“The mind is like a parachute. It’s useful only when it’s open” – Anonymous
Our mind is a complex mechanism. Various scientific fields have directed their magnifying lenses upon it: physics, neuroscience, anatomy, biology, psychology etc. Numerous data and researches identify the specific parts, their responsibilities and their interrelations, explore how they work and ‘communicate’ with each other etc. But let us put it all in a very simple manner, avoiding difficult notions, definitions or explanations.
Nervous system is a decision and communication center: it interprets odors, light, sounds, touch, all kind of signals and translates them into messages that are being sent throughout the body. It is a balance keeper between outside impulses and inside responses and reflexes. It is responsible for our biological functions (automatic operation of vital organs, breathing, blood and nutrients’ circulation, movement etc.) as well as mental functions (perception, orientation, speech and memory, reasoning and planning, problem solving, decision making, emotions etc.). But this article is not about the working of the mind itself.
In the times of constantly increasing flows of information and rapid everyday life it is becoming harder to keep our minds clean and clear. It has become challenging to stay truly focused, concentrated and at the same time calm, relaxed without any stress or anxiety. Our brain is continuously involved in a high-speed multitasking: dealing with various duties, questions and emotions, making all kind of decisions, prioritizing actions, searching for truth, meaning and solutions, decoding sounds and words, basically managing whatever is received by our senses.
So how to maintain our mental health? How to keep our mind sharp?
For starters, let’s quickly overview some basics.
Silence. It might be quite challenging to let go of all thoughts and everything that surrounds us but a quiet and comfortable environment with minimum distraction is essential to engage in a moment of stillness and ease the mind.
Self-Awareness. Researchers show how our mind resembles a ‘magnet’: it attracts anything we draw attention to and focus on, consequently consciously having a truthful, deeper, quality conversation with ourselves becomes a lighthouse, a precious guidance kit on the road to self-realization.
Practice. There is almost nothing that could be achieved with the first strike, thus repetition and determination are very handy on this journey of self-exploration.
Silence. Self-awareness. Practice.
There are certainly handful of practices to be considered and there is definitely something for everyone. One may find gigatons of information on meditation, contemplation, repetition of affirmations, spiritual passages or mantras, journal writing, listening to the music and many more. Note, that all of them are intended to suit anybody and any situation and it’s up to every each of us to choose what suits us individually.
Meditation and contemplation are often confused to be the same practices: they both may be practiced alone or in a group, guided or self-paced, eyes opened or shut; they share the notion of stillness and mindfulness though there is a huge difference between the two. While during meditation one concentrates on breathing itself which helps ‘emptying’ or silencing the mind from thoughts, contemplation seeks through focusing on the very particular and precise object, question or principle to drive the thought towards some specific insight or answer. Both practices help to relax the mind, lessen the stress and anxiety, and connect to now and here. Note, that they are deeply interconnected and may be often used in combination with each other.
Writing a journal – effective tool to get a valuable reflection on oneself. Writing a journal may an act that makes us be as free as a bird or have a special intention (e.g. gratitude journal). Letting the hand freely fly through the piece of paper often reveals the deepest, unspoken or hidden sides of oneself, it connects to one’s own fantasy and imagination, to another time and dimension. It is a very useful tool especially if practiced for a long period of time as it helps capture the essence of one’s journey and growth, change and development, it even can help dealing with some sleep disorders!