keeping your mind clean


do you remember the post about my experience with mindfulness meditation? well, i still suck at it but there are some things that i've learned thanks to this practice.
basically, our brain works as a personal computer. it has some processes going on in background and others that happen consciously under our control, and exactly as a computer it has to manage its resources to optimize its performances, to store efficiently the files for facilitating the access to them later and to save memory. in the last decades we have learned quite well how to use computers and other electronic devices but we aren't equally good with our brain. we need to adjust the operating system to optimize its functioning and to make it work at its best.
our species is privileged with a brain that can work on multiple tasks at the same time, this means that we are able to do something mechanically while our brain is focusing on something else. it's extremely useful but this skill, if not managed properly, can become self-defeating. the risk is to live always focused on the past (considering and reconsidering in an endless loop memories and things that already happened) or on the future (planning and worrying about things that in most cases will never happen). in both cases the result will be a sort of low but exhausting background noise that will constantly distract us from reality, precluding our ability of fully living our present. this means that, under similar circumstances, we become unable to enjoy all the little pleasures of our daily life and that we are permanently involved in a struggle to keep our attention where it needs to be. not being fully aware of the reality around us can even become highly dangerous and put at risk our own life, so every little bit of attention we have at our disposal is extremely precious. luckily there are some tricks that we can learn to avoid mental strain and free up resources, closing all the apps our brain does not need to use in a given moment. i've learned them through practice and tested them all on the long run and i have to say that, till now, they're working.
here they are:
- write down everything that you have to keep in mind. everything. for example, when you notice that something is missing in your fridge don't tell yourself that the next time you go to the grocery store you have to buy it, but add it immediately to your shopping list. you'll free up your mind from some background operation (in this case, keeping in mind that you have to buy something).
- try to do one single thing at a time. going multitasking can be great, but using this resource as the default mode of you mind can become very detrimental. it's like when you have your hands busy and even the most simple task like tying your shoes becomes difficult.
- end every though process arriving, when possible, to some conclusions without leaving anything waiting in the background of your brain, except when you need to leave something rest and wait to re-examine it later.
- never postpone any commitment if you know that it will be thumbing in you brain till you do it. it's much better to do it as soon as possible and get over with it.
- if a doubt on something is occupying our mind for much time, it's better to invest some energy, time or even some money (when appropriate) to solve it.
- tell the truth, always and on everything. lying requires remembering your lies and this will force you to keep in mind more information.
- you don't need to have an opinion on everything (this is a very common attitude in our days). having an opinion requires a lot of mental resources, you need to gather info, elaborate on them and then find your position on the matter. if you are not interested in something and it doesn't have any impact on your life, feel free to not having an opinion on it.
- learn to stay in silence. nowadays we're used to eradicate silence from our life with electronic devices, radio, tv etc. so we're constantly exposed to acoustic stimuli. it's great to have the opportunity to listen something interesting from the radio or to have a good tune pumping from our mp3 player, but too often we leave the radio on even when we don't care at all about the broadcast. this conduct can be very inconvenient, as all the sounds coming to our ears are constantly scanned by our brain (yes, even when we don't notice it) and, once again, this will require some resources in terms of focus and presence of mind. plus, our brain needs some moments of absence of sensory cues to elaborate and store the information gathered during the day and silence is crucial to this process.
well, that's all i've learned till now thanks to the exercises of mindfulness meditation, but i'm sure there's much more. maybe through practice even a lousy meditator like myself will learn.