Techniques for getting ‘the mind’ on your side

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Life is chaotic and almost by definition will be full of strife. This is because as human beings we have an in-built need to find meaning in life. This is the great strength and great failing of mankind. If we find a great cause our life will be enriched. If we find something larger than ourselves, we can live and die fulfilled and maybe even make a real difference. But the downside of giving life this structure, of using our minds to build an edifice of dreams and expectations, is that we will inevitably feel let down at some point when things do not go as we want. The other aspect of this is that our minds have been trained both by evolution and since childhood to look for problems to solve.

For example if we are lying in bed and are uncomfortable we will alter our position to feel better. But after a short while we will often take for granted that we are now lying comfortably and find something else we need to ‘fix’. Perhaps our toes are poking out of the blanket and are cold. This process can continue indefinitely. This leads to a seeking negativity mind-set, a mental feedback loop that is constantly trying to correct what we see as wrong with the world.

To a certain extent this can be improved by understanding that we are a small individual in a large and changeable world, and will rarely have everything exactly as we would wish. The control freak in us must learn to let go. But there are also more direct techniques that will help:

1.   Never lose the gift of humour. No longer having a sense of humour is the first sign that you have lost your mental balance. In this condition important decisions should not be made.

2.   Another useful technique is to reverse the normal tendency to look for problems. Instead look for things you have missed but which make your life better. For example I am currently enjoying the incredible power and utility of the Internet to communicate with people across the globe! This should not be taken for granted. This is the gift of perspective.

3.    The last is to concentrate absolutely with what you are doing at the present moment. The effort required to do this is hard to sustain, but improves with practice and when achieved leads to a state where the passing of time is not noticed, for you are too absorbed in what you are doing to think about anything else. This is the gift of focus.

These ideas are not a prescription for enlightenment. They are not the one and only path to happiness. They are ideas that may help some people. They certainly helped me, and continue to do so, on a daily basis. When I feel down, or for some reason find myself in a negative mood I try to cultivate the mental discipline to apply the three techniques above in whatever order is most appropriate. Often for me it is – find something funny with the situation, look for something to be grateful about, and finally refocus on what needs to be done and do it with 100% concentration. Anything else is beyond your control.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cyndi
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 23:03:25

    This was a good read. Thank you for that.

    I also think it’s important to take responsibility for our own actions and not fret over the state of the world. Be genuine, show understanding and compassion whenever opportunity presents itself, and approach life with the curiousity and creativity of a child.

    Peace and balance come from within, and the path is different for everyone.



  2. Bhaga
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 03:13:16

    How enjoyable and refreshing are your very correct observations on how our mind, too often, unwittingly betrays our true interest! And the three humble pieces of advice you offer for counter-balancing those tendencies in our mind, are genuinely born from your own experience, and verified by your own daily practice, so I’m glad to add my full agreement to what you say, and my congratulations to you for finding all this out and also making it available here for others who might be interested, other human ‘buds’ who might want to bloom beyond their mind’s bad habits, by actively correcting those bad habits!…


    • mbwilliams
      Jul 07, 2011 @ 21:17:18

      I thought you might enjoy that! The main reason I mentioned it was because in your post you mentioned appreciating modern technology, which I think is important – we have so many ways to meet like minded spirits and share ideas in this day and age!


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