So much is written about setting goals, laying a plan for those reaching those goals, visualizing yourself in the role of achieving those goals, that I feel wonder when I find people who just see, think, do with great success and power.
There is a scene in the movie “Good Will Hunting” in which a Harvard student asks a gifted blue-collar worker named Will how he is able to work math problems that are very difficult or even impossible for the brilliant people she knows at Harvard. Will explains that he does not know how he is able to do what he does. He tries to explain that when Beethoven sat down at the piano, he just played. Will explains that all he can say is that he just plays.
At the risk of appearing to have gone off on a tangent, in the next element of this post, I would like to preface my remarks by recognizing that just mentioning the word “religion” can make some people uncomfortable, and I want to avoid making people uncomfortable. The purpose of this post is to make people more comfortable and more effective in their career, career search, and personal lives.
For further emphasis, the theme of this post is to help people learn how to live in the present moment by, like the child in the picture or Will Hunting from the movie, becoming absorbed in just playing.
Using religion to exist in the here and now as well as the hereafter sometimes gets a bad rap from mental health professionals, especially critics of Carl Jung, whose approach in the development of psychotherapy involved a mixture of counseling and spiritual evolution. Connecting science to mysticism can be a slippery street to walk down, especially for people who can not see the word religion without instant resistance, and sometimes for good reason.
It was helpful to me to hear the novelist David Foster Wallace explain that “Everybody worships something.” In his presentation on learning how to think entitled, “This is Water,” he emphasizes that one person’s beliefs are very different from another person’s beliefs, because of where beliefs exist–that is, from inside the head of the individual holding the belief.
Religion (Eastern & Western) is, of course, thought of as the practice of worshiping a deity or a person. One of the most overlooked aspects of religion is the power that religion can give people to clear their mind and be in the present moment.
Mental health professionals work with people to help them reach mental clarity and emotional peace. In those moments of clarity, people think at a much higher level than they think when they are rehashing the past or ruminating on the future or even when they are in the present moment but are emotionally distracted.
George Pransky, a mental health professional and executive consultant (my labels), has built a career out of helping people learn how moods and thinking work and what they are. He teaches people how to remain in the present moment by helping them understand that thoughts are just thoughts and that moods are just moods and when a person is going through a few moments of bad thoughts to handle those thoughts loosely and let them pass and take the nasty mood with them.
I once heard him explain that good mental health is what in Eastern religion is called “being centered” and in Western religion is called ” having faith.” At the very highest level of thought, a person is not thinking but is simply centered and in a mental flow in which thoughts come and pass on as the moments pass on. I want to credit and emphasize that Pransky’s approach is, from my point of view, to teach people how to become more mentally effective by giving them insight on what is going on inside their head. For more see PrankyandAssociates.com.
A simple example of how thoughts can flow through your mind is what you may experience by working the following equation. If your mind is in the present moment, you will not be so much be thinking as simply being in a mental flow as you read this equation: if a=1 and b=1, then a + b = 2.
Now as you read on, the mental flow continues in the present moment.
Prayers or mantras, especially through repetition, can do something interesting in that they can return a person’s mind to the present moment. Neurophysiologists can no doubt explain the process that is at work in mental centering through prayer or meditation. What seems to happen is that the process of repeating a familiar phrase can take thoughts and kind of usher them on down the road so that a person can move on to the next thought. If you do not have a prayer or a mantra, simply repeating any meaningless two syllable phrase seems to work for some people.
The experience of being in the present moment, in that mental flow, is pleasant and is healthy. I once heard a person say that they are always in the present moment, that they just sometimes forget that they are. So here is to the Power of the Present Moment, the only moment I have ever had, and to playing for better thinking.
“The World’s Most Noble headhunter!”