The Three Things are: look after your Mind, your Body, and your Spirit.
Sometimes we are bombarded with advice on how to live well and after lots of consideration and reading, a simple rule struck me, which frames much of what we know already in a more accessible, easier to remember way. And since it’s all about taking a conceptually easier approach, this can be a shorter post this week – well I’ll see what happens, anyway!
The mind is the powerhouse where we do all our thinking, be it positive, negative or somewhere in-between. It’s what dominates most of the time and is what stimulates our emotions, good or bad. So keep it thinking constructively the right way for you. If you have thoughts that don’t serve your well-being or that of others around you that you care about, then challenge these thoughts, try to ditch them or stick them in a box labelled ‘unhelpful thoughts’, which will contain all those ways of thinking that are particularly unhelpful to you as an individual – you’ll know what they are. Don’t compare your self with others and don’t let others pull your strings, or push your buttons. Our lives and our life journeys are ours alone, so have the courage to follow your own path. But the point I had in mind (sorry about the pun) is this: on a daily basis, do something you find stimulating to your mind, that stretches your mind, focuses it, and at the same time that will nurture it and keep it creatively alive. So in my case, for example, this has to be writing, reading, or having a lively discussion with a friend in a cafe.
And for those pestering worries that keep tapping you on your shoulder, remember the serenity prayer that is very familiar to all of us:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
So change what you can, challenge what you can, act when you can to solve a problem by nipping it in the bud, but accept what you can’t do anything about. And try to accept yourself and others, not passively, but knowing that this is the best way to get rid of our inner conflict, the source of most stress. Why else the expression ‘we can be our own worst enemy’?
But looking after your mind is probably the hardest and most complex thing of our ‘trinity’ so if it’s still too busy and making you stressed, then at least try to calm it down, which is where the next two things can help.
Do some exercise, where the body can take over from the mind, where you can feel alive, your body working for you, releasing those endorphins – where the sheer physicality and effort can subdue the clutter in you mind, and sometimes you can even get some insights along the way. When the mind is given room for a while, it can come up with helpful solutions or resolutions. I know quite a few writers who’ve said a good walk helps them solve their plot problems, as it has me. It can help with any problem you’re mulling over at the back of your mind.
Your favourite forms of exercise will give you the ‘feel good factor’, help you feel sated and you can pat yourself on the back at having made the effort.
If meditation is your thing, then make time for a session, to practice letting thoughts come and go while getting in touch with the deeper you below the surface of the ‘mental clamouring’ for attention. Where there is a stillness and the soul of you.
But if you are tired, give yourself permission to relax, rest up, no guilt whatsoever. Know that you are looking after yourself.
And of course for your body, there are the foods that you can treat yourself to , and the senses to enjoy. Stroke your pet, smell that gorgeous scent, look at your favourite things, listen to your favourite music and maybe have a dance and tune your body into all that rhythm.
I have a lovely quote for you about music from William Congreve (playwright and poet):
Music alone with sudden charms can bind
The wand’ring sense, and calm the troubled mind.
What is this nebulous part of us? Well, I guess it’s synonymous with the soul, and what it needs is to feel fully alive as opposed to being starved and feeling ‘there must be more to life than this’. It’s about wonder, imagination, self-awareness and enhanced awareness of our surroundings, its about moments of transcendence, going beyond the limits of our usual experience, it’s when we are in touch with the depth of ourselves, of others and the universe as a whole. All this sounds like a tall order to fulfil, but there simple ways of triggering these responses, and many will be familiar to you already, but acknowledging that this is what we are doing is important.
You spirit might be nourished by many things, such as:
- Looking closely into the centre of a flower and studying it with wonder at the inventions of nature.
- Staring at the star constellations in a midnight blue sky.
- Letting some music drift deeply into you, feeling your emotional responses, being moved by it with both sorrow or elation.
- Giving your love to someone special who gives their love back to you.
- Helping someone in need.
- Feeling in touch with yourself in a centred way.
- Doing what you’re really passionate about.
- Singing in a choir, all working together to make the best sounds possible.
- Walking by the beach with a storm coming, to stir the senses, to stir the blood.
- Swimming in the sea at eye level to a million sparkles glancing off the water.
Okay, they’re getting too personal now, but you get the idea.
And of course you can combine all three. Many activities address body, mind and spirit, or one triggers another eg gardening or going for a walk on a sunny day with a fresh breeze in the air while listening to music.
So whatever your day holds for you, and even if you only have a little time for each, consciously nurture your mind, your body and your spirit. These three fundamentals to living can be a mantra of a kind. And since the idea is to keep things simple, think of it this way too – what else is there?
(pics courtesy of pixabay)
(Next week I’ll talk about what Stephen King can teach us about writing well.)