Have you ever tried to practice Mindfulness, or other forms of meditation, but found you couldn’t, because your mind was too busy? When trying to meditate, do you spend all your time trying to concentrate and focus, only to find your mind wandering?
Yet if mental presence is so hard to come by, why is it that, as children, we all started out in a state of mental presence? As a child, your mind worked as nature designed it to do – living in the present, using the data-based, personal part of the brain as needed, and then coming back to the present. You ‘realized’ it was time to stop what you were doing and do something else.
Here’s another question to consider: Do you have a favorite activity, where your mind routinely settles into the present, without any effort on your part? Since this is true for most people, I will assume it is for you. This could be anything – working out, running or golf are common ones; being on vacation, cooking, or being in the shower are other things people mention. If it’s so hard for your mind to get calm and present, why is it that when you engage in that activity it happens naturally and routinely? And why is it that when others engage in that activity it doesn’t necessarily happen for them?
The answer is that you are hardwired to live in a state of mental presence. Your brain is designed to use analytical, memory based thinking as needed, and to drop thought and settle back into the present whenever you allow it to.
Why then do people so often experience themselves as having a busy mind, experiencing stress, losing their mental clarity, and having a hard time meditating?
The answer, at least in part, is because the way you use your mind isn’t aligned with nature’s design for optimal mental functioning.
Partly it’s just habit – the habit of keeping too much on your mind, even when you don’t need to be thinking. We all get prompts that say ‘you’re tired, it’s time to stop thinking now – take a break’, but many of us have learned to ignore those prompts. We develop habits of keeping our mental activity going, and then our minds start to run those habits automatically.
There was s discovery of Principles made in the 1970’s that explain nature’s design for optimal mental functioning. They explain, logically and consistently, that the only thing you ever feel is your thinking in the moment. However, it doesn’t always look that way. You may think angry thoughts about your husband, and it may look like your angry feelings are coming from those thoughts. Or it may look like those angry feelings are coming from him.
When it looks like your feelings are coming from you, you’re in the reality of how your mind actually works. Your husband may have done something that possibly anyone would get angry about, but no could feel anger if they happened to be thinking about something else in that moment, or saw through their husband’s behavior and had compassionate thoughts instead of angry ones. The point here isn’t that you should or should not be feeling anything in any given moment; the point is that on the level of fact, people only ever feel their thinking in the moment, about the events and circumstances occurring in their lives.
Why this matters so much in terms of your capacity for ongoing mental presence is this: When your perception is aligned with how your mind actually works – that it’s feeling whatever you’re thinking, you’re in alignment with nature’s laws for how your mind is designed to function at its best. The angry thoughts will pass quickly, because it’s illogical for your brain to continue to think in ways that are harmful to you. Not only does anger cause stress and have the potential to raise your blood pressure, but it clouds your thinking. And when your mind is stressed, research now shows that your IQ goes down. Since we are part of the evolutionary intelligence built into life, when you realize that you’re feeling your thinking, your mind will settle itself and return to calm. You will regain your mental clarity, your IQ will rise, and you’ll reconnect with your big picture thinking. From there people are responsive rather than reactive, and far better able to take on the challenges that life presents.
As you begin to work with this understanding – known as the Three Principles – your mind begins to re-establish the pattern that we all started out in life with – living in a state of mental presence much of the time, and using your analytical, data based mind as needed. As a result, people report feeling smarter, using their minds more efficiently, being more insight prone, and having better relationships. It’s also a foundation for any form of mediation, such as mindfulness, because you won’t have to work so hard to meditate.
- Annika Hurwitt