Being Mind-FULL Means Using All of My Mind is the sixth in our series introducing some of the tools and strategies featured in our forthcoming book, The Art of Living in Discovery: Thriving in Life with Intentional Resilience. Designed to help you to take responsibility for your mind, these blogs present a variety of ways to become more aware of how your mind functions and how to identify when your mind is wonky. As you play with and practice these ideas, you will find that you can bring your mind back to an inspired state and into balance.
Being Mind-FULL Means Using All of My Mind
If I intend to harness the power of my whole mind, one thing I can do is reflect on how my mind works. Practicing this helps me identify what gets in the way of my ability to consider different perspectives, new ideas, or changes in my behavior. In choosing to be present to the ever-changing world around me and to respond with compassion and gratitude, I want my whole brain to guide me.
Years of reading and my own personal experience have led me to understand the two modes of thinking commonly referred to as left-brained and right-brained. Knowing the strengths of each side of my brain is helpful to living a life of discovery. As I empower each side of my brain, I also begin to recognize how I can use my left brain and my right brain in becoming more adaptable and maximizing my personal wisdom, rather than spending much of my life resisting what is.
When we’re faced with a choice or a challenge, or with something new, our first responder is typically the left brain. The inner Judge or Guardian will provide logical reasons for doing something or not doing it. Clearly this is the left brain at work. When the advice comes from fear-based ideas or old stories that haven’t been reframed, our thinking gets wonky. We’ll either refuse to attempt whatever is new, or we’ll choose to stay with a pattern that isn’t serving us.
When we feel inspired with confidence to try something different, even if we can’t predict the outcome, we’re able to trust our inner guidance to see us through. Here is where the right brain comes in because it sees the larger picture—an opportunity for us to grow—and it provides the insight and intuition that will guide us.
To use the whole brain means utilizing the strengths of both the left brain and the right brain in our thinking and decision making. The left brain helps to keep the right brain grounded in fact and practicality, while the right brain helps the left brain to stay open to possibility and multiple points of view. The greater the influence of the right brain, the more imaginative, visionary, and compassionate the thoughts.
Mindfulness, as I see it, is more than paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment, and it involves more than taking time to consider and respond to possibilities instead of reacting automatically. It’s more than choosing to be thoughtful or compassionate in a given situation. For me, being mindful is taking care to integrate my whole system so that my mind is in its proper place and informed in unison with my body and soul.
Let’s say I want to try something new like going to college in mid-life. My first reaction might be to think I’m not smart enough. Two major patterns of thought could also come into play because I’m choosing an unfamiliar activity that will be observed by others. First would be my view of myself, and second would be what other people might think of me. Both of these ideas are formulated by the left brain’s judgment of me in relation to others.
To approach my decision with my whole mind, I can choose to address my concerns with realistic information. I need to recognize that, if starting college is what I really want to do, taking that action is more important than what others might think about my decision or my initial attempts. I can view myself as a capable learner who is nervous about trying something new. The uncertainty jitters needn’t stop mef from enrolling and showing up for the first class.
The right brain responds to our yearnings—in this case, my yearning to change careers. If we allow it to do so, the right brain will support us in being compassionate with ourselves as learners in any new situation. It helps us keep the bigger picture in mind and puts our mind chatter and left-brain judgments into perspective.
Practicing mindfulness involves using all of the mind—being mind-full—and integrating the logical, objective reasoning of the left brain with the creative, subjective insights of the right brain, while also taking into account any nonverbal messages from the body. Paradoxically, being mind-full is choosing not to prioritize the mind as the be-all and end-all of our wisdom and decision making. Rather, mind-full-ness is fed every time we return to the body and allow it to guide us back to the wisdom of the soul. Being mind-full means empowering our whole being to participate in and guide our life.