The Neutral Mind

“Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
You put water into a cup; it becomes the cup.
You put water into a teapot; it becomes the teapot.
You put it into a bottle; it becomes the bottle.
Now water can flow, or it can crash."
-Bruce Lee

Cluttered

I lie in bed and close my eyes. Everything is dark and quiet. The guardian of my mind, the watcher of my thoughts, lowers his awareness. The levee breaks. Wave upon wave of thoughts come as I ride the torrent of past actions and future hopes. I am in dangerous waters; the flow of time carries me beyond the shores of sleep. This is not where I want to be. I need sleep, yet all I have are my thoughts.

The restraint on my mind is my weakness. I know I am supposed to welcome my thoughts and then let them go. This is what I practice, but I am only a novice. Rather than let them go, I hold on to them. Rather than mastering my thoughts, I let them carry me away on the tide, tossing me wherever they go.

Empty

When your mind is crowded with thoughts and information about all the things you’ve learned and how you feel about them, there isn’t room for much else. You’ve given up access to new possibilities and points of view; you’ve limited yourself. In order to learn new information, we must first make room to let that information in.

Shannon Lee

Emptying my mind is the first and hardest step. Therefore, the practice of meditation is important. If there is anything I wish to accomplish through meditation, it is the ability to rule my mind. I want to be able to control my thoughts. On a basic level, it is so I can sleep at night. On an advanced level, it is to remove the clutter.

Emptying my mind is the purge process. It is the elimination of the unnecessary and irrelevant. It is the letting go of preconceived ideas that are preventing me from seeing the whole truth. The growth that I seek comes through the pruning of dead thoughts and the removing of the vines of misinformation which is choking my personal tree of knowledge. New growth needs the space and energy that can only come from the eradication of the old and useless.

Open

Make room for the possibility that maybe you don’t already know all of what you believe to be true—that what you believe is, in fact, a work in progress, capable of changing and evolving as you learn and grow.

Shannon Lee

Humanity is fractured by ideology.

  • Creativity vs. Evolution
  • Conservative vs. Liberal
  • Freedom vs. Control
  • Love vs. Hate

I can connect the dots of my own belief systems and be at peace that I am on the correct side of all the divisions. But what if I am wrong? What if I chose the wrong side? I can either close myself off and hunker down in my own dogmatic ignorance, or I can open my mind and welcome the possibility of discovering the real truth. Better to be shaken to my core than to live in a false fantasy.

There may even be a chance that my beliefs are not wrong. Maybe, they are just not fully developed. Fool would I be if I took a little learning and left it at that. I must cultivate the knowledge that I do have. I must be open to receiving more. Then, I may be able to grasp a greater understanding of the material. This is the path to wisdom.

Preconceptions

Because of our beliefs and our preferences, we walk around collecting the evidence of our experiences to bolster our beliefs. If I walk into a party with a sense of dread, then I am subconsciously looking for evidence of that dread to prove myself right.

Shannon Lee

We have all been there. We thought it was going to be bad and it turned out to be so. We are programmed to see only the things we are looking for. How much have we lost by following this programming? How much could we have gained if we went into the situation with a neutral mind?

To achieve the neutral mind, I must:

  • Unclutter the mind by releasing thoughts and beliefs that are unnecessary.
  • With an empty mind, allow it to open to new possibilities.
  • Eliminate preconceptions of what may come.

This is a practice. With time and consistency, mastery of the mind is possible.

Quoted material obtained from Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee.