How to Max your Mind Potential
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” ― Winston Churchill
We have potential beyond our wildest imagination. The other night I dreamt of walking through a beautiful piazza during a warm evening. The square was framed by stairs, which led to restaurants, all full of people enjoying good food, company and music. As I walked through the square, music by Puccini and other Italian romantics could be heard. In my head I heard every note played… how is that possible? As I sit here writing I can’t even hum the basic tune. Somehow, though this richness is stored within, a dream can provide a glimpse of the potential of the mind. Voice of Judgement
Peter Senge in his wonderful book Presence refers to a research project at Harward involving the development of intelligence test for babies. They also tested older subjects. Researchers found that up to age four, almost all the children were at genius level, in terms of multiple frames of intelligence that Gardner talks about – spatial, kinaesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, intrapersonal and linguistic. But by age twenty, the percentage of children at genius level had dropped to only 10 percent, and over twenty a further drop to 2 percent. What happened? The genius was covered over by the voice of judgment. The voice of judgment strips away our belief in our capacity, our potential, but it also takes away the courage required to ‘fly’. Oops… almost sounds like motivational speech!
“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday and our present thoughts build our life tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.” ― The Buddha
Neuroscience is proving Mr Buddha absolutely right. What we pay attention to forms and sculpts our brain. When we feel intensely kind, generous, compassionate or peaceful, we make it more likely that we will experience that in the future. In other words – our experience matters not just for how it feels in the moment but also how it impacts our future experiences.
The Importance of Focus
Our attention is the scalpel that forms and shapes our brain. When we increase our ability to choose what we pay attention to and our ability to choose our distractions, we increase our ability to direct our mind to healthy thoughts and move attention away from unhealthy ones. Some of the unhealthy mind activity is: rumination, self-critical and invalidating thoughts, as well as the thoughts of unworthiness.
Watch for the ‘baddie’
Mindfulness is not just passively watching the mind, indifferent to what takes place. That would be like asking a friend to mind your house and then upon your return finding it has been burgled; and when you ask your friend what happened, the response is ‘well yes, thieves came and first stole the camera, the TV, and the jewellery etc.’ Then you would think that your friend had not watched your house well. And so it is with mindfulness; we have to actively discourage the negative by catching the thoughts early on.
We have to also remind ourselves that thoughts are just thoughts and not a truth, in fact most of the time they are simply habitual nonsense. Thoughts arise out of a mind-state. If the mind-state is positive it tends to give rise to pleasant thoughts and if it is negative it tends to give rise to negative thoughts. This shows how fickle and unreliable thoughts are. We are more likely to lift the lid of judgment from a healthy mind-state. So not only do we enhance the healthy mind-state for the experience itself and for future ‘investment’ but also for enabling the lifting of the voice of judgment and enabling the best in us to emerge. It makes sense to encourage pleasant thoughts and healthy mind-states while discouraging negative thoughts and unhealthy mind-states.
“Everybody’s got the potential for great good and great wrong in them, but it’s the choices we make that define who we really are.” ― Charles de Lint
These are not the big life choices that are being referred to, rather this occurs in the minute, hundreds of times a day, through noticing and choosing what we pay attention to.
‘A fight is going on inside me’ the old Cherokee told his grandson. ‘It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.’ The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf will win?’ The old Cherokee replied ‘The one you feed.
’Which one do you tend to feed? If in doubt whether it is a healthy or unhealthy mind-state; you will know by how it is experienced in the body, contracting or relaxed and expansive. Your potential is in your hands, by cultivating what is grand, beautiful, compassionate and wise you gradually become that. It doesn’t mean there will be no pain, no sorrow or dissatisfaction, this is all part of life. However there will be less and it will not last as long, simply if it is not resisted (what we resist persists) and not fed, rather it is just accepted. When sorrow, sadness and pain visits it will be invited in with curiosity and kindness, which immediately lessens the intensity of the visitor or transforms it into just a sensation.