Sunday, December 23, 2012

THE RENEWAL OF YOUR MIND

All religions contain some useful advice on the subject of mental health---and on how to attain and maintain it.

For example, the Bhagavad Gita talks about the importance of a ‘stable [or steady] mind’ (Gita 2:56). Such a mind, or mind-set, is one in which the mind is imperturbable, that is, the mind remains unmoved and undisturbed by not just external circumstances but also the vagaries and agitations of the contents of the mind itself---for your worst ‘enemy,’ so to speak, exists within your own mind. That is what is really meant by that verse in The Bible which says, ‘A person’s foes will be right in their own household’ (Mt 10:36). Our foes are the sum total of all our negative thoughts and emotions, which for the most part are the direct result of our seeing things as we would like them to be as opposed to how they really are.

The Bible talks a lot about a ‘sound mind,’ making it unambiguously clear that such a mind is in contradistinction to one dominated by the ‘spirit of fear’ or timidity A sound mind is one of ‘power’ and is characterized by ‘love’ (cf 2 Tim 1:7); it is a state of mind that is ‘still’ and ‘frets not’ (Ps 37:7), and does not react unnecessarily. Rather it responds effectively to whatever takes place within or outside of us. The Bible also speaks on the importance of being ‘transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom 12:2). I will have more to say about that matter shortly.

The Noble Qur’an speaks of a mind characterized by ‘rest and satisfaction’ (Qur’an 56:89), and in Buddhism there can be found the idea of ‘no-mindedness’ [or 'empty mind']. Your mind is ‘no-minded’ or 'empty' when you cease to engage in conditioned thinking, when you stop trying to control things and others, and when you start to live spontaneously---free from all cravings, 'sticky' attachments and aversions. You know you are 'no-minded' when you receive each event or happening in your life with a mind-set which neither likes nor dislikes. This is sometimes referred to as having an 'equal' mind.

All of these holy texts are referring to more-or-less the same thing, and that is this---the importance of being renewed in your mind, not just once but all the time. Then, in the words of the Bhagavad Gita, you will be a 'sage of stable mind.'

So, what must you do to be renewed in your mind? Well, it is not so much what you must do, rather it is a matter of ceasing to do a number of things that stand in the way of mental health. Here are a few things to avoid: judging and criticizing others, holding on to anger, resentments and ill-will as well as illusions of all kinds, not letting the past stay in the past, living mechanically as opposed to mindfully, not being satisfied and content with your lot, imitating and copying others, seeking sense-gratification, and so on.

There is much that you can do to attain and maintain mental health. Renewal of mind is something that can happen almost instantaneously---because such is the nature of reality, which unfolds ceaselessly from one moment to the next. Just make up your mind to be cheerful under all conditions (that is, 'ever content,' in the words of the Bhagavad Gita), to 'speak good to [all] people' (Qur'an 2:83), and to live fully and mindfully from one moment to the next, being choicelessly aware of and alert to whatever unfolds outside of and within your consciousness.

There is nothing more important than the health of your mind. Make it a daily---indeed, a moment-to-moment---concern of yours ... without becoming self-obsessed in the process.



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