Spiritual Disciplines

Developing a Beautiful Mind

Have you ever had to spend time with someone you just can’t stand to be with? Someone who constantly projects their toxic energy into your world? What about if that person is you, and the toxic space is your headSuicide is an extreme solution to this basic human problem: how do we live with ourselves? For many of us, there are times in our lives when the mind could be described as anything but beautiful. As the years go by, the Eden of the newborn brain gets progressively scarred by trauma, disappointed by failure, regretful of the past and fearful of the future. This increasingly neurotic mind plays the same compulsively negative theme day after day and year after year, aided and abetted by the information we download on a daily basis from the media, who have a vested interest in keeping people scared, anxious and fretful. It is no wonder that far above any other life-damaging condition; depression and mental illness are exponentially growing problems throughout the Western world.

Your Mind is a Garden

The fact of the matter is that we are irrevocably locked within the space between our two ears that we call the Mind. The mind receives sensory input from the five senses in the form of electromagnetic data which it then compares with data already held in the memory and then constructs that which we perceive as reality and projects it onto the screen of our mind. This is our world. Our garden. Our reality. And we can never escape.

 One of the fascinating studies in psychology is to try to understand how two different people can construct such radically different worlds out of the same data. One person smells curry and their mouth starts watering. Another person smells the same dish and starts retching. One person finds beauty and peace in the snowy mountains, another is literally turned cold by the very idea. This is all due to a complex interplay between the subconscious mind (wherein our memories are stored) and the conscious mind (which is that part of consciousness that we are most aware of at any time.)  The data received through the sensory organs by both people is exactly the same, but the way the mind constructs the persons reality based on that data can literally “make a heaven into hell, a hell of heaven”, as Milton quite rightly states.

“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven into hell, a hell of heaven.” John Milton

Stop now and take a moment. Close your eyes and imagine a garden, perhaps even imagine you’re standing in the original Eden. Smell the flowers. Hear the birds singing. Take in the colours and feel the breeze on your face. What if your mind was as beautiful as that garden. What if your repetitive thoughts were those of peace, compassion and tranquility instead of worry, fear, insecurity and anxiety? Wouldn’t you give everything in order to dwell in such a place.

Your mind is such a garden, and you must live there every day of your life. Doesn’t it therefore make sense to cultivate it as a place of beauty, calm and love? A place of sunshine, warmth and happiness? The good news is that this is entirely possible, and is witnessed by the countless brave souls who have endured terrible circumstances and situations yet retained their inner peace, serenity and happy disposition. For that to happen, we must take seriously the overgrown nature of the mind-garden and rescue the fork and hoe from the shed and prepare to dig! Weeds have dug their deep roots down into the dark soil of our subconscious mind and at the same time we have neglected to be diligent in either pulling them out or in planting flowers in their place. A beautiful mind, like a truly beautiful garden is a lifetimes work, but it is possibly the most important task you will ever set yourself to; for I reiterate again, you’re the one who has to live there!

Every time our brain receives new data from the senses, before it constructs for you a ‘reality’ to play on the screen of your mind it takes a moment to cross reference the data with the data already stored in the memory.  The mind can loosely be divided into two parts, the first of which, the subconscious mind, is responsible for the autonomic functions of breathing, making your heart beat at regular intervals, regulating your body temperature etc. The subconscious mind is also the store, wherein every data input from your entire life is stored in seed form, waiting for the right conditions in order to manifest as a ‘thought’ in your conscious mind, which constitutes the ‘upper’ part of the structure of consciousness. We have all experienced this phenomena, when, for instance, we smell a certain fragrance and it instantly transports us back to a time in our childhood that is also linked with that same smell. To change the analogy, if the mind were a computer then the  subconscious Mind acts as the hard drive and the conscious mind as the RAM wherein present time calculations are made.  This is an incredibly simplistic way of explaining things, but it works for our purposes here.The result of this interaction means that nothing that we perceive as reality is in actual fact reality as it is – but rather a reality that is coloured by the billions of comparisons with the databanks of our memory and limited by the boundaries of our five senses. This is why when one person sees lemons and another sees lemonade.

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds…

Many years ago I lived in a terraced house and my garden was backed onto by two other gardens. As a keen gardener I was horrified at the weed infested patch that was the next door neighbours yard. More than the unsightly mess, the thought of all those weed-seeds blowing from her garden into mine was incredibly disheartening! And that’s the thing. Seeds are being shown into our subconscious through the medium of our senses 24/7. But the worst part is that many of those seeds are from the weedy garden of our friends and aquaintances. It would be hard enough just to pull the weeds that were indigenous to our garden, but to have to deal with the seeds that are blown our way by the news agencies, social media and directly by other people uploading their own insane headspace into our brains. For this reason alone one of the kindest things you can do for humanity is to learn to deal with your own headspace, taking the attitude of an expert gardener preparing for an exhibition. Every shoot that rises above ground level is inspected, every weed is pulled before it ever manages to drive a tap-root deep into the soil of our heart. Moreover, we actually take the time to deliberately sow seeds that will produce beautiful flowers, recognising that the most sure protection against weeds is good ground cover!

Doing Your Gardening

This all leads us to some very simple principles that my grandmother taught me but which in my infinite youthful wisdom I neglected for so long. I vividly remember how much I enjoyed peddling to her the latest terrible story from the news headlines or expounding to her my teenage angst regarding the latest girl to have said ‘no’ when I asked her out on a date. She would stop what she was doing (important conversations normally took place in the kitchen) and recite Philippians 4:8 to me, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” At least half of the solution really is that simple: examine every thought as it arises from your subconscious mind and manifests into your conscious mind and ask yourself, “Will this seed produce a plant I want to propogate in my garden?” Examine every seed that blows into your consciousness from your senses and ask yourself, “Does this make my reality more or less beautiful?” and deal with it appropriately. 

This is not the same as burying your head in the sand and ignoring the desperate plight of the world around you. On the contrary, as you develop a mind that is full of peace, happiness and compassion, you will be equipped to then help others with their gardening – and you can share seeds of joy, happiness and tranquility from your garden to theirs.

Developing a beautiful life largely boils down to learning to deal with our brains; discovering how to be selective to what grows there and being diligent in spending time every day doing the weeding.  Taking 15 minutes to mediatate on your day before bed, counting your blessings and learning to transform the seeds of pain and sorrow into compassion and understanding will go a long way to transforming the landscape of your heart. Don’t be in a rush – gardens take many years to develop, but I truly believe that as we are diligent in this we create for ourselves a beautiful mind, a beautiful reality and a beautiful garden that we will gladly live in and others will want to visit.

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