We've all got a whole lot of things asking for our attention throughout our days. If you're like me, sometimes you feel like your to do lists have lists of their own! With all of that stuff bouncing around in your mind, you then sit down to meditate and wonder why your mind can't be quiet?! It's really not a surprise if you think about it.
The moment you sit down and get still the mind has a great opportunity to divert energy from the body to doing more thinking. It isn't having to devote itself to driving your car, or writing an email or doing the things that need to be done around the house, so it can actually think about all the STUFF that's been going around inside of you during the day, week or even month or year. Just like your desk at work can get cluttered with all those papers and sticky notes and to do lists, your mind can get cluttered up too.
When we realize there's a bunch of stuff piling up in our minds, sometimes we need to clear the clutter. Yes, meditation can help do that, but sometimes you need to do a bit of tidying up before you can find a place to sit down, so to speak. That's why the "brain dump" can be so helpful.
How it works:
1. Grab a couple of pieces of paper and a pen and set a timer for 20 minutes. During this 20 minutes you are going to write down all that STUFF that you need to do that's been bouncing around in your brain. Examples: Gather tax return information, make the vet appointment for the cat, start that new project, fix that leaky sink in the bathroom, water the lawn, invite Mom to dinner, call that friend to see how they're doing and make a lunch date, set up that work meeting, schedule a massage, etc. etc. etc.
2. When the timer goes off, set it for 5 more minutes and make good and sure that you've gotten all that STUFF out of your head and on to paper.
3. Prioritize! Now set your timer again for 5 minutes and go back through everything you've written down and give it a priority number. Number 1 means something bad will happen if you don't do it. Number 2 means it's important but it can wait. Number 3 means you really do need to do that thing but it can wait a week or even until next month. Number 4 means you really don't need to do it at all. (You may find a different ranking system works for you. You might also use colored highlighter for each priority level to make things stand out. Feel free to be creative!)
4. Now that it's all on paper and it's been prioritized, you can put things into action by placing them on your schedule, setting reminders or just starting to tackle those highest priority things on your list. And now that it's on paper, you have a place to go to find it and you don't have to have it cluttering up your mind. Instead, you can relax a bit knowing there's a plan in place and you won't forget anything.
You can do this once a month, once a quarter or once a week if you need to. While it may seem like this will take a bit of a chunk out of your day to do, you'll find that once you get in the habit, it will actually save you time because you won't be spinning your wheels trying to figure out what to do next or trying to remember that really important thing. You'll know exactly where to find it and you'll be able to sit for your meditation practice or anything else a lot less distracted.