Updated: Jul 5
Your mind can be your greatest asset or your greatest liability!
If a mind is untrained, which is, unfortunately, the default state for most people, it typically gets distracted by inner self-talk and excessive thinking, and your awareness is being redirected to every little external event, or thought as it appears.
This state of mind, which is also known in Buddhist teachings as the “monkey mind” (as it bounces around untamed and restlessly), can also be a source of stress and anxiety. It has trouble keeping a focus, and there is no inner peace, as it already identifies the next possible threat (worry state.)
An untamed and untrained mind, therefore, can be your most outstanding liability!
Compare this to a trained mind that rests in a peaceful and calm state: it has the necessary availability to focus (even for a longer period of time) and quickly gets down to productive or creative tasks to solve complex problems, like a surgical instrument that can perform well if needed to support your goals and vision. This type of brain can be your greatest asset at all.
However, it requires systematic and regular training, as it develops from a chaotic untamed state to a fully trained and effective tool that serves you well.
How can this be achieved effectively, and what is the commitment and timeline one can expect?
Before we go into timelines, I would like to share a bit of my own journey. Back in 2012-2014, while working as a tech leader in Silicon Valley, I lived in a state of constant stress, which I did not pay too much attention to. My life wasn’t balanced, but it did not occur to me that the major culprit was my mind. Only later, when the stress symptoms became worse and led to anxiety, I figured it was time to act. Luckily I did this before completely burning out.
I took an 8-week mindfulness based stress reduction class (MBSR), which was offered by my former employer Yahoo. This class was extremely helpful, and for the first time, I experienced a calm state of mind for a short duration a few times a week.
As I’ve seen the tremendous impact the training had on my state of mind, I started to study mindfulness in more detail and made it a clear priority. I worked with several teachers, participated in retreats and workshops, and my mindfulness journey seemed to go in a promising direction.
However, as a scientist, I was always interested in how to measure progress. What effect did the mindfulness training have actually on my mind? Did my stress levels decrease? I felt much better, but how do I know what the actual impact is?
To better understand how the mind works, I also studied the fundamentals of neuroscience, as well as fields such as neurofeedback. It became clear that there are scientific ways to support my mindfulness training. It was just a matter of continuous learning and reflecting to determine new insights.
Over time I realized that there are different overarching themes or focus areas that, when combined systematically, can lead to a trained mind in a more effective and straightforward way.
It is not simple as doing a 5-minute meditation every day and then hoping your mind will be in a fully trained state after a few months (although the formal meditation itself is one of your most powerful tools to tame your mind.)
As mentioned in earlier articles, I refer to the mind as the “operating system” or “software” that runs on your brain (“hardware”), which as a result outputs your “ego” or personality. Therefore, as the mind is a piece of software, it can be debugged and upgraded to serve you better.
Then there is awareness, the silent observer of all your actions but also of all your thoughts and feelings. In an untrained mind, both your awareness and your mind are entangled and completely mixed up.