Quality of Mind, Focus and Your Necklace
Quality of mind is depth and breadth of one’s intellect, and the degree to which one’s mind facilitates peace and wellbeing. I rewrote this sentence several times to intentionally over simplify a very complex definition. Despite the last decade of awareness on mental health, there still isn’t enough public discourse and education on mental wellbeing. We know that the quality of our physical health depends on a balanced diet, regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Each one of these areas is the subject of documentaries, innovations and research. But what about the quality of mind and thought? How do we not only upkeep the brain as an organ, but cultivate a mind that serves our best life?
Mental potential is dependent on a vibrant intellectual life, and is the ability to consume and analyze information with virtuosity. How much does one learn throughout their lifetimes and how deeply to they think about what they know? The rigor of an intellectual life has rewards far beyond mental health and its precursor is quality (in length and depth) of focus.
A mind that facilitates peace, wellbeing and a happy life is a quality one. Congruence of emotions, thoughts, values and actions is a blissful state. Such a mind is an oak tree that gives shelter to weather any storm. The cultivation of this requires both order and chaos. Order in a continuous quieting practice like meditation, breath work, mindful yoga or walks in nature. Chaos from the consciousness to fully feel our inner lives so that patterns that work against us are unraveled. Journaling, talk therapy, social support and other modalities of emotional healing all help. Both order and chaos require the ability to focus deeply and for extended periods of time. Without this, no inner practice yields its full results.
Our ability to focus is correlated to all facets of our wellbeing. It is precisely this life skill that has become a rare and precious commodity today. Our pervasive minuscule-form media format coupled with always-on access makes it difficult to be present with our inner and outer realities. We never feel bored or uncomfortable, which are necessary for personal growth.
Cal Newport states that "deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable” When we trade our focus for temporary distraction, we’re exchanging a ticket to our best life for shiny trinkets that will dull. One of my favorite lyrics came from Kanye West’s early songs when he wrote “I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven but when I awoke, I spent that on a necklace…it’s so hard not to act reckless”. We have the knowledge and resources to find the kingdom of heaven within us, but we are distracted. I’m against what Ye stands for but appreciated the poetry in that line.
My ‘necklace’ is social media. Every year (except for the pandemic) I sit for 10 days of Vipassana. It includes silence, half days of fasting, 10+ hrs of meditation daily without any devices. Afterwards, I can sit easily for an hour of meditation at home. One year, I returned and became active on social media. By the fourth day of usage, I could barely meditate for five minutes. The rapid deterioration of focus and mood were shocking. I had read about social media’s effects but did not realize that its impact is immediate and aggressive.
What’s your ‘necklace’? How do you cope with the barrage of distractions to retain your focus and calm? How do you protect your quality of mind?
With gratitude for your focus and attention in reading this,
CEO & Founder, Veneka
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