Reflections: Get Out Of Your Head

If we do not keep them (our minds) busy with some particular subject which can serve as a bridle to reign them in, they charge ungovernably about, ranging to and fro over the wastelands of our thoughts. (Michel de Montaigne)

A lot of our issues are self-manifested. It’s because when we are inactive when our bodies or minds aren’t involved in a task then the mind is free to roam different possibilities and concerns, many of which lie in the uncertain future. If we don’t tame this impulse, we are wrought with stress and anxiety.

Many times self-doubt only creeps up when we are still, when the world is silent, that moment before you go to bed or right before you are about to take a risk, the plunge, that one second, that’s where doubt comes because for that moment you think about the possible failures and the mind becomes untamed.

An easier way might be to say that when we don’t concentrate on the present then our mind becomes untamed. But concentrating on the present moment seems impossible if we aren’t actively doing something so, that’s a difficult thing to practice. Be present is a nice phrase but impractical much of the time.

But as quickly as doubt, stress or anxiety arises, with equal ease, they can be erased if we simply act. Take action, get out of the head and get in your body: Go for a run, see how many burpees you can do in 30 minutes, go meet up with friends and play a sport, play an instrument, talk to someone you love, pick up a book, start writing, whatever it is, whenever we get out of the mind we also leave behind the “wasteland of our thoughts”.

Montaigne understood the side effects of an idle mind very well, he said an idle mind “gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monstrosities” because for some strange reason idleness loves to spend its time thinking about what isn’t going right in our life. Constantly jumping from one thing to the next and it feels so real because your heart might begin to race, thinking about these monstrosities and it’s in time like these when one almost has to smack themselves, tell ourselves “it’s going to be okay”, verbalize it, make the mind focus on the positive words, on the task of saying “everything will work out” and you see in that instance these monstrosities disappear.

When the soul is without a definite aim she gets lost, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere. (Michel de Montainge)

Keep an aim in mind. I think this is why people love to journal in the morning or mid-afternoon. If you are able to write down what you want to do that day every morning then for the next few hours your mind is occupied and as the occupation wanes in the afternoon, one simply has to remind it of the aim and it’ll kick right back up and keep helping you instead of hurting you.

The biggest thing is to approach idleness with caution for you understand what comes with such comfort and at least, if those “chimeras” do come, we have a plan of action on how to fight them.

24 Hour Fast: The Mind’s Struggle

As I grow older, one thing becomes clear to me is that most of life is internal. Meaning that much of the struggles and hardship of life are those of the mind. One thing that shines a light on this is fasting.

My purpose behind fasting for 24 hours was to simply see how I would react and feel. There are plenty of health benefits to fasting that can be found elsewhere, but that is not what this will be about. Rather, it’s about that fragile thing in between your ears. The mind’s ability to make small things great and great things small.

Even prior to the fast, as I ate dinner the day before, all I could think about was how starving I will be the next day. Even before the hardship, I was already fearing it, wanting to stay away from it, even thinking about the silliness of fasting and perhaps I should not even bother.

The avoidance is primal, for your mind will always push you towards the path of least resistance.

All of this for just a 24-hour fast. That’s how weak minded we can get. The fast is nothing compared to hardships and struggles of life. This is a self-inflicted struggle. Most struggles come without warning and stay too long. What then? Can’t run away or escape that. In those times, unwanted defense mechanisms might start up once more to avoid the situation. But you cannot avoid life, or at least you should not.

Anyway, the day of fasting came and unsurprisingly, it was not bad. I say unsurprisingly because more often than not, what you fear or you hesitate to do is all in your head, in your mind, your wonderful imagination making monsters out of little cubs and the same was true with the fast. It really was no big deal apart from perhaps one or two moments.

Even these moments were easily overcome when the mind was reigned in. Keep the mind busy on a task, keep it working and occupied, keep it disciplined and all those weak thoughts like the need for pleasure, the need to procrastinate through food, they all take a back seat. I will not say they disappear, for resistant thoughts never really go away, but you can push them back and give them little to no attention.

The human body is a wonderful thing. It’s not a small child that needs care. It can take a few bumps and bruises and be fine. Leave it alone and it’ll survive. You don’t need to feed it every two hours for it to function. You aren’t bedridden because you haven’t had food for an hour.

The body adapts. It’s fine and so are you. The only thing that needs to be taken care of is your mind and your thoughts. Allow it to lead and it will lead you towards the easy choice and easy choices will make life hard, as Jerzy Gregorek says, but if you make the mind follow you, then you can make the hard choice and hard choices lead to easy life.

Perhaps a 24-hour fast is not worth such a conclusion. It might not be difficult enough, it might not put enough stress on you or create enough hardships for you, and this could be true. But for me, it’s just a simple exercise to see my reaction. The same goes for high-intensity exercising. I want to see how I feel in order to gauge how I might do when an unexpected hardship comes my way.

It’s a precaution to life.