Reining in the scattered mind

Photo: João Silas

Want to bring misery upon yourself? Let your mind wander. See all the dark places it goes.

Thing is, if you consciously do this, it won’t work. It’s like trying to NOT think of a pink elephant. Consciously letting the mind wander is not really wandering. It’s a controlled gallop.

But getting back to the main point, there’s nothing our entire being — mind, body, and spirit — loves more than undertaking an activity that requires full attention.

When you’re doing something and you feel zero separation between yourself and that thing you’re doing, you’re in the flow. Keep in mind, this is a state, not a thing. What matters is the mindset, not particularly what you’re doing. You could be in the flow washing dishes, shoveling snow, setting up to that clutch putt to win the Masters, or changing a diaper.

Our modern times provides us with ample challenges to get this right. Something’s always beeping, bopping, ringing, or pinging in our pockets, ears, or hands.

Alert! Alert! Notification!

People are so unhappy nowadays partly because we’re in such a comfortable place. We have more free time than ever because our basic necessities are basically met. We don’t have to go outside to pee. We don’t need to hunt or grow our food. Our education comes to us. Any movie we want to see is in our laps.

This is a dangerous thing for the mind. Now that all the stuff it was designed to focus on is covered (thanks, market economy) it can wander all over the place like a bull in a China shop.

Don’t let this happen. Keep it focused. Keep it laser-targeted as much as possible on stuff that’s either therapeutic, physically beneficial, or emotionally healthy. Don’t know what to do with it? Figure something out. Go walk uphill to school, both ways in the snow. Dust your house with a toothbrush. Take your engine apart and put it back together again. Read a book. Have tantric sex. Something.

The mind makes a great servant and a horrible master. Don’t let it get flipped.


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