Friday, January 27, 2006

Mind Tidying

When my children were young, I used a kind of `mind-tidying’ process on them when they were afraid, or about to undergo something unpleasant but necessary, like an injection. I held them tight and told them to think of the nicest thing they could imagine.

My father used to say that the only place we are truly free is in our minds. No one can tell what you’re thinking, no mind police can tell you what to think and you can go anywhere your imagination can take you in seconds. He would not have approved of Mrs Darling’s mind tidying.

As I tried to show my children, I believe the mind can be trained away from depressing or negative patterns, and that it can help us cope with unpleasantness. The mind responds well to habit. If you think habitually, ``this is going to be bad”, it generally is – if you think, ``I am strong, I can get through this,” you generally can. The Buddha said ``with our thoughts we make the world” – well, perhaps not all of it (nature is a great thought but I’m not taking any credit for it) but with our thoughts we can certainly make our own world. ``Imagine,” said John Lennon, imagining that if everyone had the same thoughts, we could remake the world.

That always reminds me of the Berlin Wall, which divided a city for 20 years. Then everyone had the same thoughht and the wall came down. At any time during those 20 years, this mass thought could have occurred – the wall was more psychological than physical, kept standing by fear rather than bricks and mortar. I believe thoughts can travel, sometimes flitting from mind to mind (so that more than one person may have the idea – that way it stands a good chance of being born, like necessary traits in natural selection) or it can occur to a whole generation.
I think of my mind as a kind of attic storehouse. Shelves upon shelves of papers, books and boxes spilling their contents, all mixed up in a frightful clutter with no filing system. Anyone venturing in there bent on tidying would face a daunting task.

But I don’t need Mrs Darling anyway – journaling, writing and art are my way of mind tidying. Ever written a good idea down then lost the bit of paper? Try as you might, you can’t recall it. The mind, relieved of the burden of having to keep yet another brainstorm on the front burner, has tidied it away into one of those boxes. You wrote it down. My work is done.

But sit down with a journal, or a pile of collage material, and just let the mind find its own lost stuff. Suddenly, all kinds of things pop up. ``Remember this?” shaking the dust off of some long forgotten memory or piece of trivial information. A rusty old projector cranks up and pictures flicker across the screen – this was the view from the mountains over Avila – this was a Scottish morning with the mist lying in the glen like steam on a giant teacup. This was a face you loved dearly once and have not seen for decades…

There’s a comfy old chair in my mind’s attic where I can sit back and watch the movies of the past, or read through one of the crammed folders in the file boxes. Unless I journal or draw it, I’ll probably forget all about it again, but once I have done that, it becomes magically tidied. Since I joined the Soul Food community, I have found this process comes much more easily.

Of course, in every attic mind, there is a basement – a place where all the childhood terrors and adult fears are stored. It’s murky down there, the light bulb gives off about two watts, and if you’re not careful you’ll come out bleeding.

Anna Marie seems very at home in her basement but I have to confess I need one of those miner’s helmets and a lot of happy thoughts for protection. My fear of heights is the first thing to come up and grab me as I peer down into this dingy space. I know I will have to write about it – put myself on the edge of a precipice, or going down with the Titanic, but so far I have only squealed, jumped back and given it a paragraph or two.

But it badly needs tidying. Or least a better light bulb.


At 7:24 PM, Blogger Leonie Bryant said...

I loved this piece of writing - I love hearing of the comforting of a father and the wisdom and reassurance for a little child.
I also loved your perceptions around journalling and writing things down. I do write things down and cut out important bits and pieces, however, I tend to spurn myself sometimes for not following through on things. I can now see that it is all part of the process.
Thanks for the wisdom.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

Brilliant writing. Your truth about the Berlin wall IS a reality. I watched a brilliant documentary, called "The Fall of the Wall" and I was absolutely stunned at the people, the way they camped out and insisted on being allowed their rights. These were business people, intellectuals, living in tents, who had just said "no more". This is rivetting viewing if you can get hold of it. "If something bugs you take action", must have been what they all thought at once, and it proves it can be done. They realised they all had the same goal, and they were supported all over the world. The people had got to the stage where they realised their freedom was paramount. Everyone has fears and they demand attention, because they want to be freed. Or be made friends with, not an easy task, but well worth doing. We all have our particular stuff, dark spots and unfriendly zones. Some are helpful, some are not. This post was just fabulous.

At 3:21 AM, Blogger faucon of Sakin'el said...

Very insightful. Early on I learned how much fear affects people (read "The Ninth Wave" - Burdick). And Walsh posits that the only real emotions are 'fear' and 'love' -- if it doesn't look like love then it must be fear based.

Your ability to recognize this in others allows you to 'heal' them ..

oops - Kiyan whispering now.



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