OK, so hands up – I love lists of things. I am a sucker for them.
You know lists … they’re everywhere these days: “The 7 crucial things your momma said that you didn’t even hear,” "The 9 things to look for in your next hamburger," etcetera …
Here’s one I found that I like a lot. It’s the 12 things “mentally strong” (that’s in the title) people do that no one else does … or something like that.
But first - I’m not a big fan of the words “mentally strong.”
Mental strength or toughness can seem like brutishness, and pushing, and force, a lack of sensitivity, and other such things … or at least that’s what I tried to be when I thought of it.
Instead, I’ve come to realise - to steal from the Chinese philosophers - you want to be like water.
Water isn’t strong, but it’s persistent and patient. It may wait, but it never stops. It’ll wear down anything through simply keeping going over time. An obstacle? It’ll seek out and find a way around, the easiest, most open path. It fights nothing. It’s incredibly humble, always flowing to the lower ground. It’s fluidity itself, it needs nothing, and it supports everything.
That’s what I think is key the foundation of living a good life - not being mentally tough, but fluid and flexible and maintaining the half-step back. That then means you’re independent of the upsets and the unwelcome in life.
This is the very reason I learnt and kept practicing the Bright Path Ishayas’ Ascension meditation. Not for peace. Not for rest and recharge. Not to regain a sense of humour.
All those things were bonuses, but the reason I started and continued practicing was simply to be like water - to be that thing that the words “mentally tough” touch on but don’t do justice to ...
The ability to ignore the thoughts that create suffering, and focus on the ones that help.
The ability to rest in the stillness and presence beyond thinking, and flow in each and every moment.
That sort of fluid focus that meant I was the boss, not my run-away mind.
Do you know what I mean?
Given the soaring anxiety rates amongst the populace I was reading about in the newspaper this morning, there’s not many people who know this fluid freedom.
Your mind can be like some mad, untrained dog that insists on dragging you through the brambles and the mud … and you don’t know how to let go of the leash. Because what would happen then? If you let go of your mind, wouldn’t you lose your mind?
But that is another topic for another day.
Back to the list I was talking about:
My favourite point is, I think, overcoming your inner critic. Have a look and see what yours is. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, like all lists it generalises, but see what you think.
Meditation is great because it gives you fluidity. But it is also great because it brings you face-to-face with places where you’d previously been limited, and gives you an option:
“Do I want to stay limited? Or do I want to get a little bold and see what’s beyond that door?”
Meditation isn’t about head in the sand, ignore everything. It brings you to the frontier of your life and asks you whether you want to keep doing the same thing, or try something different.
Here’s that list:
Have a great week, and let me know how you are doing.
I have a snappy, quick-to-read guide to being more like water. Present, mindful, quickly aware of when you’re struggling and fighting, and able to back off and let go.
Here it is: