with quick
determinations when they are absolutely unavoidable. We hunger for clear and simple
conclusions. You can see the "paradox" as a kind of lighning rod, a sharp
metallic stick pushed into our web of nerve endings which attracts all energy to itself
and , in so doing, it heats up the whole system and opens the possibility of change. So go
out and hunt for paradox. Develop an insatiable hunger for them. When you find them, hold
them up, let them shine and twirl. Allow them to twist your thoughts into themselves and
out the other end. Let them become the vortex that pushes your thoughts beyond the
confines of the "normal" and "known". Burn away the past certainties
and enter the realm of the Unknown, of the "maybe".
Experiment 5: Thought and Breath
Sit comfortably, with your back straight, or
Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath and imagine all your
thoughts being sucked into a vacumm in the central area of your forehead (what has been
called the "third eye").
Hold the breath and hold all thought. Dont
allow any thoughts to occur. Keep the mind completely silent as you hold the breath.
Now release the breath and allow all the
thoughts to come out. Watch them unfold and shower out of their confinement in your
When your lungs are empty, hold them out for a
space without inhaling. Let the thoughts multiply and develop.
Now start to inhale the breaths and suck the
thoughts back into the same place in the forehead.
Repeat the process for about 5 to 10 minutes.
You will notice that once your thoughts start to
form and develop, you will have a strong impulse to continue with them, you will need to
reach a conclusion or find an answer for that particular question (should I go to the
store before going to the park or after? should I call my friend or wait until he calls
me?). As you suck the thoughts back in, you will notice a fierce need to continue with the
thoughts and sometimes you may even forget that you were doing some kind of Experiment
("shaman.. what?"). All this is normal. When you feel the compulsion to find the
conclusion or answer, let the tension be there but continue to suck the thoughts in until
they form a pure light in your forehead. Hold it there, simply "living with" the
tension formed by the unanswered questions, the undeveloped thoughts. Then when you
release again, allow the thoughts to develop or new ones to form without any restriction.
Experiment 6: Foundations
Choose a word at random. It can be a word that
"means" a lot to you ("justice", "fairness",
"enlightenment", "shaman", etc.) or it can be a random word that you
pick from the dictionary by pointing your finger blindly.
Now get a piece of paper and write the word
you picked at the top of the page.
Look up the word in the dictionary and notate
some words that are used to describe it. Pick the ones that you feel are most
"important" and write them down horizontally under the main word.
Now, beyond the definition in the dictionary,
try to define or describe what this word means to you. After you do this, write the main
words of your description or definition and write them down next to the other
"important" words from the dictionary.
At this point you should have between 5 to 10
words under the main word. If you have more than that, weed some out. If you have less,
add some more.
Now repeat the same process for each of these
secondary words (you may have to use another piece of paper).
When you are finished with the second stage
you should have about 25 to 100 words. Some of these may repeat or may refer to each
Look at this language map and follow the
trails of your attention as it shifts from word to word. How do the words connect? What
sends you from one to another? Where are the "nodes" (the centers where many
words connect) and where are the "blind alleys" (where a word seems to rest all
by itself, barely connected to the rest)?
Write down 5 to 10 sentences using these
words. In writing these sentences try to use and explore the unexpected connections that
you found. Make these hidden connections stand out.
Experiment 7: Foundations 2
Pick a noun... any noun. For example, let's
Now ask your self "What is a cow...
Give yourself an answer. For example:
"A cow is an animal"
Now ask yourself "What is an
Give yourself an answer. For example:
"An animal is a multicellular organism"
Now ask yourself "What is a
multicellular organism... really?"
Keep on going like this until you can't give
yourself any answer at all. Make sure you truly exhaust all the possibilities.
Try it over several days with several
At various points during the days, weeks, months
or years that you spend doing these Experiments, you will find yourself in a
"different" mental state: a state in which your thoughts, your
"reason", your perceptions and your "beliefs" are not taken for
granted. You will begin to get a taste for this state as you enter it and leave it over
time. The more you travel into it, the easier it will be to reach it. You may also find
that you are able to "think" certain thoughts in this state and then once you
come down, the thought again becomes "unthinkable" or "confusing" or
just plain "ludicrous". Experiment with this and write some of the thoughts
down. Build on them. Find the spaces where your mind can be free and build a home for it
there. It will reward you.
* * *
Finding connections in what we tend to see as
unrelated categories is a useful exercise to clear the mental center. We are so used to
the categories we use that we easily confuse the map with the territory. The more familiar
with a map, the more we risk thinking about it as "how things really are". So,
when a different map is presented to us we reject it. More often than not, this attitude
impedes a fresh exploration of the actual territory. For example, when medical science was
all entangled in thinking about caloric fluids, humors, and all that as how the human body
works they forgot that they had invented these terms to better communicate, experiment,
and work on the terrain. When a new theory of germs came into the scene, it was flat out
rejected by those who knew the body best. In time, the germs theory won much ground until
the old theory was displaced. Now, do we think of germs as theoretical entities, or do we
follow suit thinking of them as "really real"?
Experiment: The Naming of Things
Sit in your room with a pad of paper and a pen
Do a short process of relaxation.
Now look around the room. Name each object
that you see according to the name that you would use normally. For example, if you see a
painting, say "painting". Write it in a column of your piece of paper.
Continue naming the things in your room in
this manner until you have either named everything that is there (unlikely!) or about 10
or 15 minutes have passed.
Now start again from the first object that you
looked at. Look at the word you wrote. Give this object a new name. It can be another
"existing word" or it can be a new sound altogether.
Each time you give an object a new name, stop
to place your attention on it and truly caress the object with the new name, feel it
taking on new properties, new connotations, new significance, in accordance with the new
sound that you are associating with it.
Continue this process slowly until you have
renamed all the objects you had observed to begin with.
Save the list. You may have use for it later.
Experiment: Vow of Silence
All the noise of our day to day life interferes
with the signals we receive. The routines make it easy for us to fall asleep and
funtion in automatic mode. For instance, the way we have become used to greeting
people and engaging in small talk has become so automatic that we can easily go through a
whole day meeting people and talking to them without having to pay attention, without
caring. We can even think about something else while having a conversation.
Try, for just one day, to take a vow of silence. Go out into the city, have lunch,
interact with people. But don't talk at all. See how sharper your impressions become
by not talking, and how much more attention you pay to the signals and the people you