The mind can be a powerful ally or a formidable enemy. It can be a foundation for good health or the very crux of disease. We have little control over what happens in our lives but where we can have control is in our minds; the motivation underlying every activity, our response to events, and the ever flowing focus of our attention. From an ecological perspective we might be driven to realize some optimal state of mind that governs the body in good health, offers wise council, and establishes a climate of amiable adaptability. Ecologically, the most effective and resilient mind is a mind of peace and clarity. Out of peace and clarity one is able to practice sharp discernment, effectively problem solve, and achieve lasting happiness. One’s mind comes into harmony with their body and a growing health and vitality are the likely result. Good mental hygiene might then refer to the cultivation and preservation of these qualities of peace and clarity as a fertile environment for genuine well being and success.
What are the conditions and practices necessary then to maintaining health and cleanliness of the mind?
Of course this is a vast topic, the exploration of which will proffer a diverse set of answers depending on the individual. Since birth each of us has been challenged to assimilate continuous narratives of life handed down to us from family, friends, and society, measured against our own disposition and understanding, and then incorporated within our personal experience. Despite this unbelievable diversity of cultural transmission and personal experience we find many common threads of psychological struggle. An example might be our penchant for focusing on a single defeat over a hundred victories, one defect over hundreds of qualities, or one nasty remark over a thousand complements. When encountering a minor misfortune we can immediately forget the many blessings and good fortune in our lives and in that moment one becomes the most impoverished person, even while sitting in a comfortable chair in a beautiful home with a loving family. This is not good hygiene!
Ecology basically means the study of home. It is the understanding of relationships in nature, by means of a living logic of cause and effect, practical and flexible. In fostering mental hygiene there are many practical solutions or even ecological strategies. These solutions can be dynamic and diverse, and differ in their appropriateness from person to person, moment to moment. If the world around us and within us is always changing form than it is more than likely that the logic we apply to understanding this ‘home’ must also be capable of changing form. We have to be willing to re-evaluate and adapt our way of thinking. But there are some core foundations underpinning any sound ecology of mind. In the next post I will illustrate a few of these foundations.