A Flexible Mind

In “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” Dr. Seuss wrote all about our “thinker-upper machine.” He saw that our minds were marvelous, miraculous machines. Amazingly, we can even think about the fact that we are capable of thought production. How’s that for a mind bender? In truth, we are capable of thinking of anything: the wintry weather, our nieces or nephews, last night’s delectable dinner, our neighbor’s lovely lawn. Our moment to moment experience depends upon where we choose to put our attention and how much importance we place on what we think.

We create with our minds. We have the ability to create pictures, stories, song lyrics, love letters, model airplanes, skyscrapers, arguments, weapons, and poems. What do you want to create? There is no limit because our minds are flexible. Sometimes our minds flit from one thing to another like a bee from an aster to a chrysanthemum. Sometimes our minds land in the present moment and we stay there for a while. Sometimes our minds bring us into the past in the form of memories, or we might spend some time imagining our future. Sometimes we create bad feelings with our minds. At other times, we create good feelings. Sometimes we ponder a problem and become so analytical that we lose touch with ourselves. Sometimes we forget a problem and a creative solution appears out of nowhere, long after we’ve tried to find it.

We are fortunate to have the ability to do so many things with our minds, yet we often forget just how flexible a mind can be. We can change our minds if that is what we really want. As we drift into a “poor me” song we can decide: no, I don’t want to go there, no use in that. We can turn our mind on a dime and decide to think about the things for which we are grateful, and then we feel appreciative. Each dip and turn will bring us a different experience. Our minds are so flexible that we can even use them to let go of what we’re thinking, just as an author at a typewriter crumples page after page of unacceptable drivel. We can use our minds to look for more pleasant experiences, too.

At times our mind will play tricks on us, throwing up the same old thought we just let go of, to see if we’re paying attention, perhaps. And once again, we can laugh and say no, no, I’m in charge and I can decide what is not worth thinking about.
The more we realize how flexible our mind is the more flexible it becomes. The more we change our minds, the easier it gets. Just like our body on a yoga mat. The more we do it, the more flexible our body becomes regardless of how inflexible it was initially.
We have all experienced forgetfulness. Whenever I pack for a trip I realize how easy it is to forget something. Each time I studied for a test, I  realized how easy it was to forget what didn’t interest me. In fact, that’s how our minds work everyday.

The things we’re bothered by seem to stick with us like flypaper; such as a nasty comment made by a boss, partner or child, negative gossip we hear, or perhaps something that turned out badly because we weren’t heard correctly. These are examples of thoughts that we may find very hard to let go. In these moments, our minds might as well be made of stone; there’s no flexibility there. However, when we can wake up to the fact that we’ve cemented an idea in our minds, we’re already closer to being free of it.
That is why I’m writing about the inherent flexibility of the mind, in the hopes that bringing it to your attention will help you in the future. All of us are resilient; some more than others and some at certain times, but not other times. Have you noticed just such a difference in the people around you? Some seem to bounce back from the most difficult situations; others seem to take much longer. The variable is the degree to which a person takes his or her own thinking seriously.

For those who realize that thoughts are not made of solid mass (they are not even composed of smoke), thinking seems to flow more easily; thoughts come and go readily. If you practice meditation, you know what I mean. Thoughts drift. Seeing your thoughts come and go is like sitting at a river bank watching a leaf float down the river; first it is in view and then it is out of view, replaced by another leaf,  twig, or branch. It is the same with our ability to create thought. If we don’t like what we’re thinking, or the experience we are getting, we can switch gears, because the experience is coming from our own mind. We can wait for and allow another thought to come along and take the place of the previous thought. Isn’t it wonderful that we are wired this way?

Now, I don’t mean that you should put a thought under the rug, or simply try to will yourself to replace that thought with one more positive. What I am saying is, that it is good for your heart and soul to decide whether something you’re thinking is causing you heartache.  If you become aware that it is, then you can change course and go in a different direction. All that is required is to look for a nicer feeling. To do so, you can say to yourself – I’d like to see this in a different light that will be good for me and those around me. Then let it go and see what comes to mind. Allow yourself to open to a fresh, new, more productive line of thinking.

When you stretch your muscles, you gain flexibility which creates a healthier body less prone to injury or disease. When you open up your mind, you gain resiliency and allow for a new way of seeing things, which flows forth naturally. You have the capacity to create a flow of thoughts that could be healthier and even helpful. Take a moment–think about it!

Lori Carpenos