Welcome to your best mind ever! In this series I’ll share with you twenty mind metaphors that will help you live a less fretful, less claustrophobic, all around improved life. These lessons will help you do what the Buddha explained was among our central tasks in life (and maybe our most important task): getting a grip on our own mind. Each of these twenty metaphors has the power to heal, cleanse, upgrade and improve your mind. I hope that you find them both useful and enjoyable.
What do I mean by a mind metaphor? Take the following example. I’ll ask you to install some windows in your mind, a request that does not require that you hire a handyman or a surgeon and that will immediately relieve you of a lot of mind stuffiness, sadness, and repetitive thinking. As a second example, I’ll invite you to create a release valve for your pressure cooker mind. By employing this release valve you’ll no longer unproductively obsess, anxiously fret, or grow too manic. These are the sorts of mind metaphors I’ll be providing.
Nothing is more important than your mind because you are your mind. Our mind is where we live; our mind is who we are. Descartes famously announced, “I think, therefore I am.” Even that apt observation doesn’t capture the extent to which we are our mind. I am my mind and you are your mind. Therefore our mind ought to be the subject that interests us the most. What can matter more than how I care for my mind? Yet no child receives instruction in mind care. Rather, children are invited to fill up on information. No mind care instruction whatsoever!
Nor do adults receive any mind care instruction. In this age of science and scientism there is much more focus on brain chemistry than mind care. Learning about the brain, however, doesn’t shed that much light on the workings of the mind. No brain scan will ever help you understand why you are sad, stale, or defeated. No cognitive scientist has language that speaks to you in a way that charms, connects, or really explains you to you. For that we need mind artists!
Certainly the brain and the mind are intimates. If your brain is harmed that will likely harm your mind. If your brain deteriorates, you may well become a demented you, a different you and a much less excellent you. If you drench a fetus’s brain in alcohol, you may well reduce its chances to enjoy the mind he or she might have otherwise enjoyed. Naturally the brain and the mind are related in these ways. But studying the brain in the lab is not the same thing as sitting under a tree (not unlike the Buddha), musing about the mind, and engaging in a little mind artistry.
We need more mind artists, folks who can provide us with new metaphors about the mind and who can paint recognizable pictures of that unique, dynamic inner landscape. Isn’t consciousness quite something? Even before we’re born we become conscious and the mind begins its odd occupations of thinking, dreaming, worrying, and all the rest. No brain scientist can guide us in the territory of consciousness, that place where we live all the time!
The way we dwell inside, pestering ourselves, writing poetry, producing nightmares, holding grudges, creating and abandoning intentions, conjuring both nasty tricks and amazing benedictions, is too fantastic for anything like mechanistic explanations. As if science has any idea where symphonies and hallucinations come from! But that fantastic place is comprehensible via metaphor. I think that the twenty I’m providing can do much more than entertain you. I think they can help you profoundly. Because if you actually install windows in your mind or create a release valve for your pressure cooker mind—if, that is, you turn my metaphoric advice into felt changes and new experiences—you will have done something wonderfully beneficial.
You can have a new mind. This is a very different idea from the idea of brain plasticity. When an abusive drinker, contemplating his life and having many, many conversations with himself, makes the mental switch from “I love my Scotch!” to “I must enter recovery,” he is manifesting a new mind. Something that he couldn’t tolerate embracing—the value of sobriety—has become a goal and an aspiration. His mind is now different, irrespective of what a brain scan shows. His new mind serves him better and is lovelier to inhabit.
We can each have our personal version of a new mind. These lessons will help you get there. These aren’t exercises in cognitive-behavioral therapy—I’m not addressing your cognitions but instead the mind that makes them. You can get ever so much better acquainted with that place where you reside all the time, your mind, and transform it into a roomier, airier, and altogether more congenial place to live in. This is important work—and at the same time really enjoyable! Please enjoy.
This article is part of the Your Best Mind Ever series written by Dr. Eric Maisel.