How to Reduce Mental Clutter
We are being called to create a wiser world—one in which our souls, rather than our egos, are in the driver’s seat of our lives. Most of us are asleep at the wheel, unknowingly driven by our ego mind and accumulating all kinds of inner and outer clutter. Clutter is anything that isn’t in alignment with our true soul nature of peace, expansiveness, joy, connection, harmony, and love.
In part two of this series, we focus on mental clutter. Here are some examples of how mental clutter might show up in your life:
- Do you have difficulty quieting your mind?
- Do you struggle against life?
- Do you spend a lot of time thinking about the past or worrying about the future?
- Do you hold onto beliefs that might not be true?
- Have you lost touch with your intuition, or fail to heed it?
The Voice in Our Head
To clear out our mental closet, we have to get to know the ego mind, which constantly bombards us with thoughts that are not true to who we really are. Ego thoughts all contain some version of I am not enough, you are not enough, and there is not enough. They are rooted in fear and lack. They compare, compete, and categorize: right/wrong, good/bad, better than/less than. They are judgmental, yet paradoxically seek approval and belonging. And they constantly pull our attention to a past that is already gone, or some imagined future.
To experience how your ego mind operates, take a few minutes and listen to the voice in your head. Say the thoughts that come in your mind out loud, or write them down, or record them on your phone. This will help you see how the ego keeps us in a trance.
Ego thoughts are mental clutter in and of themselves. When we over-identify with them, other forms of clutter get created because our thoughts influence our emotions, the energy we exude, and the actions we take. For example, if you attach to the ego thought I’m so lonely, you will find yourself feeling sad and rehashing the betrayals of your life. If you unwittingly latch onto the ego thought I have to prove I’m successful, you might buy a closet full of clothes you don’t need and can’t afford.
Here are four ways to release the mental clutter of the ego mind and put the awake mind of your soul–which knows you are enough, other beings are enough, and there is enough–in the driver’s seat.
The ego feeds us a steady stream of thoughts about things that have already happened or might happen, keeping us out of the present. First you’re regretting that greasy pizza you ate for lunch; then you’re obsessing that your son’s life will be over if he doesn’t get into that private kindergarten; next you’re fuming about how inconsiderate your husband was last night.
Meanwhile, the soul is chilling in the background, waiting patiently for some time at the wheel. Where is it waiting? In the present moment. Let’s see if we can find it using this simple technique. Say to yourself “I am present right now.” Chances are you’ll quickly notice you aren’t! Repeat the phrase until you notice some of these telltale signs of coming into the present. Your thoughts begin to slow down. Your eyes relax, softening your gaze. You involuntarily take a deeper breath. Your body starts to feel heavier. You hear sounds you weren’t aware of, like the hum of the refrigerator or children playing outside. You feel more peaceful inside.
When we drop into the present moment, ego thoughts, and the emotion and energy they carry, release. We come into connection with ourselves, rather than the imaginary places our ego likes to frequent. Practice coming present as often as you can remember. No one will know that as you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or listening to a presentation at work, you’re letting go of mental clutter and getting your soul back in the driver’s seat.
Become A Witness
We are so accustomed to our thoughts, we don’t stop to consider their source. We think we are our thoughts. To release mental clutter, become the observer, or witness of your thoughts. Witnessing means observing your thoughts without judgment.
Observing creates some space between you and your thoughts. In that space lies the opportunity for choice. You might choose to simply let a thought pass by. Or you might find your attention attaching to a thought, in which case you can take some time to question it. Is the thought true to your soul? Is it useful? Does it elevate your energy? Does it help you do what you love? If you get a no answer to any of these questions, you can choose a different thought, one that’s more aligned with your soul nature. The ego mind offers up thousands of thoughts a day, most of them repetitive. All we have to do is watch.
Choose Your Lens
When we believe an untrue ego thought over time, it can solidify into another form of mental clutter: a belief that affirms our false self. As an example, if you repeatedly believe the ego-based thought I have to do it all myself, emotions like stress, overwhelm, and resentment become your norm. Your energy gets urgent and forceful, in order to push through all you “have” to do. You find fault with the way others try to help. Pretty soon people stop offering, which reinforces your ego belief.
Now if you held the more soul-centered belief I can rely on others, life would be different. You would know you’re immersed in a web of available support, surrounded by helpers seen and unseen, free to ask for help, and gratefully receive it. Your life experiences would come into harmony with that belief. If you find you’re looking through ego-colored glasses, try on a new soul-affirming belief, such as the world is a friendly place, or I can trust life, or everything is connected. Walk through your day projecting that belief and watch how clutter releases.
Listen for Your Intuition
Most of us rely on the “fake news” of our ego mind as our primary source of information. But the soul is also a source of information. It speaks in a lower volume and a different language than our ego. It communicates through intuition, sending subtle guidance via gut feelings, heart knowing, or images and words in our mind’s eye. Our soul whispers to us all the time, trying to guide us in the direction of our true nature.
Come present and consult with your inner wise self often, in matters large and small. What food would nourish me right now? What choice will create peace within me? What action is the most loving to me and others? An answer may come in the form of words, images, a body sensation, or a knowing in your bones. Your attention might be drawn to a symbol on a passing truck, or a sign on the side of the road, or something in nature. Somehow your soul will send the information you need in a way that will be clear to you. Trust what you perceive. And then practice following your soul’s guidance, even when your ego mind, and other ego minds, try to convince you otherwise.
Enjoy More Mental Freedom
As you declutter, hold up whatever you find in your mental closet to the light of the questions from Part 1 of the series. Does this thought or way of thinking contribute to my soul intention? Is it beautiful? Is it useful? Does it love me back? Is it in present time? Does it have a sacred place to live? Does it help me serve my love to the world? Remember, the ego mind is part of our human experience, but not all of who we are. As we treat the ego aspect of ourselves with compassion, and locate in our “right minds,” mental clutter and other associated clutter loosens its grip. And we are on the road to freedom.
This original essay was featured in the February 28, 2021 edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper publishes News and Views that Rise Above the Noise and Inspires Hearts and Minds. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.