Remember the five fruit and vegetables campaign? It is so embedded in the discussion about health these days, that no one even thinks about it anymore. According to Harvard School of Public Health, the latest recommendation is 5-13 servings. Depending on where your ancestors are from, this may have been what they ate like. The intention of this advice was to encourage us to create a solid foundation for a healthy body.
So what’s the equivalent for a healthy mind? Because the truth is, if we do one without the other, we’re only taking care of part of what will keep us healthy and help us to live a good life.
Perhaps we can think of developing an unshakeable foundation as the mind equivalent of five fruit and vegetables for our bodies. Why would we want to do that? A healthy body is a good thing. But without a healthy mind, life is meaningless. It is difficult to concentrate, focus, or get anything done. We drift along without purpose. Our internal and external interactions are difficult and unsatisfying. Having an unhealthy mind is is like having a digestive system that doesn’t process food well enough to nourish us. If we feed it the wrong food, we’re not healthy. If it doesn’t process the food we give it very well, we’re still not healthy. So we fix it.
But we allow our minds to continue to not work well. We feed it the wrong food, and we realize it doesn’t process the food we give it very well. How do we know our minds don’t work very well? There are many indications. At a very simple level, we only need to look at how contented or satisfied we are in our day to day life. Or how well we are able to direct our minds to where we want it to go – here are a few examples:
- sleepless nights tossing and turning with ceaseless thoughts
- sudden bouts of anger and frustration
- eating another piece of cake (or the whole carton of ice cream) when you didn’t intend to
- buying another (fill in the blank) when you don’t need one or cannot really afford one
- not getting up to exercise when you intended to
- not being able to go without your phone or connection to the Internet for an extended period of time
Your mind should do what you want it to do, what you tell it to do. If you drive a car and when you wanted to turn left it turned right, you’d have it looked at immediately. But we accept that our brains will not necessarily do what we ask when we tell it. Isn’t that strange?
What would it take to develop an unshakeable foundation? Pretty much the same way we would eat fruit and vegetables throughout the day, we practice throughout the day. Small, regular periods of practice get the body accustomed to a new way of being. It is like learning an instrument or a new sport. We learn the basics by practicing the same things over and over until they become natural.
It’s a bit like learning to cook also. We follow the instructions until we understand the process and get reliable results, and then we use our intuition to experiment and explore. Once it becomes intuitive and natural, it becomes the way we approach life spontaneously, and we don’t have to do. We can mostly be.
How do we do this? Begin to enter here.