If the last couple of years has been about focusing on rewarding my body for all the shit it had to put up with from Past Carlos, this year is about rewarding my mind.
It too, had to put up with a lot of shit from Past Carlos.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. UNCF advertising slogan, 1972
Aside for becoming one of the most widely recognised slogans in advertising history, its words ring a certain truth. A mind truly is, a terrible thing to waste.
A mind is our best friend as much as it’s our worst enemy.
I believe—stay with me now—that every moment we experience is stored in our mind. Every second of our lives gets catalogued and kept in the centre of our nervous system, the limbic system.
Recalling those moments is where the challenge lies, I believe that with the passing of time, as we grow and change, the keys by which new moments are stored also changes.
A tree that once would have reminded me of a swing I played on as a child is no longer there.
The smell of a person’s skin who once reminded me of my humanity and allowed me to be fragile is no longer here.
A certain species of birds, its chirping welcoming spring isn’t native to my new home.
As the world around us changes. As we change, so does our mind’s keys.
Some moments have more than one key, so can still be recalled.
Other moments, like traumatic events, have broken keys so can’t be recalled voluntarily.
Some moments are simply lost forever, their keys gone.
The science behind memory is a complex one, and will likely be studied for decades to come. How does memory work? in Science Daily
With all of this in mind, this year has been about cleaning out the cobwebs of my mind. Accessing some of those moments I thought were lost forever but as it turned out, I had simply misplaced the keys. It’s been about puzzling together the pieces of my mind which have been left unaddressed.
About seeing myself as truly as I’m capable of, and growing that capacity.
It’s been about addressing the little demons I’ve been carrying around for far too long.
Challenging the little demons
So I started reading more books again.
I wanted books that would challenge my way of thinking. All these books were recommended to me from different people.
- The Emptied Soul: On the Nature of the Psycopath by Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig
- Future Sex by Emily Witt
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
- Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
If you’re curious I can highly recommend any of them, they’re great books. With a special mention to Born to Run which is one the few books that had me both laughing hysterically and crying my eyes out.
I plenty more books to get through and look forward to having more of my ways of thinking challenged.
But for now, I’m finding myself reacting in a new way to familiar situations.
Calming the little demons
The Cambridge Buddhist Centre started an eight-part series with guided meditation and Buddhist teachings.
So I started meditating.
The Eightfold Path of Buddhism, also called the Middle Path or Middle Way, is the system of following these eight divisions of the path to achieve spiritual enlightenment and cease suffering: Right understanding: Understanding that the Four Noble Truths are noble and true.
The classes, which consisted of a 20–30 minute guided body scan meditation, teachings about one of the paths followed by discussion groups, was a very interesting and beginner-friendly approach to Buddhist teachings.
And everyone at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre were lovely fucking people, calm and welcoming. Like a cult, but not creepy.
I didn’t quite make it through all of their classes but I did find a stillness and increased awareness of my mind and body.
Turns out, unsurprisingly, that my mind has trouble shutting down and resting.
Am I enlightened now?
I found great insight and things to think about from the events I did attend.
First, be truthful, then kind, then meaningful and finally harmonious; In everything you are and do, to yourself and others.
I’m overly simplifying it now but sitting there, trying to be one with myself, these are the words that resonated with me.
Whilst I’ve rarely struggled with being truthful in my speech, many other aspects have suffered.
Clearly I had gotten stuck at step 1 in my speech and just stuck altogether in other aspects.
And I needed to get unstuck.
I’m still working on this and have plenty more work to do.
But for now, I’m less stuck than I used to be.
Distracting the little demons
So I started doing yoga.
There, standing in front of a full-height mirror in only my compression shorts, I was reminded of how inflexible I am in some directions and way too flexible in others.
Whilst dying a slow and sweaty death.
Unlike normal yoga which is performed in a room with normal temperature, I tried hot yoga.
Bikram yoga and Fierce Grace named after its studio, which is a combination of Hatha, Power and Ashtanga yoga, Interval and Core Training, are performed in a room heated to 35–42 °C with a humidity of 40%.
It basically means I was already sweating just sitting there waiting for the class to start.
But truth be told, I really enjoyed dying a slow a sweaty death.
Except for that one time I made the mistake of going for a Fierce Grace class hungover. I ended spending more time lying on the mat, out of breath and feeling like I would be sick, than I spent doing yoga. Kids, don’t do that.
The benefits of yoga aside, which seem questionable depending on who you talk to, I found that because I have to focus so much on posing my body, my mind is quiet. Too distracted by trying not to fall over like an idiot, to be thinking about other shit.
I still have a lot to learn and one of my goals is to be able to do a freestanding handstand push up.
But for now I can do a Supta Vajrasana (Reclined Thunderbolt Pose) with surprising ease.
Next, I want to incorporate these things into my daily life.