Nurture your mind – part 1 – The garden
I hope you are taking good care of your body and give it the love and respect that it deserves.
Now I would like you to think about how you are taking care of your mind.
Just as your body needs constant attention and healthy, nutritious food, so does your mind.
We have all heard of the Latin phrase “Mens sana in corpore sano” which has been widely used to emphasize, on one hand, that only a healthy mind can lead to a healthy body, or, equally, that only a healthy body can sustain a healthy mind.
Evidently, the two are interrelated. A healthy body relies on a healthy mind. And a healthy mind needs a healthy body.
But whilst it is now generally accepted in our society that the health of our body is paramount and we have started to take more responsibility for the way in which we eat and exercise, I wonder if we are ready to have an honest discussion about the way we feed, nourish and train our mind.
What do you feed your mind?
“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. The harvest can either be flowers or weeds.”
I find Wordsworth’s metaphor very powerful. For the garden of our mind to be healthy and harmonious a lot of attention is needed. We must plant, and gently care for, beautiful flowers and plants. And we must keep an eye out for and protect our mind – garden against weeds and parasites.
We all know what happens to a garden that is not properly taken care of.
What do you think will happen to a mind you don’t trim, structure, and protect?
Sure, parenthood and education play an important role in structuring our mind. But it is then our responsibility to take care of this precious inner “garden”. One cannot expect to reap wonderful fruit if one has never taken the time to plant the right seeds in the first place.
So, take a minute to think about it.
What do you feed your mind?
What type of thoughts do you allow in on a regular basis? How do you filter the overwhelming amount of information we all get nowadays? What ideas do you entertain? What images do you consume? What emotions and feelings do you encourage or tolerate?
What do you spend most time thinking about throughout the day? Practical things? Worries? Work? Your to do list? Gossip? Entertainment? There is nothing wrong with that. But if that is all you feed your mind, don’t be surprised when it starts to give you back more of the same: worries; anxiety; stress; trivia; restlessness.
Today and throughout this week, start to pay more attention to your thoughts and feelings.
Don’t judge them, or yourself. Just observe. With curiosity – and gentleness.
Are you happy with the garden of your mind?
Are your thoughts and habits giving you the results you would hope for?
Is there anything you would like to change?
Start by identifying some of the weeds taking too much space. You know…
Negativity. Judgements. Resentments. Victimhood. Sterile comparisons…Anger. Fear. Helplessness.
They’ve been there, ignored, for too long. Some may look pretty…yet you know they are poisonous.
Do you want to keep them or throw them away?
Today, and for the next several days – pay more attention to your thoughts.
Identify those thoughts that are not helpful: the thoughts that pull you down rather than raise you up.
Train yourself to spot these thoughts. And then simply observe them.
How do they work? How do they influence you? How do they make you feel?
Are you giving these thoughts the power to lower your mood, to ruin your day?
Be gentle and patient. It will take time, but, with practice, you will get better at it.
And then, the time will come to decide whether you want to keep them or throw them away.