May in some parts of the world is Mental Health Awareness Month. There could be nothing more detrimental to our health and well being than not being able to seek and find proper care for our mental state of being. Our mind is our constant companion, like a mental neighbourhood, and if it is not functioning at full capacity then we need to do everything in our power to return it to its full health.
We all have at one point or another come across the now well known and loved Don Miguel Ruiz’s vast array of works, but The Four Agreements is what I’d like to come back to today. You see it always comes back down to the basics. This holds true for most things in life. Whether we have mastered a certain skill or whether we once again find ourselves repeating an unhealthy pattern and behaviour in our lives. It is always helpful to go back to the beginning and try again. Yet in today’s world we are far too hasty to get ahead and look clever at any cost, and usually the cost is at someone else’s expense.
One of the key’s to living a peaceful and purposeful life is not to take anything personally. Now don’t let this little key give you the idea that that means not caring about what anyone else says or does. It certainly doesn’t mean that. If anything, it is advising to still hear and listen to what is being said and then using discernment to see if it fits and sits with you. Some of the best advice we are given we are resistant to, so this takes some time and practice to digest and develop.
How many throw-away remarks have we made in our lives that might have hurt or insulted someone without our knowing it? How many times have we given advice where it was not even asked for? This is a particularly tricky one, as we do not realise the karmic implications this can have. What about when our words and actions just don’t add up. We say we will do something but then leave a friend hanging because we probably weren’t even paying attention to the conversation at the time to realise the importance it had to them.
THE MENTAL NEIGHBOURHOODS WE LIVE IN
So many ways we can affect others and they an affect us in our daily lives, that sometimes we then go the opposite direction and walk on egg shells, too scared to have conversations and withdraw into our very troubled inner worlds. As Anne Lamott, American writer, says ‘My mind is like a bad neighbourhood I try not to go to alone’. And this is where we get to come back to the very basics of mental health – our own minds.
This is the starting point. For somewhere along the way our minds have been so conditioned by our early upbringing, environments, familial belief and cultural systems that we really don’t know what it is like to have a clear mind anymore. Then add to that the traumas, heartaches, hurts and negative experiences we have had along the way and this makes for a very complex and often unsettled, troubled mental territory.
Now we meet with a friend, lover, boss or family member, who has their own conditioned mental neighbourhood, and it’s not so hard to see how quickly conflict and resistance kicks in. We are territorial creatures and anything that then feels threatening to our domain we will protect or attack. Our neural systems and brain function is just built that way.
So in a flash, there we are taking everything personally and feeling insulted, hurt, dejected, rejected, unloved, and not worthy – when in actual fact the other person was just probably doing the same thing, because well their neighbourhood is a certain way, the streets are ordered a certain way, the houses are all painted a certain way – so why aren’t yours?
Interesting stuff right. But what do we do about this? The answer is we start cleaning up our own neighbourhoods. We look at our mental health, we acknowledge it’s a little messy – or a ton messy and we start clearing it. We go back to the traumas and trials and tribulations of our lives and deal with them, we seek help from professionals, we find the right advice and information we need. We dig deep and we climb high as we search out every false and limiting belief we are stuck with. We take every offer of help we can get, we open the windows and let the demons and doubts get some air.
We breath and cry and feel lost and pity ourselves and rage against others for a while. We do what needs to be done to get ourselves out of the muck and mire of our toxic mindsets. And in this process, we do the holy work of not taking anything personally. Even ourselves.
We set strong but loving boundaries; we also forgive a lot of people. And then we forgive again and again, whether we are able to have a conversation with them, or whether we do it in praying or writing letters which they will never read.
Our minds are our holy ground. They are the foundation of our lives. And if our foundation is faulty then our whole lives will be faulty. If our minds are not guided, nurtured and cared for on a daily basis, then what chance do we stand of making decisions with clarity and living with authentic self -esteem. If we are always needing others to validate and assure us then we are just setting ourselves up for deep hurt and disappointments.
While we are busy sorting, tossing and decluttering our mental neighbourhoods, we can also turn to age old practices like meditation and mantra recitation. The true nature of our minds needs no firework displays to return to its natural calm abiding ways. It just needs the space, time and dedication to allow it to return to health and vitality – with the proper instruction and guidance of course.
Let us be mindful of how we treat others, what we say, what we mean, what we do. Let us be aware of the fact that we do not always know what someone’s state of mind is like, even if they look put together and perfect all the time. Let us acknowledge that we have some broken windows and peeling paint that needs attention. And that we do not need to take things so personally if we have done the work on ourselves and continue to do so every day that we can.
Liberating ourselves from mental disorders and suffering could be the most important cleaning job of all. Not just for ourselves but for all of humanity to finally thrive and live embodied authentic lives. Let’s grow healthy gardens of mental health and thrive.
*Should you suffer from any mental disorder please do see a qualified expert to assess your condition immediately.
To read my previous article go here –
To read what mental health is go here –
To listen to Anne Lammot go here –