A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. –Oliver Wendell Holmes
Stretching the mind includes taking some risks, a few leaps of faith and a willingness to make glorious mistakes. But the good news is there’s no such thing as failure. There is only personal truth and that’s always there for the taking. –Joan Moran
You’ve already heard about various things to do to keep your mind sharp, such as playing games, doing puzzles, memory challenges, and so forth, but the kind of stretching Oliver Wendell Holmes and Joan Moran have in mind is not just a mental exercise. These exercises may not raise your IQ or keep you from developing Alzheimer’s Disease, but they will help to strengthen the connection between the personality that you are manifesting in this lifetime with the permanent You, Soul.
Your mind, the spiritual side of the physical brain, functions as an intermediary agent between Soul and the physical body. When everything is connected, you are “running on all cylinders,” as the saying goes.
Here are some ways that you can stretch your mind, and reasons why they are good for you.
1. Stop resisting. Try new things. Embrace changes. Just because you’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t try something new. Besides new things and new ideas, many people resist the idea of doing something just for fun, because it seems frivolous. Or they resist doing something that might bring pleasure to their lives because it might make them seem self-centered. Those of you who are reading this have learned how to use the internet, but many have still not got the hang of other newfangled technologies. The excuse is usually something along the lines of, “I’m just not a tech person,” or “I’m not interested in gadgets.” What people are mostly not interested in is feeling like a fool and making dumb mistakes.
The key is to change your mindset. It’s perfectly OK to do new things and sometimes look like a fool doing it. It’s not a sin to do things that make you happy. It’s OK to do things that are not necessarily “useful.” Make a pact with yourself. Each day, promise yourself to do something new, something delightful, something positive, or something that makes you feel alive. Just one thing. Do it for yourself. Give yourself permission to fulfill your inner needs. Make yourself happy, because if you aren’t happy, you can’t make anybody else happy, either.
How does this stretch your mind? For one thing, in order to do one thing that is new or joyful or positive or energizing, you will have to focus. You will have to improve your awareness of what really makes you happy, what your inner needs really are. You will have to agree to make at least one change in your life each day.
2. Cultivate gratitude. This can be very hard, because we’re not just talking about feeling grateful for good things and beneficial things. We’re talking about being thankful for difficulties in our lives, people who challenge us, situations that we would rather not have to struggle through. The only reason to be grateful for these things is that we know they come into our lives to give us the chance to grow and acquire new skills and new qualities, such as patience, humility, or perseverance.
Cultivating gratitude will seem awfully contrived, at first. Some days you will find it really hard to find anything positive to say about a challenging experience or a difficult person. In fact, it may seem artificial for a long time, but the more you ask yourself, “What can I learn from this unpleasant situation? What qualities do I need to manifest to get me through it? How can I deal with this difficult person with grace? What changes can I make within myself to bring the situation to a satisfactory conclusion?
How does this stretch your mind? You will have to tap your creativity to figure out positive ways to frame a negative situation. You may also have to tap into your sense of humility to admit to yourself that a person you don’t like might have some positive qualities.
3. Forget the negative self-talk. You may not think you have control over that chatterbox inside your head that has a comment for every little thing that happens in your life, but you surely do. You – Soul – are in the driver’s seat, not the chatterbox. You can’t change the past and you can’t change the future, but you can make changes in the present, right now. Each time the chatterbox says something negative, stop it immediately, as soon as you’ve thought it. Turn it into a positive statement, or, failing that, tell yourself that what you’ve just thought is not true. Like cultivating gratitude for the unpleasant moments in our lives, stopping the negative self-talk will seem artificial at first, but pretty soon you will be an old hand at it. You’ll catch yourself saying, “Wait, that’s not true!” Or you may simply say to yourself, “My that was negative. How can I re-frame that thought?”
How does this stretch your mind? In order to catch negative statements in your head, you do have to cultivate awareness and maintain focus on your self-talk. You may end up having to use a little creativity to come up with the positives.
4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. The reason most people don’t want to be vulnerable is that they are afraid of looking like a fool or being hurt. They are afraid of embarrassment or ridicule. The problem is that refusal to be vulnerable automatically limits your choices in life. It also limits your potential for growth as Soul.
How does this stretch your mind? In order to be vulnerable, you have to practice emotional honesty. That means expressing sadness, hurt and anger so that you can let these feelings go, rather than keeping them bottled up inside. It also requires you to gain emotional strength to learn to stand up for yourself without always needing approval or validation from others. And when you do get hurt, it is a perfect opportunity for you to cultivate humility and learn the fine art of forgiveness.
5. Embrace change. Learn how to adapt to new situations. Life is growth and change. That’s what it’s all about. When you welcome change in your life and even plan for it, you can gain a measure of control over it. The key is for you to initiate the change. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Don’t wait for the situation to force your hand.
How does this stretch your mind? Learning to adapt forces you to exercise your creativity. Most people have no idea that our creative imagination is one of the qualities within each of us that is Godlike. We are here to learn to be co-creators with God, and the first step in the process is to hone our creativity. In welcoming change into our lives, we cultivate our curiosity about the unknown, or conviction to take action, and our confidence in our ability to handle whatever life throws at us. The more new situations we handle successfully in our lives, the less we will fret about the future.
6. Find your passion and commit to it. When you check out new things, you may find that some of them are simply a passing interest, while others really excite your imagination and energize you. It’s fine to have some things that you are interested in but not passionate about, but it’s important to find something in your life that you can commit to and make a personal investment in.
How does this stretch your mind? In order to live your passion, you will have to cultivate a sense of commitment. I have also heard it called zen intention. This is a sense of focus that impels us to weed out the unnecessary things in our lives in favor of that which brings us joy and a sense of accomplishment. Commitment informs our whole lives. It provides us a framework upon which we can set priorities and make decisions. It hones our sense of discrimination and discernment.
Now, go back and read all the words in red. These are qualities of Soul. They are treasures that you can take with you when you exit this lifetime. They will prove to be valuable to you not only in the foreseeable future of this lifetime, but in all of your future lifetimes. In the Spiritual Worlds, they will allow you to serve the Creator in an ever-expanding capacity. This is your destiny. 🙂