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Looking for a quick trick for clearing the mind? In olden times, when we had to navigate our computer using text commands, there was one DOS command that always scared me: ‘del *.*’, a command that wipes out all the files in a given directory and all its subdirectories. If you did it at the C:\ prompt, you would effectively erase your entire computer, losing all your software, files, photos, etc. Today it popped into my head while I was thinking about my novel in progress, Jagniel, sequel to Agnes in the Fifth Bardo. I have a moderate case of writer’s block, and one of the options that swirled through my mind was to trash it and start over. It wasn’t a productive or reasonable thought, but it came in the form of del *.*.

While deleting your entire computer or even just a work in progress is seldom a good idea, there are other places where this could apply. In my meditation practice, I usually return to a mantra when my mind wanders or too many songs are playing in my head or whatever other distractions keep me from focusing on my breath. My favorite word is ‘shanti’ which means peace. ‘Om shanti’ is the mantra. But I think I have another one in my back pocket to use: ‘del *.*’.

It’s kind of perfect, because it means that I’m not just pushing thoughts away, I’m clearing the mind of them. I’m purging those file cabinets in my mind full of useless worries, unpleasant memories, and endless earworms.

The dreaded file eraser

Mental Health Applications

If you have anxiety, del *.* could be a way of clearing worries. A situation that causes me tremendous anxiety is talking on the phone. If I make the mistake of picking up a call, now I have a tool for mitigating my irrational fears. I can delete them with a few keystrokes of the mind. Most anxious thoughts are useless, and really should be deleted.

As someone who suffered long bouts of clinical depression, I’m also very familiar with irrational negative thinking. In the depths of depression, nothing works. You feel like you’re at the bottom of a well and everyone is up top shouting useless advice down to you: “Exercise!”; “Eat soybeans!”; “Say positive affirmations!” My least favorite is “Oh snap out of it!”. If it were that easy, wouldn’t I have done it already? If the big D sullies my life again (and it likely will) I’m going to try del *.* on it to see if it helps. I’m in a fairly neutral mood these days, but I’m pleased to know there’s a quick way to symbolically clear out unpleasant thoughts.

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What do you do to get rid of unwanted thoughts or anxieties?