What Do You Think About When Your Mind Is Not Preoccupied?

For many of us, life is very full. At any given waking moment, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of things to be preoccupied with.

Most of what we think about from moment to moment tends to be concerned with immediate needs or problems: What should I wear today? Did I pay that bill? I’ve got an early meeting at work that I can’t be late for. What should I eat? …and on and on.

If you were to remove these sorts of thoughts from your mind, what is left?

To answer this question, there are some concrete steps you can take. There are different strategies for taking your mind off of these bustling, nagging thoughts.

One method is meditation. Meditation has grown in popularity over the last several years, and there are some suggestions that it can help to alleviate stress and reduce anxiety. There is no one sure-fire recipe to learn to meditate, although most methods involve focusing on something tangible, like breathing, to avoid preoccupation.

Another route to a peaceful mind is to surround yourself with a serene environment, like walking through a remote stretch of woods. If you remove reminders of your everyday life from your experience, you are less likely to think about it.

Yet another way is through intense physical exertion like exercise. Often your mind is able to let go of thoughts when your muscles are in action. This might be due to reduced oxygen available to your brain, or perhaps because of endorphins that are released during exertion.

Whatever method you use, one of these or something else altogether, what thoughts remain after the others are removed? Do you think of nothing? Or perhaps abstract thoughts become easier? Or maybe you become tuned in to the details of the world in front of your eyes.

What do you think about when your mind is not preoccupied?

Related questions: What do you think about when out for a walk? Are we too busy? Meditate or medicate? How do you find peace when you need it?

2 thoughts on “What Do You Think About When Your Mind Is Not Preoccupied?”

  1. Often when I take walks and my mind is clear of upcoming obligations, I daydream about being responsible for a more extensive raised bed gardening operation than I currently have in my backyard. A large, 3-season greenhouse atop a flat-roofed building serves as the site. The 20+ raised beds are of a couple of heights — 1.5-foot high for trellising plants; 3-foot high for plants that don’t grow as tall. Each bed exterior is made of stone for functionality and beauty’s sake. A slow-drip watering system conserves water for the venture. There are also at least a few places to sit and relax (or work or play on my laptop) while being surrounded by the 100+ varieties of heirloom vegetables and flowers.

    The operation serves as a way for me to grow more food for our household. But there is also extra produce to donate to families needing healthy food options. Finally, I provide guided greenhouse tours to others interested in heirloom gardening.

    One of my hopes is that the project will inspire more rooftop gardening.

  2. I meditate on my church’s daily scripture readings and then journal about what pops into my head. Here is what I wrote today: (Note: I copied Dr. Braddock’s comment today from Creighton University’s campus ministry website: https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html
    “I walk through the three days of the Passion of Jesus , imagining I am present, trying to understand the feelings of Jesus as well as of his disciples, his family, his mother. It can be exhausting. I still struggle to make his resurrection real. It certainly challenges my understanding of the world. What helps me most is my perception of the merciful look in his eyes.” – Dr. Suzanne Braddock, Creighton U. Retired.
    Tom/self, this is a good reminder to use one’s imagination and put self into the scene when reading scripture. What does my imagination show about today’s Gospel? The locked Upper Room, the sudden appearance of Jesus. He shows us his wounds, and eats a piece of fish to show us he’s not a ghost. I am Thomas, unbelieving until I put my fingers in the wound in his side. Then I believe he is “my Lord and my God.”

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