Many of us start as infants dependent and completely unable to look after ourselves until we reach an age where we attain independence in our own ‘self maintenance’. However one need’s to question whether we really have as a modern society an accurate description of what it means to ‘look after yourself’ and if not what would it be and how would one go about implementing such a thing?
Today in society to function well and co exist with other human beings one needs to be able to maintain certain elements of them. These are usually your ability to educate yourself, find a job (and keep it), socialise and as an extension have a family and handle its dynamics, look after your hygiene, eat good food and maintain a sturdy exercise plan. What we realise is that most of these are things are external elements of really maintaining or controlling our life. Sure we may be exercising but that may simply be to make sure we don’t have an obnoxiously protruding stomach or that we can fit into a seat on the bus.
What we seem to be are animals of shallow repetitive habits who will focus on ‘problems’ as and when they arise considering them to be completely exclusive of the ‘whole you’.
Instead we want to introduce an alternative view that ALL of you are one. And understanding you as a whole and all the different parts of you merging them together is a more holistic method of ‘looking after yourself’. Before we do so a division of the different elements of the ‘whole you’ is needed. A simple example would be:
Of course you’ve heard these all before but maybe in a ‘Find Nirvana in 8 simple steps’ fashioned self help ‘Bible’ from a self entitled Guru! However each area of yourself requires understanding and focus from you. Basically how much do you really know about you?
Before you take your first step the aim and objective needs to be correct and untarnished. Seeking to improve yourself cannot be shallow and focused on the external but should be because you want yourself to be fulfilled, satisfied and full of optimism as a result rather than be full of regrets for lost time and stressing over what others think of you which is a disease of today.
This all needs to be linked to an ultimate objective which is closeness to God through intending to better yourself for His pleasure. Most things are sought for a) their intrinsic value or either b) a means to an end and lastly c) that which is sought for both. Socialising with friends is an act which in itself contains pleasure, fulfilment and enjoyment in the act in itself. Money however is but a means to an end as it is used to purchase something which aims provide that fulfilment or meet an end.
But one thing with which satisfaction can be achieved in the action in itself as well as having an end which is most noble is in the Ibadah or worship of the Creator.
So when these acts of self improvement are done in that mind set then you can rest assure that the reward will be satisfying in the temporal act as well as obtaining the goal of closeness to Allah most high.
In this article I will focus on the mind firstly and in following articles attempt to cover the remaining parts namely the body and the soul.
The mind is a tool of intellect and power and is the source of decision making and rationalising for the human being. If compromised and weakened then as a whole the capabilities of the person are so as well. Hence its maintenance and upkeep are of grave importance. In modern society the mind is bombarded with useless information and messages which can harm your intellect. Not only that, but the stresses of daily life impede on the minds stability and if these stresses get too much then it can cause irrevocable damage to the mind.
So in essence the mind can be looked at in 2 parts. Of course there can be more but this is all I wish to discuss at this moment.
1- What you feed your mind and allow into it
2- The maintenance of the minds stability
Feeding the mind beneficially is becoming more and more difficult in today’s world with corporations knowing the psychological effects of advertising and abusing this power extensively by channelling countless useless messages and images into your mind. Regardless of what you think, this will start having an effect and if you don’t believe it does then why is the media considered one of the most powerful tools in creating propaganda?
Of course many things cannot be stopped from entering the mind but one should recognise those that can and actively control them and be careful of allowing only beneficial things in. Redundant knowledge and information which is without purpose are the first to go. Whether this is the TV, books, magazines or even other people such as friends; these will all irrevocably affect your mind and thinking.
I’m not in any way saying that entertainment and distractions are bad or should be shunned completely but excessive amounts of it can alter the thinking of a person.
The most fundamental activity that can be done to strengthen the mind is thinking. Thinking critically and taking out time to allow the mind to do so. Another brilliant activity is reading quality sources of knowledge and information. These should be books that make you, or supplement, thinking. Whether this is a good book or the news and current affairs (from viable sources) we should all be thinkers and have an objective clear unbiased opinion on matters.
Once you have beneficial information going in, it should be easier for you to maintain the mind. However there are countless things that enter the mind that you need to know how to deal with which brings us to our second point.
To deal with these nuisances on the mind it depends on the level of the disturbance it causes. Many things are so small that one can rationalise them away or be able to negotiate what happened in their mind. For example having split coffee over the floor one would be able to clean it up and the shock would subside knowing that the problem has gone. However there are many things that aren’t as easy to deal with which can be out of our capabilities of understanding. This is where alternative methods of dealing with the issues are needed.
The field of psychiatry and psychology are taboo nowadays for the reason that they are considered to be measures used for dealing with ‘mentally disturbed’ people and anybody who does seek assistance from these sources must be amongst them. This couldn’t be further from the truth as they deal with any issues related to the human mind. Whether these are grief and how one can overcome it or stress relieving methods.
Obviously some problems aren’t so simplistic and do deal with certain abnormalities such as psychosis or imbalances in the mind which is not the objective of the article.
Every human being will go through some trauma or event in their life which will lead to their mind needing to follow a natural due process to rectify the consequences suffered. For example this may be grieving, lashing out, rebelling or many natural emotional responses one expects. However many a times this process is not followed due to a variety of reasons those essential feelings are not expressed as they should be and end up becoming repressed in you and left there to harbour. This can result in depression, anger problems, paranoia, repeated destructive patterns, addictions these should not all be considered as problems in and of themselves however a symptom of deeper underlying emotions at times which were not dealt with correctly. However the question is how do you know if there is a problem or something repressed? Many of us consider ourselves to be stable individuals. However in the spirit of self improvement there is great potential to be unlocked with self discovery. Research has shown that many people who are successful and considered stable are most likely to have sought metal health help at one point in their life. It shows admittance of imperfections that you are willing to and whether that means recognising you need assistance from professionals then so be it.
However this is not to be misconstrued as an article on psychology in itself but an attempt at bringing down the barriers of misinformation and taboo in order to allow people to unlock and realise their potential and tools which can be harnessed by those who do wish to do so using this field of science. However do consult your physician or a professional in the field before doing so to get advice on whether it is the best thing for you to do.
I leave you with the words of Buddha.
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”
So really are you looking after your mind or is there more that you can do?
In the next article in the ‘Are you looking after yourself?’ series we will be talking about the body and looking at alternative methods of making sure it’s well ‘looked after’.
Till next time...