If you want to run a marathon, you have to train. That takes a lot of effort. Learning to live with your mind also takes effort, but not nearly as much as running. You are already running a marathon, you are living your life. How you experience your life has a lot to do with your mind. Your mind has a mind of its own, especially if you don’t train it. If you train your mind, you can develop the skills to let you enjoy the marathon of your life. The practice is simple.
Normally, when I talk about simple practices I encourage meditation. That is a very simple practice that helps you train your mind, but that takes time and effort. For those who like to put effort into training your mind, go ahead and meditate, that will speed up the effects of mind training. For those who want to effortlessly change their minds, all you have to do is pay attention to your mind. The effort you have to make is to set your intention to train your mind to help you live a satisfying life.
Once you set your intention, think about how your life is lived in your mind and body. You have your breath and your thoughts. Sometimes you breathe unconsciously, sometimes you think unconsciously. Sometimes you breathe consciously, sometimes you think consciously. Consciously moving between breathing and thinking helps you to focus your attention. These are two activities that you do constantly anyway, so adding some attention is not adding any effort, it is just remembering that you are in training.
Richard Davidson, the neuroscientist who studies wellbeing identified four components of wellbeing. The first is resiliency. That is how quickly you recover from a mental event. If you notice stress or anxiety, notice what is making you stressed or nervous, see if it is in the past, present, or future. If you are concerned about the past or the future, then you can work on the anxiety with your breath and see how long it takes to pass. If it is present, wait for the event to be over and see how long it takes for the anxiety to subside. Experienced meditators in his studies demonstrated high resilience with very quick recovery following painful stimuli.
The second component is a basic sense of positivity. That sense can come from a belief system, that includes regular reminders that life is good. Remember that you are basically good. Remember that every situation has a bright side. Once that belief is in place, it is no effort to maintain it, because joy is always effortless.
The third component is generosity. Being generous with your time, attention, spirit, things is a simple way to generate good feelings. You are always giving something to the world, being aware that you are being generous gives you the emotional benefit of all those kind acts.
Finally, the fourth component is focused attention. As you are always paying attention to something, having focused attention takes no effort, you only have to continually remind yourself to focus your attention. You can do that anytime by checking in with your mind and body. If your mind is troubling you, breathe. If your body is troubling you, watch your thoughts. Anytime you remember that you are on a lifetime training mission, check to see if you are in your mind or body and refocus your attention.
When you get tired of running the marathon, sit down and meditate, or take a nap.