Have you ever been told you can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it, or, the mind is a very powerful tool? This was said to me countless times growing up by parents and teachers alike, but never did I really understand what it meant. No one ever explained how to actually set your mind to something or how to get the most use out of this powerful tool. I just never really understood how to make use of this seemingly important piece of advice.
Much time has passed since the last time someone said this to me, but since then, I’ve been lucky enough to undergo a life-changing transformation that has shed some light on its meaning. Today, I will try to explain...
It is true that your mind is a most powerful tool. It comes up with the craziest, most random ideas that make you spontaneous, it makes you inexplicably witty, surprisingly knowledgeable and refreshingly interesting. These moments happen when you’re fully involved in the interaction that’s taking place between you and your world. All of your attention is on the interaction and nowhere else.
We’ve all experienced these moments. The question is, how do you do this consistently, and how do you apply this state of mind to all areas of your life, whether having a conversation with someone you just met, working on a homework assignment, learning something new, performing well at your job, creating a work of art, training for the next marathon, working on your craft, starting your own business, improving your relationships or anything else?
In order to do anything well, you have to have your mind focus all of its attention on it, and the body will follow. This is not to say that if you practice this you will do anything well immediately. For example, if you learn to apply all of your attention to driving, you will not all of a sudden have the skills to race a Formula 1 car, but the learning and development process itself will improve drastically, and eventually you’ll be able to accomplish what you have set out to.
No doubt you know the great results you get when you pay 1,000% attention to whatever it is you’re doing. You notice the alertness and you function exactly the way you want. On the other hand, when you’re not paying attention something different happens. You go through the motions, you miss the point and even the joy is taken out of the moment. The experience itself has been taken out of the experience.
So if paying attention is key, then how do you develop the ability to pay attention? You train your mind.
When it comes to the mind, when you’re not looking, when no one is in the driver’s seat, when your attention is elsewhere, or in other words, when your consciousness - which is what you really are - is not giving direction to your mind, your mind does whatever it wants. It acts on its own accord without any input necessary from you - your consciousness. The mind drives itself on autopilot yielding results reflective of what it has picked up and how much of it. Results may include a noticeable lack of ability to concentrate, uncontrollable impulses, addictive behavior, and generally counter-productive habits and tendencies. Again, this is what happens when you’re not looking, and the longer you don’t look, the more your mind becomes its own entity, more and more independent of you - your consciousness - to the point that you become a prisoner of your own mind. Your mind has literally taken you over.
The good new is this can be undone although with great effort. The following are practices you can do on a daily basis to go from a total loss of control to your mind’s current wiring, to becoming once again your mind’s driver so that it performs for you what you want it to do, like the powerful tool that it is.
- Start easy by taking a moment to observe nature, after all, nature is fascinating and it’s all around you. It can be as simple as noticing a patch of moss in a crack on the sidewalk, noticing how it wants to grow, how full of life it is and how beautiful it really is. Immerse yourself in nature any time you can with a walk in a forest preserve trail, breathing in the oxygen that is given to you by the abundant plant life all around you and absorbing its magnificent beauty.
- Take it up a level by observing your actions. When you wake up tomorrow and go through your getting-ready routine, whether for school or work, pay attention to everything that you do and do it with care and intent. If you do the same thing every day, it may become repetitive and dull, but if you pay attention to it and do it with care every time, no matter what it is or how many times you do it, it becomes a unique experience every time. Think of when you get ready for a long trip. You have to pay attention to everything you do and you leave nothing to chance. Apply the same awareness to your daily routine. Then begin to apply the same care and awareness to all of your activities giving all of your attention to the interaction taking place.
- Take it up a notch and begin to apply the same principles inward, begin to observe the activities of your mind, listen to the voices you hear in your head. What are they saying? We all have them but we are often so used to hearing them that we’re able to ignore them. They are happening and have a profound effect on your life. If you become aware of these messages, choices will open up allowing you to let the positive ones that serve you well to continue and to give no further energy to the counterproductive ones that work against you. Your inner voices influence your actions and your actions feed into the mirror of the universe that receives your input and reflects what you put in, so it's important to listen to those voices and just by being aware of them, you can start to choose. If this is entirely new to you, it will be very difficult at first and will seem like an uphill battle because once you’ve become aware of the voices that you don’t want, they go away at the moment but keep coming back over and over again (specially when you stop looking), but if you persist (and keep looking), welcoming the positive voices and giving no further energy to negative ones, the tides will eventually turn and the negative voices will fade away. In result, you will start seeing dramatic positive changes in your life.
- Practice listening inward periodically at first, then increase the frequency of when you listen. Your goal, eventually, is to listen continuously. This may sound like a lot of work, but it's worth every effort because you want to be the one driving, not the one being taken for a ride. Once you’re able to monitor your mind continuously, there will be no further action from your mind and body that results in compulsive behavior. If a certain behavior unfolds, it will be by your own choice, whereas before, there may have been no choice.
- Experience silence. Once you’ve become comfortable looking inward, it’s time to refine the process further. If a small stone is placed on a gravel road and you drive over it, you will never feel it, however, if a stone is placed on a smooth road and you drive over it, you will clearly feel it. Now that you’re able to listen inward regularly, your ability to clear the road increases. Clear the road and see what remains. Clear your mind and see what’s still there. Make some time to turn off the TV and radio, set down the social media and just go about for a period of time in your day in silence. This will be difficult at first because the noise in your head becomes so loud that you may think you’re about to lose it, but the point is to observe, to look at everything that's passing by, to turn every stone and eventually to choose your own road.
- The above practices will help you elevate your awareness and dig out your consciousness from underneath layers of free-reigning mind. Now it’s time to create your own destiny by starting a meditation practice. This is not the only way but it is one way to help you organize your mind and thoughts so that your mind, body and consciousness are in alignment towards any intention that you set for yourself. Your intention can be big or small, it does not matter, the possibilities are infinite.
Personally I have found great benefit from using these methods to navigate life in a more joyful and meaningful way. I have also to been able to better align my body, mind and spirit with all of creation. And lastly, I have begun using the ability that is with all of us to create my own reality. I hope you as well find benefit from these, or any other methods, to explore the possibilities beyond our immediate reach.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share your experience.
Instructor | Parkour Waysjessy@parkourways.com | www.ParkourWays.com